No Big Budget? No Problem. How Key Contacts Level the Playing Field

No Big Budget? No Problem. How Key Contacts Level the Playing Field

By Chip Felkel

Today’s advocacy environment is a noisy one. It’s hard for organizations to make their policy case with competing voices jamming the phones, crowding the digital space with ads, and crashing servers with click and send emails that begin and end the same, and according to well respected groups like the Congressional Management Foundation, have little or no true effect. You can certainly attempt to measure these efforts in terms of reach metrics, but let’s be honest: If you lose the issue, does it really matter that you got 542 retweets, sent 31,347 emails, or 468 letters? Maybe it makes you feel good. Maybe it makes your board feel okay, not happy but okay. But at some point, getting close just isn’t going to be enough, for you, for your boss or the board.  What is it they say about horseshoes and hand grenades?  Digital ads are expensive. Massive email and letter writing efforts can get expensive and might create some awareness but do little more than that. It’s a simple fact.   And with all the changes expected from the mid-term elections, (1 in 6 in Congress, alone) organizations are going to have to find a way not only to advocate, but to educate a host of new elected officials, and fast. Hint: pre-existing relationships can go a long, long way here.

Key Contacts (Ambassadors, Champions, etc.) can and do make an impact. First let’s clear something up. A “Key Contact” is not necessarily a “grass top”. Might be, might not be.  Too often we lazily give too much credence to a stakeholder’s title within the organization or in the company. A key contact is someone who has a relationship with one or more legislative targets, has a willingness and ability to use it, and perhaps also brings some level of additional influence based on other groups or organizations where they are involved. Having a C-suite title does not a “key contact” make.  Very often, the most valuable key contacts are under the proverbial radar, perhaps viewed as a supporter but not seen as a clearly influential. That would be a mistake you don’t want to be the one to make. And, unless you have a huge budget and unending resources, it could be a critical mistake that has significant, long-lasting and negative results.

Establishing a Key Contact Program is a huge step toward leveling the playing field. It can give smaller and mid-size organizations the ability to be as, or more effective, than the traditional, big budgeted, name brand advocacy groups who seem to have unending streams of cash to throw away on widgets and the latest wiz bang ideas to come along. It is easy to do and very inexpensive compared to many options. So, if you don’t have buckets of cash, or even if you do, and want to get a better ROI – then use what research shows is your best possible asset for advocacy: your own stakeholders, your own members or employees, your own people, who have long standing, personal, authentic relationships with the congressman, or governor, or state senator. They are your storytellers. And you won’t know they exist, unless you ask. And asking, identifying, and deploying – has never been easier.

Knowing who your stakeholders know, how well, and how they are willing to reach out, can now be done quickly and effectively.  Knowing who your best possible messengers are and having that at your fingertips doesn’t require 100,000 members and gobs of cash. By establishing a key contact program, organizations can leverage their stakeholders’ relationships efficiently. So why aren’t you?   Do you have so much cash to spend that you can afford to ignore the power of personal relationships? Are you so secure in your role that reach metrics is all your need to show your boss or board? Maybe, just maybe it would be wise to consider the real impact of a key contact program, as well?

If you’d like to learn how easy it is to raise the bar, to make your advocacy about more than reach, and about real impact, then sign up here to be contacted about one of our upcoming webinars.

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