Grassroots Tips

How conservatives can impact the political system

keys to impacting political systemSo, you want to make a difference in the political system on the things you care about?  But how should you go about it?

When it comes to being effective politically, there’s no great mystery.  But there are some time tested basics to successfully impacting the political system.

Generally speaking, there are three keys to impacting the political system:

  1. Identify and organize your supporters
  2. Inform them
  3. Mobilize them

Without identified people that are willing to help, you have no organization.

Without information, people will not know how to proceed, let alone when, where or why.

And without mobilization towards a given objective, an organization lacks a reason to exist and will quickly fade away.

These three simple steps constitute the fundamentals of successful grassroots politics at every level and can help you build a successful local organization from the ground up.  Embrace them and you’ll be on the path to achieving your goals.

So how do you get started?

Your first order of business is to identify a small core group of people who share your views and a vision for what you want to do.

Think of it as a sort of “steering committee”.  When small groups come together and direct their energies in pursuit of a common goal, leverage and synergies are achieved.  They begin to feed from one another and keep each other enthused.

Get together and discuss the different areas each of you would like to focus on and what you believe is important. Develop a consensus and then decide who will do what.

Then pool your resources.


Get more tips like these in my “Grassroots 101 Training Series“.  Check it out!

How to Push Your Message

Whether you’re pushing a single issue, a lobbying campaign, or working for a candidate (or you are a candidate), it doesn’t make much sense to develop and package a message and then not try to push it out the door. It’s sort of like having a better mouse-trap and not letting anyone know about it. The world will pass you by.

Here are some rules to remember for effectively communicating your message:

Have a Purpose for Every Message

Don’t put anything out without knowing exactly “why” you’re doing it. Don’t flood supporters or the press with content just for the sake of it. Know what you want to accomplish and how it relates to your goals.

Target Your Audience

Before you push out a message, make sure that you know “who” you want to hear it. This will help make sure that you craft the message in a way that speaks to them and that you distribute it in a way that reaches them.

Saturate All Relevant Outlets

Make sure that you saturate the outlets where your target audience is most likely to receive it. That includes all of the relevant communications tools and venues at your disposal, such as websites, Email, social network messages (and promotional image sharing), hashtags, direct mail, meetings, networking, fact sheets, talking points, letters-to-the-editor, op-ed columns, press releases and interviews (even advertising).

Be Proactive

If you want to get people or the press interested in something, than you have to speak up. With potential supporters, that means using all of the means at your disposal to let them know what you’re doing and why. If you’re working to get media attention, when a story breaks that’s relevant to your issue (or campaign), actively make yourself available to them. Contact whoever is covering the story and tell them how you’re involved with the issue and ask if they would like a quote. Follow it up with a fact sheet and/or a press release.

Have an Angle

Your messages should always feature an “angle”, meaning an interesting hook that you can “hang it on” that would interest people (and the media) in finding out more about it. That doesn’t mean that you develop a new primary message, but rather that you find a way to relate your primary message to something interesting or timely, (current events for example). It’s a way to keep your primary message relevant and interesting – and more likely to be opened, clicked, shared, reported on, etc.

Never try to promote more than one angle at a time – it only muddles your message. Find one angle and stick with it in each communication. This also helps give you better control over what actually gets shared or reported.

Keep it Simple and Clear

Keep things direct and focused on whatever angle opens the door for your “primary” message. Use simple language and terms. Don’t try to impress everyone with a barrage of information. If you want to make further details available, add a link to it.

Use Key Phrases

Create short phrases (or sound bites) that drive your primary message that you can use repeatedly in any messaging environment. Phrases that use bold, descriptive words that amplify your point. For example, the kind of phrases that you could shorten even further into a social media #hashtag.

Be Quotable

One way to increase the odds that what you promote will get more attention is to be quotable. Find ways to express your opinion on the current “angle” in a way that supports your primary message, and is pithy and to the point. Spend time putting such quotes together ahead of time; some serious and some humorous. Use them for your social media efforts, and work them into quotes that you give the media. Just be careful not to be quotable in a way that would frustrate your efforts.

Stay on Message

Once you’re confident with what you want to talk about, remember to stay ON message. What good does it do to prepare a message and then get distracted from delivering it? No matter what the question or the subject, either find a way to relate it back to your primary message or answer it quickly and then move back to what you want to talk about.

Repeat and Multiply Your Efforts

If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there, does it make a noise? If you develop and package a message, but nobody sees or hears it, does it have an impact? And does it have more of an impact if people just encounter it once, or repeatedly?

You need to remember that people are constantly bombarded with messages competing for their attention. The only way to cut through the clutter is to consistently hit people repeatedly and in as many venues that are relevant to your targets as you can. If they continue to receive the same message over and over from multiple directions, it’s more likely to sink in.

Remember, when it comes to messaging, REPETITION + MULTIPLICATION = IMPACT.

If you don’t care enough about your message to invest in making sure that it penetrates, then you need a new message.

There are plenty of venues and opportunities to share your message. Just remember that it needs to be relevant, simple, clear, packaged properly and pushed repeatedly to have an impact.

How to Create a Campaign Plan

Before you get started on any campaign – whether it’s an election campaign or an issue based campaign – you NEED to have a plan. But just as the plan is important, so is the planning process itself. As former President (and General) Eisenhower once said, “Plans are useless, but planning in indispensable”.

Over 2,000 years ago, Chinese General Sun Tzu described what he called the “Five Elements of the Art of War” as follows:

  • Measurement of space
  • Estimation of quantities
  • Calculations
  • Comparison
  • Chances of victory

He stated that: “Measurement of space is derived from the ground. Quantities derive from measurement, calculations from quantities, comparisons from calculations and victory from comparisons.” To put that in political terms, you need to evaluate the environment, research the numbers, determine what’s needed to win, compare yourself and the opposition and then realistically estimate if you can win.

In other words, YOU NEED TO PLAN.

Planning forces you to think things through, weigh the options and see potential opportunities and problems. Once you’ve got a plan it’s much easier to know “what’s next” on a day to day basis, and you’ll know “why” it’s better to do things a certain way and not just guess or roll with the flow.

This section will give you a good thumbnail guide on how to plan a campaign, and how to do the research and make the evaluations needed in order to decide what kind of strategy and tactics you should use.

The Basics of Campaign Planning are:

    1. Evaluation: Identify all of the factors (current or possible) that can have an impact on being successful.
    2. Research & Targeting: Analyze what’s needed to achieve the results you want – and how you stack up. Do you have what you need? Can you get it?
    3. Strategy: Develop a strategy that maximizes your strengths and the opposition’s weaknesses. How can you make the most of your likely resources and opportunities?
    4. Tactics & Implementation: Determine what tactics you should use to implement your strategy – and when to use them.
    5. Timeline: Start with Election Day (or another critical day, such as a key vote you are lobbying) and work backwards, building in enough time to get the things done that need doing.
    6. Budget and Finance: How much money will it take…and how will you raise it?
    7. Review: Evaluate and review the plan and your progress on a regular basis – then make adjustments.

A good plan is a collection of answers to a series of good questions. Pull all of those answers together and organize them in one place. Then write out a formal plan. And to get the most out of any planning process, make sure that all of the key players who will be involved in carrying out the plan are part of the process. If they don’t “buy in”, they will be less likely to help.

Don’t try to plan in a hurry. If the purpose is to develop a good plan, then you need to respect the process and take the time to do it right. Depending on how much time you have available, or who else may be helping you, (or how big your campaign is), you could spend a few weeks on doing it right. At the same time, you want to avoid “analysis paralysis”. As Patton put it, “a good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week”.

Don’t expect what you do to be perfect. No plan ever survives contact with the enemy. Or as Mike Tyson once said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”. Things change.

Your plan has to be flexible and able to adapt to circumstances – which means the “planning” doesn’t end with the first draft. It’s an ongoing process. So once a plan has been implemented, schedule regular meetings of all the key players and review the situation. Have things changed? Does any element of the plan or the timeline need to be altered to deal with those changes?

Evaluate, research, plan, implement and adjust. Then repeat!

If you do the planning that you need to do on the front end, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and headache later, not to mention increase your chances of being successful. So take your time and don’t take shortcuts. You’ll be glad you did it right.

Remember, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”.