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Digital Advocacy Workbook

Make Good Happen

Intro Technology has long been shaping the way that non-profits reach and engage their members. Remember when your association set up its first website? And of course email is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to quick communications. But now social media is providing an entirely new set of (constantly changing) tools that allow you to reach and communicate with your members. So, it’s probably no surprise that technology is also changing the way that non-profits organize and motivate advocates to support their cause. The Internet and all of the tools that come with it are providing non-profits with what can be an effective and relatively low-cost way to reach members and stakeholders and inspire them to mobilize for change. We call it Digital Advocacy. We’re here to help you set your objectives, form the content and create the messaging, start the conversations, and put forward a meaningful ask that will inform, involve and inspire your audience to take action on your behalf. What is Advocacy? ad·vo·ca·cy [ad-vuh-kuh-see] noun, plural -cies.

The act of pleading for, supporting, or recommending; active espousal: He was known for his advocacy of states’ rights.

Advocacy (From Our Perspective) The act of identifying an invested group of people and providing meaningful information around a shared cause, issue or concern; clearly outlining the specific actions, tactics and supporting materials, and inspiring them to make the commitment to enact the agreed upon course of action in order to influence change in favour of the group.

Digital Advocacy Workbook

What is Digital Advocacy? Digital Advocacy The approach of using digital, online tools to enable the creation of a community of people around a shared cause, issue or concern; providing tools and tactics as well as media-appropriate content, and inspiring individuals to take action in order to influence change in favour of that group. What is an Advocate? An advocate is a champion for your brand, issue or cause. Advocates embrace your objective and the core elements of your message and take action related to your cause on your behalf. Advocates are not easy to come by. The relationship with them must be nurtured so that they are properly connected to your cause and informed with appropriate content. Many will care yet few will act. Once an advocate takes action to better understand your need, they are more likely to be involved and they will be more likely to answer your “ask”. How Does Advocacy Work? Advocacy is not a precise science. As with any communication effort, there is no simple formula to follow, though certain elements and functions are essential and replicable in most any circumstance. The tactics used to inform your allies are dependent, in part, on the nature of an individual’s unique communications maturity and in part, on the overall strategies, goals and actions essential to building toward the success of your campaign. In our efforts to track and implement effective advocacy initiatives, we have found 3 essential phases that consistently emerge. This adds an element of process that helps guide the development and execution of each of our advocacy campaigns. In the digital realm, we see the same process as with traditional advocacy, though the online approach can lead to the creation of “critical mass” at a much greater speed…a benefit and a risk as you might imagine.

Digital Advocacy Workbook

Inform | Involve | Inspire Inform Information can be powerful and generally creates comfort with the goal being pursued. The information does need to actually hold or represent content though. Too often there are posts or releases that are “lots of smoke but little heat”. Inform your audience with the right content for the medium so that they carry and represent your message. Respecting their engagement by providing timely, relevant and meaningful information is to help engage your audience as champions. Involve Actively engage your stakeholders where they are most comfortable, whether in a meeting room or chat room, and give them the opportunity to get involved with your issue or cause. The digital medium demands on a feedback loop that is often overlooked in the more traditional approaches. Do pay attention to the “placeholders” as well – even if their post seems irrelevant – as your considerate response lives on in the digital world and is needed to offset any irreverent contributions. Inspire Our programs are designed to inspire your ambassadors to take action. It is not about convincing or campaigning in the traditional media sense; it is about showing them their place and their significance within the project. We create inspired champions that endorse and embrace your issue or cause. Set Goals •  Find your audience •  Define strategies   •  Listen to what they say •  Environmental Scan •  Inform | Involve | Inspire - Participate authentically - Create awesome content and tell stories - Make the ask

Digital Advocacy Workbook





Setting Goals Goals are the starting point for digital advocacy (or any advocacy for that matter). Ask the following questions to help establish what your goal(s) is: • Why do we need to plead - what is wrong? • What do we want to be different when we’re done?

Define Strategies The strategies are the actions you will take to achieve your goal. Keep in mind that there is a difference between a strategy and a tactic/tool in digital advocacy. Where a strategy is an activity, the tactics describe the tools or technology you will use to execute an activity. So for example, creating a Facebook page is a tactic, where engaging stakeholders in a conversation about the impact legislation will have on community wellness is a strategy. Find Your Audience There is no point in using online tools to engage an audience that isn’t present. This is where you identify who you need to engage as advocates to fulfill your change goals and listen to what’s already happening. •  Who do we need to engage as champions and advocates to achieve change? •  Are they currently using social media? - Where are they participating?

Listen to What They Say Once you find your audience, it is important to listen to what they are saying to establish their current views on your subject. One of the most under-rated benefits of social media is its ability to tap into conversations and sentiments that would otherwise be missed. Take advantage of the tools that allow you to listen and learn. Complete an Environmental Scan You wouldn’t hop in your car and hit the highway with a blindfold on. Conducting an environmental scan helps you to understand the current environment, public opinion, and the state of conversation on your issue among supporters, members, influencers, decision makers, and opponents. •  Are your other organizations using social media? • Are members/supporters/stakeholders talking about your issue or cause? •  What influencers and decision makers are active online? Digital Advocacy Workbook

•  Is there conversation about your niche? •  What channels are active?

Participate Authentically Social media and digital advocacy require authentic engagement. Users are becoming much more savvy and are able to pick out the “corporate bumpf”, which they promptly ignore. Establish a voice for your efforts that reflects your organization but also puts your audience at ease. Map Out Your Content Always ask yourself what you want to achieve with any piece of content. It’s best to plan the basic content sharing in advance to ensure that you have a line up of valuable content that speaks to your message. It’s difficult to grab and keep attention in social media, having a content line up helps you stay relevant. When planning your content, think about how you will be participating. Remember that there are different levels of social media participation, and how active you are will depend on your comfort level and how active your audience is. Some examples of how people participate include responding to questions, contributing ideas, and providing information. Important Points: •  Know your message •  Determine how your will participate •  Remember that it’s a conversation •  Be authentic, transparent and trustworthy

Content Map Template

Posting Date

Digital Advocacy Workbook

Related Strategy/Message

Social Platform Facebook



Make the Ask You’ve informed your audience about the issue. They’re involved in your cause. They have “liked” your Facebook page, joined your group, followed you on Twitter, watched your videos and listened to your podcast. Now it’s time to make the “ask”. When considering the action that you’re asking your advocates to take, remember that people will likely want to participate in different ways, so have options for them. The list of actions below is by no means a comprehensive list. As with all other elements of your digital advocacy strategy, the “ask” must be aligned with your goals and could be made up of any number of actions. Have a simple way for champions to share the message with their networks. This can be an email they forward, a quick message re-tweeted or an invitation to start their own personal campaign, through Facebook Causes, to engage their friends. Just make it clear what you’re asking them to do, and easy for them to do it. It’s important that there is a simple, web-based form that your champions can access with only a click or two to fill out and send an email to the decision maker. Some people still prefer to pick up the phone and speak with someone. If this is an option for your campaign, provide a telephone number that your champions can call to either speak with a decision maker or leave a message. Provide a template letter that your champions can print off, sign and send to decision makers. A face-to-face meeting is a very effective way for your champions to engage decision makers. Provide them with the information they need to actually meet with their political representative, ask questions at political debates or participate in a community event.

Digital Advocacy Workbook

Tools/Technology It may seem counterintuitive to think that when it comes to digital advocacy, the technology comes last, but, it’s true. It’s easy to get caught up in the power of the tools. If you don’t know what you want to achieve and how you’re going to get there, then it doesn’t matter what tools you choose and you likely won’t succeed. How to Choose the Right Tools •  Think about what you want to achieve – Go back to your goals and strategies: What tools will best enable you to execute and deliver •  Where is your audience active? – What channels did you identify as active during the listening phase? •  What other tools are available to help inform, involve and inspire your audience? – Other than Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube, there are many engagement and advocacy tools that can be very useful depending on your goal. Soapbox ( – Audience engagement and voting app. Collactive ( – Audience engagement and social media management platform. Enables you to incorporate an “action” button into your content. The Petition Site ( – Start free online petitions. PledgeBank ( – Have your advocates create a pledge and get others involved. CircleUp ( – A private message platform that allows you to create and communicate with groups. And many more!

Digital Advocacy Workbook


Digital Advocacy Workbook

Engaging Communications for Inspired Change | | Toronto: 905.415.4588 | Calgary: 587.880.2050

Digital Advocacy Workbook  

Digital Advocacy Workbook

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