Archive for January 15th, 2012

Riding an Electoral Wave: How Election-Year Politics Can Promote Your Issues

As part of their Advocacy Rising program, the good folks at SalsaLabs asked me to contribute the piece below, which first appeared on Salsa Commons. One thing I left out — nonprofits have to be careful what they say in an election year if they mention candidates. The exact rules depend on your IRS nonprofit status (i.e., which flavor of nonprofit you are), so check with the lawyers early on so that you know the ground rules. While you’re waiting to hear back from them, be sure to check out our in-person discussion on Thursday.

Riding an Electoral Wave: How Election-Year Politics Can Promote Your Issues

It’s an election year! With a gridlocked Congress! Doesn’t leave much room for issue-advocacy, right? Wrong: the long months of politicking in a presidential election year can actually give advocacy organizations great opportunities to boost the prominence of their issues — BUT only if they’re ready.

The Media Dynamic

Perhaps you’ve noticed that political coverage has certain dynamic, one that might be described as lemming-like. I.e., at any given point in the campaign, political reporters tend to cluster around a relatively small number of stories that themselves constantly change. One week it’s Newt Gingrich’s jewelry purchases, another it’s Mitt Romney’s apparent joy at firing people, but don’t worry — reporters will eventually circle around to Barack Obama’s birth certificate so he won’t feel lonely. What unifies most of these stories is that they’re ephemeral: they blow up big one week (or day or hour) and are nearly forgotten the next. Though collectively they gradually come to define the candidates, few stick around long enough to matter much on their own. Another common characteristic: they’re very much in-the-moment, driven by gaffes, attacks and other immediate developments in the campaigns, and hence difficult to predict in advance.

Ironically, the speed with which these stories brew up can actually work to advocacy organizations’ advantage. Reporters and bloggers won’t be experts in most of the issues involved, so they’ll be scrambling to get information to fill out their stories. And if you’re ready when one of your issues pops, YOU can be the beneficiary of their ignorance/hunger for content. Here’s what you’ll need to take advantage of the election-year media dynamic to promote your issues and connect with new supporters.

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Speaking Gigs Galore: SalsaLabs on Thursday, PA Prog Summit in February, and SXSW

Hey kids! Sorry for the recent publishing hiatus — no doubt I was waiting for the New Hampshire primary results with such anticipation that it induced long-term paralysis. Or mind-erasing boredom, whichever.

But never fear, you can get a much-needed dose of e.politics soon, and in person even! (Ladies, please — no fainting.) Next Thursday I’ll join RadCampaign’s Allyson Kapin and Jeanette Russell of SalsaLabs at Salsa’s DC lair for a post-webinar, pre-happy hour discussion about how nonprofits and advocacy organizations can leverage the election-year media frenzy to promote their issues and themselves. It’s part of Salsa’s “Advocacy Rising” series, and note that Salsa’s offices feature free beer of the cold and yummy variety.

Next up, Lizandra Vidal and I are working on the details of a panel she got accepted for the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit in February. We’ll focus on a perennial favorite topic — integrating online and offline campaigning — with help from some local Pennsylvania groups who’ve been doing just that. DC types, it’ll be worth the trip to Philly.

Finally, and this is the big news, I’m speaking at South by Southwest in March! A friend from Austin was putting together a late-submitted, Occupy-themed panel and tapped me to moderate, which was pretty damn cool of him all around. More details soon, but we’ve been accepted and obviously I’m psyched as hell.

Other site news: a couple of articles are sitting in the hopper, waiting for finishing touches, as is a loooong list of Quick Hits (they do stack up). And the rewrite of “Winning in 2010″ for 2012 is under way! Keep an ear open for the announcement and be ready to spread the word. Thank you, and that is all — for now.

cpd

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