How often does your organization send advocacy communications? It’s a question that most teams grapple with sooner or later. Blast too often and you annoy your audience. Blast too seldom and you lose momentum.
While the right cadence is different at every organization, knowing what others are doing helps a great deal—and what they are doing might surprise you.
The State of Government Affairs Survey, which interviewed almost 500 government affairs professionals about their practices and experience, showed that advocacy is a game played weekly at many organizations. To learn more, read on.
The Right Cadence for Advocacy
The survey showed that, among all respondents, one third (34%) sent advocacy communications at least weekly, and that about one in six (17%) did so more than once a week. A majority (51%) sent communications at least every two weeks. These numbers were a bit lower for companies and somewhat higher for associations. But among all respondents, 70% said their organization sends an advocacy communication at least once a month.
Overall, most organizations reported solid results. Among all respondents, three-quarters (76%) said their audience responded very well or somewhat well to advocacy communications. Interestingly, those emailing more frequently (at least once a week) report even better engagement. They say about 84% said their audience responds well, eight percentage points higher.
One reason that one in four government affairs pros (24%) says their audience does not respond well to advocacy is likely that most organizations have been slow to modernize and adopt tools that can improve performance.
For example, most programs rely heavily on email, with 84% of professionals naming it as a primary communication tool. That number tops 90% among those working at associations and nonprofits. Yet we know that, generally speaking, email performance is not overwhelming. The average advocacy email last year had a 20% open rate and a 2.9% click rate, according to M+R benchmarking data.
Compare that to text messaging, which has a 99% open rate and click rates that often run to double digits. We have seen very successful campaigns top 30%. The M+R data shows the average advocacy-related text had a click rate of 10% last year, which is more than three times higher than it is for email.
Yet, in the survey, only 36% said their organization uses text. It was lower among corporations (13%) and higher among nonprofits (47%). But the truth is that a large majority of advocacy organizations have not yet modernized to adopt a superior tool.
The Value of Optimization
Of course, cadence is still a question, regardless of the tools you use—a question you can answer with simple experimentation. Because every audience is different and every organization has a different relationship to its audience, the right answer for your organization will be different from others. The only way to find out is to engage in some trial and error.
Organizations that are conservative about the number of times they contact their audience for advocacy can increase the number of sends while carefully monitoring metrics like the open, click and unsubscribe rates. If the increased cadence is increasing performance without driving up unsubscribes, your audience may be open to more contact. If you see unsubscribes jump appreciably, stop experimenting. Driving advocates from your list is unproductive.
While you are experimenting, there are other things you can study without much risk. For example, you can determine which day of the week and which time of day performs best. There are many ways you can increase the impact of your advocacy communications. Here are some ideas:
- Adopt Text Messaging. The quickest and most certain way to improve performance is to embrace text messaging alongside your email program. At Quorum, we work with thousands of organizations that run thousands of advocacy campaigns each year. Many of the most successful campaigns use both text and email in tandem.
- Present a Sense of Urgency. As all fundraisers know, urgent communiques move the needle. This tactic works for advocacy, too. Communicating a sense of urgency will often drive people to take action. But be careful. This approach can be overused. If everything is urgent, then nothing is urgent. Save this tactic for issues that are truly are important (there’s never a shortage).
- Foster Curiosity. Every advocacy professional has heard that writing compelling subject lines is vital to performance. But how often is that really put into practice? To see your numbers increase, develop a subject line habit. Study what works best with your audience. Read the latest research and studies (there is always plenty). One idea that resonates comes from a post by Klaviyo, a marketing firm: evoke a sense of curiosity. “Humans have a natural impulse to investigate, observe, and gather information,” they write. “Teaser-style subject lines can leverage that natural curiosity.” Take a page from the marketers. That is likely to work in an advocacy context, too.
- Implement A-B Testing. Testing two subject lines to see which performs best often adds several percentage points onto your open rate, and it’s relatively easy to do. This approach can be used for other elements of your advocacy communications and landing pages as well, from the color of buttons to the images you use.
- Try a Resend. Here’s another idea that is widely used in marketing: resend your emails to those who did not open the first time. By waiting a few days, changing the subject line and resending, you can often increase opens and clicks and add to the number of people participating in your campaign. Just be careful to send only to those who did not open and engage the first time around.
There is also much you can do to tune up your email system by practicing list hygiene, avoiding spam traps and taking steps to lower your bounce rate. Overall, remember this: you are not stuck with the numbers you have today. From studying cadence to adopting tools and testing, there are always opportunities to improve. In this game, optimization matters.