Interested in learning more about the strategies our quiz recommended to other teams? Scroll through to learn our beginner, intermediate, and advanced strategies for identifying policy champions, policy tracking, and engaging officials.
Beginner — Use biographical data related to your issues
Look through the biographies of officials to identify aspects of a person’s pre-politics life that would make them a likely champion or threat to your organization’s issues. For example, which officials were doctors before entering politics and may be more likely to act on healthcare legislation? Or which members served in the military and may have a different perspective on veterans’ issues?
Searching through biographies also allows you to find personal connections between your employees and officials in order to help build personal relationships. For example, did they go to the same school as you, or volunteer at the same local organization? These individuals may not be champions yet, but by starting with a personal relationship, they’ll be more likely to listen to you on your issues when the need arises
Intermediate — Track social media dialogue
You’ve looked at the low-hanging fruit for champions and threats, such as official biographies, but you can go further and find other relevant officials by tracking how often and in what way they discuss your issues on social media.
There are two kinds of data trends you want to look at in terms of volume of dialogue — who speaks about your issue the most overall, and who has had spikes in conversation. The overall leaders in dialogue volume will be your primary targets. However, members who may not be consistently loud on your issues but have major spikes may have newfound interest in your issues or new dynamics in their districts.
In looking at social media to identify officials who are interested in a particular issue, you can also identify if they’d be a champion of the issue or a threat based on the language they use in conjunction with issue keywords. For example, when discussing immigration, some officials tend to use language like “family” or “citizenship” while others use language like “security”, thus indicating two different perspectives on the same policy issue.
Advanced — Use news monitoring to identify potential champions and threats
The policy priorities of a city’s residents are a major indicator of the issues its officials will prioritize. So, to understand the officials’ priorities, read their newspapers. With a news monitoring tool you can get a pulse of the city’s views on your issues by how they are discussed in an official’s local publications. With that knowledge, you can understand more about whether they’ll be a champion or a threat to your issues.
A secondary benefit to news monitoring along with identifying your potential legislative champions is you can turn neutral officials into champions. By reading their local publications, you’ll be able to reference local dynamics that will help sell your pitch on why they should care about your issue.
Beginner — Set up keyword alerts on social media to never miss a mention of your key issues
The first step to effective policy tracking is identifying the critical actions in the first place so you can then influence the process. But city and county websites can be slow to update on what the city or county bodies are voting on. By that point, you could be behind the eight ball in your influence efforts.
To address this challenge, we recommend tracking social media for mentions of issues you care about to stay ahead of legislation. Many officials will post on social media announcing that they are going to introduce a policy before they formally do so. With immediate alerts on these posts, you can get ahead on your engagement.
Intermediate — Follow the agendas and minutes of your highest priority cities
While your colleagues at the federal and state levels can track bills in a much more unified way around the country, every city and county has different ways of communicating about potential policy changes and enacting them. A more uniform way to track policies at scale is to monitor the agendas and minutes of the major cities and counties your team cares about.
By tracking these documents, you can see how councils prioritize issues based on how much time they are given in the agenda or see voting results among council members.
You can also use historical trends from past agendas and minutes to anticipate policies that might arise in the future. For example, if infrastructure comes up at the same time every year, get ahead of the game and begin your engagement before that time comes.
Advanced — Report on how your efforts move the needle on policy to be proactive rather than reactive
If your team is advanced, you’re likely catching many of the policies you need to know about, but are you effectively analyzing your team’s ability to impact that policy? By reporting on the correlation between your team’s actions and policy trends, you can optimize your strategy toward what behaviors are associated with successful outcomes.
To do this, track your interactions and efforts throughout the year. This should include things like meetings, emails, phone calls, and other engagements. Then, at the end of the period you’re reporting on, create a spreadsheet with a column for your team’s activity with each member and columns for each city or county’s activity on your issue—like the social media dialogue on your issue by local officials or meeting agendas and minutes mentioning your issue. Then, plot the data points on a scatter plot. Did members you engaged with more frequently talk about your issues more in official statements or introduce more legislation? If so, what kind of engagements was your team having with that city, and who on your team owned the relationships?
With these insights, you can identify what is working and apply those best practices to the next round of engagement.
Engaging Officials and Staff
Beginner — Create a newsletter to engage outside of just when you have a policy ask
Your team probably regularly emails with local officials when you want to schedule a meeting or have an ask of an official on a particular issue, but are you emailing them outside of those asks? We recommend creating a regularly scheduled email newsletter that includes valuable, interesting content rather than policy asks. Instead, consistently share your company’s story and make it clear why it is important to that official.
To make planning easier, you should create a policy reputation calendar that uses monthly themes to drive your emails. For example, in November, align your messaging with Veterans Day and your company’s corporate social responsibility efforts that support veterans in officials’ communities.
By consistently sharing your brand’s story, officials will be more likely to engage with you when you do have an ask because the connection to their communities will be even more clear.
Intermediate — Segment your email newsletter by issue to share more unique content to relevant officials
Not all of your audience is interested in everything your organization is working on. If you send them too many messages that don’t appeal to their interests or relationship with your organization, they may begin to tune you out and miss the messages that are in fact relevant.
To create lists segmented by issue, there are a few different strategies your team could use to identify who belongs on what list. To take a data-driven approach, you can use volume of social media dialogue as an indicator of someone’s interest in an issue. For example, you could build a list of the top 100 mayors on climate change by seeing who tweets the most about climate change.
To grow this list, you could track who responds and engages with specific issue content and gradually build your lists over time based on their engagement and your conversations with those stakeholders. For example, if someone registers for a healthcare event or replies to an email about your work on healthcare, add them to your healthcare issue newsletter list.
Advanced — Organize virtual events
Events provide a more memorable experience for officials than an individual email, so they are more likely to absorb the takeaways you share, even if they are virtual instead of in-person. Virtual events also allow you to expand who participates. Without geographic restrictions, you can invite employees or staff members from across the country to contribute.
Additionally, participating in an event is a greater time commitment for an official or staffer than reading an email. Opting into that experience with your organization and committing that time can be a strong indicator of their interest in you and your issues.