New Approaches to Engaging the Grassroots

Posted By: Donna Oser, CAE Blog, Industry,

Engaging the grassroots in association advocacy efforts is more challenging than ever. The planning committee for MSAE's Public Policy Roundtable tapped some of Michigan's smartest public relations strategists to address this challenge in a panel conversation held at Tuesday's event. The panel discussion was moderated by Haleigh Krombeen, Director of State Advocacy with Michigan Credit Union League & Affiliates, and featured Andie Poole, APR, a partner with Martin Waymire, Joshua Pugh, Senior Director of Government Affairs with Truscott Rossman, and Matthew Resch, President & Owner of Resch Strategies. 

Challenges & Opportunities

Panelists began by highlighting the importance of grassroots engagement in advocacy efforts. There was a consensus that post-COVID/post-2022 advocacy efforts have to reckon with voter mistrust/fatigue, diminishing efficacy of social media, and increasing difficulty in making it through firewalls. Key themes that emerged from the discussion were storytelling and the importance of building relationships with members who are passionate about the issue and influencers in the industry. Because personal stories are so compelling to the public and legislators, activists and influencers have the potential to draw more engaged people to a cause.

Andie Poole emphasized the importance of direct versus mass communication in grassroots advocacy. She noted that with changing social media algorithms, it's very difficult to reach a significant number of people, even when organizations are paying to boost posts. 

Josh Pugh agreed, stating that associations should recognize their owned media (such as websites) as valuable tools and highlighted the importance of really knowing who your organization is, who your target audience and where the powerful connection points may be. 

Matt Resch underscored the value of leveraging a targeted list for eliciting meaningful engagement versus all calls or purchased lists. 

Storytelling, Relationships and Using Tech Differently

Overall, the panel discussion highlighted the importance of building relationships, telling compelling stories, and using technology and data to inform and shape grassroots advocacy strategy versus counting on technology or data to actually engage the grassroots. By taking a thoughtful and strategic approach, organizations can engage their grassroots supporters in meaningful ways to drive positive change on the issues that matter most to them.

MSAE appreciates the panelists' insights and thoughtful moderation by Haleigh Krombeen, Director of State Advocacy with Michigan Credit Union League & Affiliates.