During an election season, it’s important to understand that it’s possible to deliver an effective communications strategy in order to achieve goals and objectives in direct correlation with the election.
Reasons for a communications strategy
There are several reasons you may want to develop and implement a communications strategy leading up to, and during election time. Three main ones that come to mind are Advocacy/Lobbying, Engagement, and Relationship Building. In addition to these reasons, here are some important considerations when you’re trying to decide why you would engage in this type of activity:
- Elections present great opportunities to meet politicians and build relationships. Politicians of all stripes have to be more accessible during elections – how else to meet voters, right? This includes high-profile candidates – current members or rising stars – people you might normally have difficulty meeting. During elections, it is possible to get short sessions with politicians in their ridings – and even catch a minute or two with party leaders on the campaign trail. Contact during elections can help you build relationships and cultivate champions for your issues.
- Commitments are easier to secure. Every party is concerned with appealing to critical demographics and regions of the country during an election. If a positive position on your issues will enhance their prospects with voters, commitments may well be forthcoming – provided, of course, that they are broadly consistent with party policy and the associated cost is manageable. Commitments are definitely worth seeking. As one political sage commented: “It’s hard enough to get politicians to act on their promises, but you won’t get them to keep promises they never made.”
- Elections are a chance to show your issues are important. Being active during an election also provides an opportunity to raise the profile of your vital issues and to demonstrate that the public – or at least your supporters – really care about them. Your concerns do not have to become a major political issue in the election. In today’s world of political “micro-targeting,” it is enough that they matter to a motivated segment of the population or a particular region of the country.
- Election efforts demonstrate the value and importance of your organization to your stakeholders. Unfortunately, most of the great work nonprofits do meeting with government officials and lobbying to influence policy is invisible to the people you represent. Smart election efforts are good for engaging supporters and helping member retention by showing your organization’s leadership on the issues that matter most to your stakeholders.
While there are many reasons you’d want to do these types of campaigns, we’ve started the list for you above, here are four major objectives we see that can apply to both municipalities and non-profit organizations:
- Inform and Educate
Now that you’ve decided to develop an election-related campaign, there are some considerations you need to make before proceeding:
- Legal – Are you registered as a lobbyist? Are your actions considered to be lobbying? There is strict legislation around lobbying, make sure you are following it to the T. Failing to do so can result in big fines.
- Ethical – Are your objectives ethical? Are you being influenced by a party?
- Partisan vs Non-Partisan – This one can be tricky and is highly dependent on the type of organization you are. Regardless of which one you are choosing to follow, it’s important to be aware of how you develop your messaging and even the images/colours you use for collateral.
- Partners – How will your plan affect current or potential partners? Is this something you can collaborate and pool resources together on?
Here are a couple of organizations we found who had useful tools and information for achieving their election-related campaigns. Additionally, Grapevine Communications offers an in-house workshop with more in-depth teachings, and consulting services if you need help with plan development.
Vote Diabetes – Diabetes Canada – https://www.diabetes.ca/how-you-can-help/advocate/election-central
How to Be An Advocate Manual – Diabetes Canada- https://www.diabetes.ca/getmedia/abee4a05-7762-494d-8b89-b9ac9dee04bc/advocate-training-manual.pdf.aspx
Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Society – http://www.oacas.org/what-we-do/government-and-stakeholder-relations/ontario-election-2018/