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Supreme Court fight provides useful lessons

January 09, 2006

Today, advocacy groups kicked into high gear to influence Senators to support or oppose the nomination of Judge Alito. This battle can provide some useful insight in how higher education institutions can develop advocacy campaigns. A few weeks ago the Congressional Management Foundation, a think tank that works to make Congress a more effective institution, examined the recent Miers and Chief Justice Roberts nomination process. Here are a few recommendations they offer in improving online advocacy.

1. More effective targeting
Make sure that supporters are only contacting their own elected officials. Elected officials automatically discount the opinions of people that are not constituents. It is a waste of your supporters time and can frustrate elected officials.

2. Encourage personalized messages
Petitions and generic messages are not persuasive in influencing elected officials. A personalized message can go long way in convincing elected officials of your cause. Moreover, this message can help give specific examples of why your issue is important to constituents in that district.

This does not mean that you should stop providing generic messages to supporters because not every supporter has the time or interest to write a personalized message. A generic message will allow supporters who are too busy to send a personalized message to still have their voice be heard.

3. Create clear expectations with supporters
It is important to develop messages that motivate supporters but remember to not go overboard. You lose credibility when your outlandish predictions don’t come true. · Also, make sure that you are clearly express what you are asking supporters to do. Make it clear whom the letter or petition is being directed to.

4. Give supporters new and useful information
It is important to update supporters on a regular basis but make sure that you are actually providing them with new information. Many groups just repackage the same message. This can negatively impact the number of people that read and take action on your alerts in the future.

You can read the full story here http://www.cmfweb.org/rollcall120705.asp

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