Digital advocacy – aligned with online campaigning more broadly – has been effective on issues that capture the public imagination for quite a while, largely because the web works extremely well as a grassroots mobilisation tool. From whale hunting to GMOs, pressure groups and concerned citizens have used a variety of online tools to express anger, spread the word and mobilise likeminded people. I’d argue that, were Greenpeace to announce a big-time campaign tomorrow on banning mink farming in Europe, it could be web-centred, with offline elements operating around it. Meaning that Greenpeace would be able to engage and mobilise enough people using primarily online channels to certainly reach (although probably not influence) relevant policy-makers.
However, the vast majority of advocacy issues don’t capture the public imagination. Nobody knows about them; the media doesn’t care. Until a short time ago, these were the sort of issues where advocacy was done off the radar i.e. primarily with stakeholders and policy-makers sitting down face to face. There’d be no large-scale media campaign or the like in support because it wouldn’t have been worth the effort seeing as all stakeholders were a phone-call away.
Now, I’d argue that digital advocacy is nearing the real deal for niche issues as well. Meaning what? That the web is ubiquitous enough – even in public policy land (view Fleishman’s EP Digital Trends or Edelman’s Capital Staffers’ index if in doubt) – to work as a direct advocacy tool.
In practice, I mean that if you plan and execute the online element of your campaign well, you can safely assume that you’ll reach relevant policy-makers directly, as well as engage and/or mobilise the aforementioned stakeholders that are just a phone-call away, using primarily online channels. By no means does that mean that traditional advocacy or media relations are a dying breed, but they can now be supported, enhanced and sped up no end. Exciting times ahead.
(This is a cross-post from Steffen’s blog)