What's Your Convention Strategy?

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The upcoming Democratic and Republican National Conventions mean a lot of things to advocacy professionals. Election years never fail to excite us, while still managing to bring about a bit of stress - especially when we're making communications plans.

Why Are Conventions Important?

You spend every year allocating resources, budget and time to your advocacy work. Why would you put in all that effort just to sit out the main event? If there's an audience you have been trying to reach, chances are they will be in Philadelphia or Cleveland this month. Mayors, governors, members of Congress and more attend these conventions not just to hear from the candidates - but to hear from you! You can use the conventions as a way to advance the policy issues your organization cares about.

How Do I Leverage the Conventions?

Utilizing online and offline efforts, in tandem, can help get your message in front of some of the convention audience. If your organization is in attendance (or just traveling to each city), hosting an event is one of the most cost-effective ways to spark conversations with the right. I know, it seems as if everyone does this. But if you can time your event correctly so you don't compete with other major happenings, you can make a big impression. With an engaging speaker and food and drinks, people will flock to your event!

As with any live event, the conventions give your organization an opportunity to interact with people you wouldn't meet on a regular basis. While it may not be possible to do this in person with your whole audience, you can certainly strike up conversations online. Each convention has their own hashtag: #RNCinCLE and #DemsInPhilly - and you can add to the live conversation. Here are some tips to make sure your online conversation proves just as effective as in-person advocacy:

  1. Draft a strategic plan - to include budget - before you begin.
  2. Follow the conversations already happening online.
  3. Build a list of influencers that you want to engage with.
  4. Begin retweeting and replying to messages to gain people's attention.
  5. Utilize other technologies - like podcasting or livestreaming - to get your message out there.
  6. Deploy your advertisements. You don't have to spend a lot, but paying to get your policy priorities in front of the right people will be worth the investment.

How Can I Put My Advocates To Work?

Leverage the local angle! Deploy volunteers in these cities by providing funding for them to participate in convention activities. Tickets to an event or speech - particularly those relevant to your issues - are a great way to widen your presence. You can use these advocates online, too. A simple social media toolkit will allow them to join any conversation in a meaningful way.

How Do I Fuel My Advocacy Work?

Whatever your strategy, it's important to extend the utility of your convention activities beyond the convention itself. A campaign that begins at the convention can certainly live on afterwards. The single best way to do that is to acquire some content at the convention. Photos, videos, soundbites and guest blogs can be scheduled for weeks following the conventions. If you deliver any content at the convention, a report or a survey, you'll have that to share, too.

Conventions may seem expensive and daunting, but their mission is the same as yours: to carry a message to people who can help.