In the world of public policy and advocacy, one of the most serious mistakes an organization can make is also one of the most common: waiting too long to get started.
That’s why there’s no better time than now to start your advocacy campaigns for 2019. Many of our own clients are already preparing for the upcoming 2019/20 Pennsylvania legislative session – they’re fine-tuning their policy agendas; working through key decisions about whether to pursue legislation vs. administrative action/executive orders; discussing timelines; developing their messaging; and building coalitions of supporters at both the grassroots and grass tops level.
Remember, there are only 2 1/2 months left in the current legislative session, and the General Assembly members are only scheduled to actually be in Harrisburg for 9 to 11 more voting days before the end of the year.
So what can organizations do right now to help them hit the ground running in 2019? Here are five recommendations to consider:
1. Develop Your Policy Agenda for 2019/20 Now. Don’t wait until next year to start working on an agenda for next year. Start developing your agenda now, taking into consideration the current political environment, what issues are hot, what your clients’ pressing needs are, what the economy looks like, etc. While those factors can always change due to unforeseen events or the November elections, it always pays to anticipate.
2. Set Policy Priorities. During the 2019/20 session, about 4,000 pieces of legislation will be introduced. Of those, only about 10 percent will make it into law. That’s one reason why organizations should prioritize their top two or three policy issues and focus on them like a laser.
3. Start Planting Your Grassroots Now… This is where the rubber really meets the road. This work requires building a large group of citizens/constituents/voters who are interested in your issue – and who will be willing to take some level of action later on in your campaign. Today, smart campaigns build their grassroots networks through strategic and sophisticated social media tools.
4. …and Growing Your Grass Tops While You’re at It. While this may be more of the “old-fashioned” concept of advocacy, it is still undoubtedly necessary. Grass tops work means identifying, building, and meeting with a list of organizations that have a reason to be supportive of your policy issue – and whose presence on your list will resonate with key legislators (especially those in the majority party).
5. Let the Candidates Know Who You Are More than 450 candidates are running this year for the Pennsylvania General Assembly. That’s a historic number, accompanied by a historic number of retirees and incumbents who lost in their primaries. That means a whole lot of new faces in the legislature come 2019. So why wait until they’re in office? Start a digital media communications effort with the candidates – send them emails introducing your organization, what you do, who you serve, what the issues are important to you, and offer to be an informational resource to everyone during the election and beyond. Don’t forget to follow them on social media – chances are, they will follow you back.