Pressure vs. Persuasion—Which side are you on?

I’m pleased to welcome guest blogger Leslie Kerns, Senior Vice President and Director of Campaigns at M+R Strategic Services.

As communicators for nonprofit issues like land conservation and human rights, it’s natural to be drawn to work that plays up our strengths. As a group, we tend to like writing press releases, blog posts, reports, stories, position papers, tweets,and factsheets that make the case for our causes.

The trouble is, in today’s advocacy world, being right has very little to do with winning or losing your campaign. Instead of focusing on persuading decision-makers to vote your way because it’s the right thing to do, it’s more successful to pressure decision-makers to go your way because it’s in their own best interests.

It seems like a common sense idea. Yet while working with nonprofit organizations every day, we routinely see communicators not making the most of their precious time and resources. What can you do to power up and branch out from the usual persuasion tactics to get the attention of elected officials and CEOs?

It’s not just the organizers and lobbyists on your team who can use pressure tactics like rallies and constituent meetings to their advantage. As campaign communicators, we have a big (and often missed) opportunity to pressure decision-makers. Here are some tactics you can use to power up and branch out from the usual persuasion tactics to get the attention of elected officials and CEOs?

  • Put some teeth in your arguments. Tweets and newsletters to your members are still valuable campaign tools. But does your message stop there? Don’t forget to ask your supporters to join you in getting that message where you really want it to go: to the decision-maker.
  • Create leaflets with purpose. On its own, a flier alone is just a sheet of paper. So do something meaningful with it to get decision-makers’ attention, like distributing it outside their factory, campaign HQ, investors meeting, or political fundraiser.
  • Add pressure in the press. Decision-makers pay attention to the media. The next time your organization publishes a report, find a way to make it interesting and newsworthy for reporters – showcase what’s really new or changed via an interactive map, turn stats into rankings, or make a companion visual.

You don’t have to stop doing what you’re good at to make the switch from persuasion to pressure. You simply have to keep going.

To dive deeper into Pressure vs. Persuasion, check out this new white paper full of examples and questions to strengthen your campaign communications.

P.S. Get more guidance connecting to convince from 219 peers in the field: Download the free Getting Attention Nonprofit Marketing Wisdom Guide.

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