(The Saint Report has been publishing a series of posts about strategic communications in land use politics – Part 1Grassroots Organizing; Part 2 Public Relations; Part 3 Crisis Comms; Part 4 Corporate Social Responsibility and Part 5 Do the messages work?)
By Owen Eagan, The Saint Consulting Group
So how do we target our vote when we develop campaigns for grassrootsadvocacy or ballot initiatives and referenda? Do we just target the connectors or influentials as Malcolm Gladwell described in The Tipping Point and Ed Keller and Jon Berry described in The Influentials? Connectors and influencials are essentially those people who represent a coveted market because of their vast social networks and the influence they have with other people. In fact, it is conventional wisdom that reaching this group is critical to trigger any trend via successful viral or word-of-mouth campaigns. Moreover, Keller and Berry argue that one American in 10 tells the other nine how to vote.
Or do we engage in mass marketing campaigns because of the potential of any person to start a trend as detractors of the so-called influentials theory contend, such as network theory scientist Duncan Watts? Our approach incorporates elements of the two. Specifically, regardless of the issue, we typically have a base of supporters and know which messages are persuasive with which audiences. If there are influentials among these groups, then we will certainly target those individuals and leverage their influence.
However, for us, at the end of the day, it is about identifying and mobilizing your vote.
For grassroots advocacy campaigns, this means identifying and mobilizing a critical mass of voters as defined by local political dynamics. For ballot initiatives and referenda, this means identifying your votes-to-win number – your 50% plus 1 – based on projected voter turnout, etc. In either case, our targeted voters usually consist of stakeholders, persuadables and influentials.
Stakeholders can be defined as those individuals who will either benefit directly or indirectly by your issue. Persuadables are those individuals who will likely support your issue based on demographic, geographic or psychographic profiles. And influentials, as discussed, are those stakeholders or persuadables that have higher degrees of influence with certain constituencies or audiences. As a result, influentials are an especially good group to target for endorsements or testimonials.
So, when targeting your vote, you can’t just target the influentials and hope that your message spreads virally and creates some type of social contagion. You also have to target your stakeholders and persuadables while actively leveraging the influence of this key group of individuals.
Owen Eagan is a Senior Consultant for The Saint Consulting Group, email email@example.com, phone 781.749.7290, etx 7701.