Championing the rights of society’s most vulnerable members, whatever the social cause, requires strategy and planning to succeed. Those who take on advocacy roles are often at the forefront of social change. Yet they are often faced with clients who lack the resources; and, at times, even the means to maintain basic human needs for themselves and their families.
Whatever social or political issue you are working on, the tools of effective advocacy can help you better serve the needs of your cause. Meredith McGehee, an experienced public interest advocate, Policy Director of the Campaign Legal Center, and Principal of McGehee Strategies, recently gave a workshop on advocacy tools and techniques to young professionals from Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Morocco who attended Legacy Legislative Fellows Program Closing Conference in Rabat, Morocco. Meredith shared these 8 points– a process she calls ”Advocacy 101″– with Legacy fellows seeking to establish a public health lobby in Morocco.
- PRIORITIZE YOUR ISSUES - It is important to choose just 3 or 4 issues. Don’t try to do too much. It can lead to a dissipation of resources and energy.
- CREATE AN EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE AND BUILD A DIVERSE COALITION- It is important to reach out to other groups that may be affected by the work your group does. Find ways to engage them and find common issues even if you don’t agree on everything. But don’t try to make strategic decisions with a big group. Create an executive committee that is empowered to set strategy and tactics. You will get “buy in” from your constituency if you consult with them regularly and inform them regularly of what you are doing. You’ll get criticism but be transparent and responsive.
- BE CLEAR BETWEEN SHORT TERM AND LONG TERM GOALS - It is important to be patient and to get your group members to be patient and understand they need to be in it for a long time.
- DEVELOP A SLOGAN AND A LOGO FOR YOUR LOBBY - Also, if possible, create a button or some other small, inexpensive give away that you can give away at events or on visits.
- SUCCINCT INFORMATION - Once you have identified your top priorities, write up a short summary of each issue, just the front and back of one sheet of paper, and use plain language. If talking to the media or in a public venue, keep it short. Tell personal stories but don’t let your people go on and on. Keep it short and interesting.
- IF POSSIBLE, CREATE A WEBSITE - Also, use YouTube and video any events or meetings that you have, but don’t post anything longer than 5 minutes.
- REACH OUT TO THE MEDIA - Unless it is dangerous, talk to the media regularly, make it easy for them, and be available.
- FIGURE OUT WHO MAKES THE DECISIONS ON YOUR ISSUES AND DEVELOP A STRATEGY FOCUSED ON THEM
Meredith McGehee specializes in nonprofit advocacy campaigns, lobbying and legislative strategy. She has been at the center of a number of impressive legislative victories, often against great odds, and is known for her unique ability to work with both sides of the aisle. She has been described as one of the most “in-the-know” people about lobbying and the D.C. scene.
McGehee has been named six times by The Hill newspapers one of the top nonprofit/grassroots lobbyists in Washington. She speaks at universities and organizations around the country, has testified before Congress, appears on local and national television and is frequently quoted in national newspapers, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, The Village Voice, Salon, Broadcasting & Cable, The Washington Times and the Des Moines Register. She also has appeared on national news shows, including ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Bloomberg TV, C-Span and MSNBC.
Prior to joining the Campaign Legal Center, McGehee served as President of the Alliance for Better Campaigns and Senior Vice President and Chief Lobbyist for Common Cause. She was Legislative Director for U.S. Representative Lane Evans of Illinois and a legislative aide to U.S. Representative Dante Fascell of Florida. McGehee is originally from the Southwest, served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Niger, West Africa and is a Phi Beta Kappa, cum laude graduate of Pomona College in California.