Public policy and regulations are constantly evolving based on the population's needs. The decisions made by the government have a tremendous impact on the future of any association and industry. Public advocacy is essential because policies and regulations propagated can positively or negatively impact your club and its members.
Being a member of an association or organization has a slew of benefits, from networking with like-minded individuals to staying up to date with the latest industry trends. Advocacy, however, tends to stay within the top three most important advantages of joining a community.
As an industry's leading voice in the political and public spheres, an organization must keep its members educated while serving as the industry's voice on policy matters. For this reason, many executives are reevaluating what it takes to be an influential leader in today's changing world.
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Why Should Association's Advocate?
Organizations, whether large or small, have much to gain by becoming involved in advocacy and government relations. In its simplest form, advocacy involves taking a stance on an industry-wide issue and encouraging others to support that position to better the community.
- Representation — Associations provide a platform for businesses and industry professionals to unite and have a representative voice in policy-making. On behalf of their members, leaders can ensure the needs and concerns are heard and considered by lawmakers.
- Collective Action — Groups with many members and pooled resources can utilize collective action to advocate for their best interests. Multiple voices will create a louder effect, ensuring they’re heard.
- Protection — Associations can advocate protecting the interests of their members by identifying and opposing policies and regulations that could harm their industry.
- Industry Expertise — Organizations provide a wealth of knowledge within their industry. By participating in the policy-making process, associations can provide valuable information and research to regulators to help inform their decisions.
A Seat at the Table
In today's market, the best way to be involved in the conversation is to be an active participant. If you make your voice heard, you can steer the discussion in a direction conducive to your needs and interests.
It also means that you will influence issues such as industry standards, regulatory compliance, and access to resources and opportunities, all set by those who participate in the conversation.
Additionally, by advocating within their industries, associations can help build strong relationships with key stakeholders, which benefits everyone. By having a seat at the table, associations can ensure that their members' voices are heard, and their interests are represented, leading to a more equitable and sustainable environment for all stakeholders.
By providing expert analysis and feedback on proposed policies and regulations, associations can make a beneficial impact and ensure informed decisions are made.
Through their membership base, associations have a unique understanding of their industry's challenges and opportunities. They also have the resources and expertise to conduct research, provide analysis, and develop recommendations for addressing these issues.
Organizations can also provide data and statistics demonstrating a proposed policy's impact on the industry and its members. Additionally, associations can provide industry-specific best practices and case studies presenting solutions to common challenges.
Leverage The Media
In today’s media-centric society, the media is an essential part of advocacy. It can educate the public, raise awareness, and—most importantly—inform them of their elected officials' actions. However, while the media is an integral part of advocacy, it's essential not to allow the media to do the advocacy for you.
Media relations are a cornerstone of advocacy, and this is especially true for associations. It's important to consider all aspects of an issue when crafting an effective media strategy. A problem quickly boiled down to a soundbite can distract from more nuanced considerations. The media relations efforts for a case should be as targeted as possible to appeal to the outlets most likely to carry that story and engage readers, listeners, or viewers.
Encourage Member Participation
Because of the inherent complexity of industry issues, members of associations tend to be less informed or involved than they might otherwise be. Therefore, activities encouraging and educating individuals to participate in policy matters can help associations achieve their advocacy goals.
Advocacy tools, such as monthly newsletters, case studies, and virtual programs, can inform members and help them independently make informed decisions. Whether it's the simple act of asking your local representative to co-sponsor a bill or attend an event, an educated member base makes for a powerful voice for associations. By implementing the following strategies, you can ensure your organization’s members are actively engaged.
Offer free online resources explaining industry issues and how they affect the association's member base.
Host regular webinars on social media marketing, public relations, and government advocacy.
Organize grassroots campaigns, lobbying days, or other events that give members a chance to connect with policymakers and regulators.
Create and mobilize a subset of member-led advocacy groups or committees within the association that focuses on specific issues.
Engage Through Events
Organizing events or rallies can be an effective way for associations to advocate for industry issues by providing a platform for members, policymakers, and other stakeholders to unite, share information, and collaborate on solutions.
Events such as conferences, seminars, and lobbying days can raise awareness about key industry issues, create networking opportunities, and provide members with the knowledge and skills they need to advocate for their industry effectively. In addition, advocacy events are often the most effective way to motivate people, gain the support of other organizations, create media buzz and keep the issue in the public's attention.
With an established history, you can also invite politicians or other influential members of the industry to speak at your event. Having leaders as speakers allow members to interact with decision-makers and establish relationships that can be beneficial in the future. These interactions can create a more favorable environment for the industry and provide members with a direct line of communication with legislators.
Associations thrive on engagement with their members, which is why it's important for associations to stay connected to the industry through advocacy.
In the end, associations must remember that their base needs an authentic voice. They're not interested in being sold a product; instead, they want to engage with an industry that enhances their professional lives. In this way, associations and organizations must create value for their members and the industry at large rather than simply pushing products or services.