Getting them involved: attracting and empowering supporters
Authors: Lilleker, D.
Conference: Digital Campaigning Knowledge Exchange
Dates: 22-23 March 2012Abstract:
The key to success for any campaign is building and maintaining support. The most valuable supporters are active; those who act as activists and advocates. This presentation offers insights into techniques for mobilising supporters by drawing on principles of psychology, consumer behaviour and examples from the field of electoral politics and charity campaigning. Firstly the presentation critiques approaches to understanding activism; these often take a critical view of small actions, such as signing online petitions or subscribing to online groups or newsletters. The critique draws on examples of two contrasting types of campaign, the election campaigns of Barack Obama, the UK Conservative and Labour Parties, and the German SPD and CDU; these political campaigns are compared with the tactics of a charity campaign designed to raise both awareness and money for breast cancer research: the UK based Wear It Pink campaign. Each of the campaigns placed demands upon their most highly involved supporters and sought to achieve both a cascading down and cascading up of activism. Put simply, they encouraged existing supporters to recruit friends to the campaign and, once these newbies were drawn to visiting the campaign website, or associated online presences, were encouraged to deepen their involvement through a range of requests from small to large. We understand low-effort actions as a small step onto a loyalty ladder, but that through tapping into the target audiences’ needs and wants we can increase interest in the party, organisation or campaign. Here we introduce the concept of involvement and how this is crucial for campaigning. Data suggests that the key to increasing emotional involvement is making the basic campaign messages have resonance with supporters’ lifeworlds. Once a rhetorical connection is made, the organisation must design communication that encourages those interested to climb further up the loyalty ladder; a concept which is developed for the context of online campaigning. A key addition is community building; a central feature of the campaigns used as case studies. All the organisations employed tactics designed to establish open channels of communication, personalise as much as possible and build up a relationship between the organisation and other supporters through two-way dialogic networks. The presentation compares the methods that Obama and the Conservatives used to build communities, their methods for asking for donations and campaigning support, with those of UK Labour and the German parties who sought to build a network of advocates and those of Wear It Pink which encourages participation through performance. Each of these different types of request has an equally different psychological impact upon the individual. The perceived goals of supporters’ actions are different as are their feelings of involvement and self-efficacy. Through an analysis of these campaigns, we can understand how organisations can develop theircommunication tactics to convert prospective supporters into passive advocates then, by connecting them to a network, encourage supporters to publicly display their loyalty and further the goals of the campaign.
Preferred by: Darren Lilleker