The Importance of Third-Party Advocacy and Key Opinion Leaders in an Unprecedented Environment
In these extraordinary times, policymakers are making enormous legislative and regulatory decisions at breakneck speeds – decisions of great consequence to almost all industries and individual businesses of nearly every shape and size. In more standard times, our democracy affords stakeholders ample opportunity to engage and educate policymakers and staff on the impacts of their decisions, whether it be through individual constituent meetings or shoe-leather lobbying. But ironically, with big decisions being made faster than ever, the Capitol and Executive Branch agencies are closed to most. Senior government officials and staff are working from home, lawmakers largely are staying out of Washington, and most of their constituents and stakeholders are themselves under stay-at-home orders. So how best to engage policymakers in this new environment?
More than ever, a key element in a successful advocacy strategy is to partner with influential third-party organizations and key opinion leaders to advance aligned positions and policy objectives.
Even in more “normal” times, the ability to identify, educate, and mobilize external advocacy partners serves as a powerful tool in any public policy debate. Partnering with credible, like-minded third-party groups and opinion leaders can lend critical policy expertise, outside validation and support to an organization’s advocacy objectives, amplify overall messaging and help influence specific audiences. A deep bench of influential third-party organizations – ranging from advocacy groups, think tanks and industry associations – as well as known subject matter experts and opinion leaders can serve as a highly effective echo chamber around shared policy positions and goals, as well as providing the ability to counter any opposition efforts. And in the current environment, the strengths that third parties bring to the table are even more important:
- Deep Policy Expertise – Often third-party organizations focus on a core set of key issues and include leading national or global issue experts who focus on those policy areas full-time. Partnering with the right organizations and experts can bring significant intellectual firepower and policy expertise to the table. This includes invaluable insights provided to their partners as well as external audiences. In a setting where crucial legislative or regulatory action is moving quickly, the ability to tap that expertise to inform internal considerations and the decisions of policymakers is critical.
- Trusted Relationships with Policymakers – These organizations have close relationships with key policymakers and their staffs, often built over years, and are viewed as principled and thoughtful advocates for their respective causes, rather than being motivated by self-interest. Policymakers look to them with questions, lean on their expertise, trust their opinions and research, and carefully consider their policy positions and priorities.
- Media & Digital Advocacy – Third-party groups and key opinion leaders often have extensive rolodexes of reporters they are frequently pitching to and have come to be reliable sources for, as well as large editorial and cable footprints to amplify their commentaries. These media platforms help to advance key messages and keep issues relevant in specific news cycles when critical policy debates arise. In tandem, these organizations and individuals often have large and effective social media platforms that can further promote or impact public policy and political considerations. They also are especially skilled at highly targeted, highly efficient paid media campaigns where appropriate and integrated into broader communications initiatives.
- Extensive Grassroots Networks – Third parties often represent large grassroots and membership networks, sometimes numbering in the hundreds of thousands, across all 50 states. At a time when lawmakers and their staffs are not able to meet constituents, traditional lobbyists or engage in public events, the level of engagement and expertise that many third-party groups and key opinion leaders possess is invaluable. These organizations have access to and acceptance among major, and can help identify and mobilize them at local, state and national levels in ways traditional direct advocacy cannot.
The Herald Group understands and respects the unique strengths that trusted third-party partners and key opinion leaders can and do bring to today’s advocacy environment. Our Alliance Development team focuses solely on building and maintaining extensive relationships with national, state, and local third-party groups and key opinion leaders and works to mobilize these organizations and influencers on behalf of our clients. THG’s strategic partnership building capabilities include:
- Third-Party Audits and Platform Development
- Coalition Strategy and Development
- Identification, Recruitment and Mobilization of Key Third Party Advocates
- Key Influencer Communications
Our unique approach gives us unparalleled insights into the strengths, capabilities, and priorities of third-party organizations and key influencers, allowing for more strategic mobilization and positioning us as trusted allies within multiple advocacy communities to help win on key policy decisions and debates. It is a core part of what we do—especially during these most unusual times.