My Five Point Grassroots Wrap-Up

Last Tuesday was my final Grassroots Communications class for the fall semester. Over the previous fourteen weeks, we discussed many aspects of effective grassroots communications and word-of-mouth marketing. Instead of trying to repeat them all, I shared the following list of five key principles to any successful campaign.

(1) Be Interesting – No one talks about boring things. If you want people to talk about your cause, your company or your candidate, find a way to get peoples’ attention. Blenders are boring, but a video of a blender destroying an iPhone is a must-see. More than 150 million people have seen a Will It Blend video and sales have jumped 700% since the company launched the video series.

(2) Give People Something to Do – Grassroots means getting people involved. How will you respond when someone asks, “What can I do to help?” By giving them specific tasks to perform, your customers can help achieve your marketing goals. Including fundraising. As Seth Godin wrote in Tribes, “My mom volunteered at the Buffalo art museum for years. There’s no doubt we gave [them] more money than we would have if they’d sent us a flyer once a month.”

(3) Make it Personal and Psychological – The more personal your communications, the better. An email is easy to delete, but a phone call or personal request is harder to ignore. And tap into the proven psychological needs identified in Influence by Robert Cialdini. People have an innate desire to belong, reciprocate and act in the face of scarcity. Are you using these principles to increase compliance with your requests?

(4) Goals, Strategies and Tactics – Do you have a Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely (SMART) goal? Will your strategies actually achieve the specific goal you are trying to achieve? And what about your tactics? Are they easy to perform? Thinking strategically about your goals, strategies and tactics is key, but is often ignored by candidates, companies and causes.

(5) Keep it Simple (and Short) – Just 1 in 4 Americans have a college degree and the number of Americans who read newspapers is falling. Keep your language simple, direct and to the point advise both Frank Luntz and George Orwell. You should also rely on non-verbal forms of communication, such as video. And given our short attention spans, keep your requested actions simple and easy to perform.

I’ve really enjoyed teaching and am looking forward to the spring semester in a few weeks. Now it’s back to grading final papers, revising my syllabus and taking a much-needed break.


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