When you as a lobbyist set out to recruit grass roots advocates (key contacts), you might be tempted to seek out those who are already politically active or who have connections with elected officials. This video shows the advantage of getting an inexperienced volunteer and below I discuss a couple of broad parameters for selecting effective grass roots key contacts.
Video: Become a great grass roots key contact
Experienced vs not
Here’s why you might want to avoid “experienced” people. If you send out an all points bulletin “Know a politician? We need you!” You may get a few ideal candidates. You will also get people who have an agenda and it may not be yours.
You will get people who know the politician, all right, and who will tell you they are best friends… but if you ask the politician you want them to contact, you may find out the relationship is… not so hot. They may also bring in negative baggage from previous issues, issues unrelated to those you want to pursue.
You can do much better if you seek out people who are willing to commit the time and are willing to be trained. The most important personal attributes for successful key contacts:
Willing to invest time building a relationship
Able to set aside personal feelings about politicians and issues
Not likely to offend their targeted elected official
Selecting “mirror images”
When you pick your advocates you can seek out people who are like the politician and/or staff you need to influence – mirror images.
For example if you need a grass roots contact for an African-American urban Democrat, seek out an African-American urban key contact. Likewise for Hispanics from Southern California, Jews from New York City, women from San Francisco and gun-totin’ middle-aged white guys from Georgia. You want people who relate easily and we all relate easier to people like ourselves.
I once sat in a Washington meeting with a tall blond young male staffer. On my side I had three gray haired pin strip suited man and one young tall blond woman. Guess who the staffer focused on? And guess who volunteered to become the key contact in the future?
You won’t be able to do this in every case but it’s something to bear in mind.
Wouldn’t you like to have someone like Melody working for you back in the district?