Grassroots is a commonly used term nowadays in marketing, political and lobbying campaigns. Do you remember when the term “grassroots” exploded in the 1990s? Of course, the great American Rock Band, Grass Roots, developed a strong following of their own in the 1960s and 70s. “Midnight Confessions” being one of their best pieces of work. But that has nothing to do with public relations efforts in the 21st century.
Dennehy & Bouley has been serving as one of the top grassroots lobbying firms based in New Hampshire since we opened for business in 2003. Grassroots campaigns can take on different shapes and sizes.
Some are quick and targeted such as a campaign to get all 13 Mayors to sign on to a resolution to the congressional delegation on a specific issue or piece of legislation. The intended result is to get one or all members of the congressional delegation to support the legislation or issue.
However, other campaigns can be large, broad and involve significant resources to build a comprehensive effort on the ground in a state like New Hampshire. This type of effort could develop support for a fledgling issue advocacy campaign or to build more relevance around an existing issue.
The most successful efforts Dennehy & Bouley has led in the past surround New Hampshire’s First-in-the-Nation Presidential Primary. Every 4 years, we have 10-20 candidates for President of the United States coming through our state looking for votes, building relationships with local officials and community leaders, and bouncing in and out of coffee shops in every corner of the state.
This presents a unique opportunity for organizations or industries to get their message across to the top leaders in our nation who could become the next President. In the 2020 presidential campaign, we may well see 8-10 United States Senators running for the Democratic nomination to take on President Trump. There is no better way to connect with these US Senators then to go meet them and connect with them in person in the town halls or small businesses of New Hampshire – and ask them directly about a specific issue facing our country. In other words, ask the candidates what your client wants to know.
How do we lower the cost of prescription drugs? How do we secure stop the flow of drugs to our country from Mexico, which fuels the opioid epidemic? How do we approach our involvement in the Middle East and in other hot spots around the world? How would you implement a national heathcare plan for all US citizens? How do we utilize renewable energy sources while still harvesting the abundance of oil and gas in the country? These are just a few of the questions that will be asked directly by people in New Hampshire and they could be part of an overall lobbying effort.
If you want to make an impact on a candidate for President, there are many ways to do this on a grassroots level during the presidential campaign. Just a few might include:
· Enlisting elected officials to ask candidates a question on an issue of importance and getting a specific answer that may not have been public before. Locally elected officials have instant credibility with presidential candidates who are typically seeking out their support.
· Asking a question in a public setting where the media is in attendance and getting that issue mentioned in a story in the New York Times, Washington Post or on one of the top Cable News Network programs. When the media is present, it is difficult to avoid direct questions from voters.
· Building a comprehensive campaign that involves building a large effort on the ground in New Hampshire and recruiting presidential campaigns to participate in those efforts. Once you get one or two candidates on board a specific issue or campaign, the others are likely to join as well. You could also use the campaign as an opportunity for a candidate to differentiate themselves from the others by being the first onboard if it is marketed appropriately.
As a grassroots firm, Dennehy & Bouley has developed and executed several large campaign plans dealing with energy, infrastructure and health care issues in past presidential campaigns. It can be a very efficient and successful strategy for organizations to take their business out of Washington and put it on the streets of the First-in-the-Nation Primary state. Not to overly simplify this tactic – but in 2020 it will be like shooting fish in a barrel. You wont be able to go to the corner diner without seeing a candidate for President. Seize that opportunity!