Incentivizing Participation: A Good Idea or Not?

For class, I had the great pleasure to read Colin Delany’s, “Online Politics 101: The Tools and Tactics of Online Political Advocacy.” Delany’s witty and straight-forward approach to teaching the basics on how to build a solid online (and partially offline) advocacy program is far one of the better white paper’s out there on the subject. From stressing the importance to integrating your online/offline communications strategy to how to contact bloggers (something I’ve never done and always been scared of), Delany hits the mark on the do’s and don’t we should follow. Except maybe one: incentivizing activists to join. In “Online Politics 101,” Delaney states:

I once worked with an organization that aimed to mobilize hunters for environmental advocacy, and they grew their list amazingly fast at gun shows and sportsmen’s events by offering signers a chance to win a free elk hunt. Of course, since folks signed up out of something other than zeal for the cause, not many of them were inclined to actually DO anything the group asked them to do or even to read the emails, but at least the list got built.

Yes, they got the list built. But clearly it wasn’t because these sportmen actually cared, nor was this list going to be anything but a recipe for how to have the quickest unsubscribes. And unfortunately, the person in charge of this list will inevitably get a flogging of emails from these so-called “advocates” to do the unsubscribing for them. As someone who’s had the pleasure of being that person…it’s not fun.

However, the real crux of the issue is that incentivizing advocacy only creates problems down the road, particularly in the political arena when word gets out that you essentially paid for participation. Media and pundits alike will jump at the chance to call foul and argue your cause is anything but organic and authentic and potentially hurt the credibility of your organization and therefore damage the integrity of your campaign. And without credibility and authenticity, that list you built on that elk’s body isn’t going to do very much.

About digipolitics

Just your average Johns Hopkins University grad student learning how to leverage the online arena to engage potential advocates for issue advocacy campaigns.
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