Digital advocacy has been effective on issues that capture the public imagination because the web is an effective grassroots mobilisation tool. From whale hunting to GMOs, pressure groups and concerned citizens have expressed anger, spread the word and mobilised likeminded people. Were Greenpeace to announce a big-time campaign tomorrow on, say, mink farming in Europe, it could be web-centred, with offline elements operating around it.
However, the vast majority of advocacy issues don’t capture the public imagination: nobody cares; media pays no attention. Until a short time ago, these were the sort of issues where advocacy was done off the radar i.e. primarily with stakeholders and policy-makers sitting down face to face. There’d be no large-scale media campaign or the like in support because it wouldn’t have been worth the effort seeing as all stakeholders were a phone-call away.
Digital advocacy is now nearing the real deal for niche issues as well. It is ubiquitous enough – even in public policy land (see Fleishman’s EP Digital Trends or Edelman’s Capital Staffers’ index) – to work as a direct advocacy tool.
In practice, if you plan and execute the online element of your campaign well, you can safely assume that you’ll reach relevant policy-makers directly, as well as engage and/or mobilise the aforementioned stakeholders that are just a phone-call away, using primarily online channels. By no means does that mean that traditional advocacy or media relations are a dying breed, but they can now be supported, enhanced and sped up no end. Exciting times ahead.