by Lider Kara
Lobbyists attempt to influence proposed or existing legislation and policy through various means. Sometimes by directly communicating with a government official who can influence the legislation and other times by mass mobilizing the public around a specific legislative issue, the latter is called grassroots lobbying.
Businesses need support from outside of their traditional public affairs environment for a strong government relations position. Citizen participation in government is what grassroots lobbying is all about. There was a time when getting that participation required grassroots lobbyists to educate a group of supporters tasked with knocking on doors to reach the community about the issue at hand. But especially in the past years, the grassroots lobbying environment started to change rapidly by adapting and embracing modern technology. As the legislators started to build their reputation on social media by participating in the conversation about politics and policy, citizen participation and thus influence in the conversation grown as well. This changing strategic communication approach of politicians and the Internet’s growing capacity to broadcast a message to a supporter base with its ability to reach a large audience immediately makes social media a powerful tool for grassroots lobbying. Furthermore, as grassroots lobbying relates to mass calls to action and not individual ones, the growing influence of social media starts to play a more significant role by enabling citizens to directly communicate their views to elected officials and mass mobilize groups on issues at hand.
The pandemic also accelerated the transformation of grassroots in the public affairs sphere, and extended accessibility due to the increased Internet – and social media usage is perhaps what stands out most. In relation to the COVID-19, Facebook released an article outlining the increase in traffic across all of its platforms (Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp), and stated that “The usage growth from COVID-19 is unprecedented across the industry, and we are seeing new records in usage almost every day.”. In the pandemic environment, people also started to use technology and social media more to report events, organize action and mobilize supporters across nations. Protest signs have been traded with hashtags.
By now, many of us have seen the story of a rabbit named Ralph, who works in a laboratory that tests cosmetics on animals. The story generated millions of views and caused a stir in the public against companies that test their products on animals. The main focus of the Save Ralph short movie, led by the Humane Society International (HSI), was to bring awareness to the public about the cruelty of animal testing, push companies to switch to alternative testing methods and eventually ban animal testing. With its #BeCrueltyFree campaign, HSI managed to generate legislative changes around the globe on the matter. According to HSI, more than 40 countries have banned cosmetic animal testing and the legislation is being discussed in 8 countries.
In conclusion, we can say that what we’re arguably looking at is the 21st-century version of grassroots that extends beyond government control and traditional media. As the process of informing and mobilizing the public has been facilitated, resulting in increased civic participation, demonstrating that your business has a group of supporters that can voice your strategic goals is one of the most effective influence strategies you cannot afford to ignore.
As a public affairs agency in Turkey, CORPERA develops and implements a tailored public affairs strategy that integrates advocacy and lobbying. Check out our Public Affairs service or get in touch with us to learn more about how we can help your business achieve its strategic business objectives.