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Training, communication key to building advocacy team

March 8, 2013
By Lori Sharn

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More associations are helping advocates engage elected officials, the media and other stakeholders at home, as well as in Washington, D.C. Some tips for cultivating a network of champions:

Make a strategic plan: Identify your internal philosophy, mission and target audience, said Heidi Ecker of NACDS. Realize that this is a long-term effort and must have committed resources.

Provide training and tools: Use webinars and also schedule in-person events. Make it easy for people to get involved with templates, step-by-step guides and social media outlets.

Roll out in stages: Doing due diligence in building the network is more important than building it fast, said Mike Aitken at SHRM. SHRM started out by focusing on selected states, rather than trying to recruit and train everywhere at once. Other associations are phasing in different components of their programs.

Get personal: Help people get comfortable with telling stories about how policies impact them. This influences elected officials and other advocates, Ecker said, and helps build a sense of community. “It’s our job to find out what motivates you,” she said. Aitken said it is fundamentally important to find the “key compelling reason” that will prompt people to volunteer.

Keep people engaged: Deliver fresh and current information, and avoid contacting advocates only when you want them to do something. Provide ways for advocates to communicate with the national organization and each other. “Have an engagement plan in place to keep advocates energized” and also forestall issue fatigue, said Chatrane Birbal of SHRM.

Heap recognition on people: “It’s important to be a ham,” Ecker says. “You have to be able to promote all the great work your advocates are doing.”

NACDS shares photos and stories about pharmacy tours and other efforts through internal newsletters and via social media. One member company is lauded annually as the “RxIMPACT Leader of the Year.”