Assuming the initiative or issue you’re pursuing in Texas is so admirable it’ll automatically receive a warm reception is shortsighted. You need others speaking on your behalf. No matter the project, your chances of success are small without the active support of third-parties.
But that advocacy can’t come from just anybody. They have to share your vision, be invested in the outcome and lend credible voices that endorse your position or project. They don’t grow on trees.
How will you ever find such an elusive organization or local leader? Well, it helps to know where they come from, what they look like, the issues they’re drawn to, how to interact with them, and how to enlist their support.
Let’s take a closer look at what goes into identifying and engaging with the right advocacy partners to help see your initiative through.
A Credible Third-Party Speaking on Your Behalf is Essential
If your organization stands alone in supporting your issue or project, it’s difficult to persuade anyone that you are not simply acting out of self-interest. That’s not to say your project or position does not have merit, public trust is simply harder to come by if you’re the only one endorsing it.
As we are fond of saying in Texas, make friends before you need them. And an authoritative, credible advocate group can be one of the most powerful and influential friends you can have by your side.
It’s also not the kind of relationship you can expect to create overnight or by making a contribution. It takes time and effort and expertise to find the right one and understand how to work together. In other words, it needs to be an authentic relationship with complementary goals.
Pick Your Partner Carefully
Let’s get this out of the way: we’re not talking about Rent-a-Friend. This can’t be a one-off, transactional relationship. This needs to be a mutually beneficial connection where both parties gain from cooperation and collaboration.
You know the phrase “All hat and no cattle?” It’s not a good look, especially in Texas. Your third-party advocate (and your relationship with each other) needs to be meaningful. Your partner should have the reputation and track record that shows they can walk the walk and similarly your advocacy efforts should do the same.
So what does that typically look like? These are individuals or organizations who lend credibility to your perspective. If you’re trying to persuade policy makers, regulators or the public at large, the more they hear a voice other than yours, the more likely your issue is to gain credibility.
Politicians must represent and satisfy the needs of a broad constituency. And they’re always looking for community validation and a favorable approach to resolve conflict. The more people willing to support your effort, the more likely an elected official is to consider your cause.
For example, if your project will stimulate economic growth and promote jobs, it’s a good bet the local chamber of commerce shares that vision. If they join the chorus touting those benefits, you’re making progress.
If your project creates improved environmental conditions, working with an area environmental group would be a natural fit. But the relationship has to be built on authenticity and facts (eg., expected reduced emissions or improved air quality statistics) otherwise it will feel forced or contrived. Meet advocates where it matters.
Some issues and initiatives can be very sophisticated or complex. A strong advocate gets the nuances and knows how to communicate clearly and effectively with your target audience. If you get them the right information, they can interpret and deliver it in a way local stakeholders will understand and appreciate.
What if the Right Group Doesn’t Seem to Exist? Keep Looking.
No advocacy group advertises its services. You have to work strategically to find them. And even then, it often takes time to build rapport, get them on board and begin operating as a team with a common goal.
How do you find them? It starts with broad brush strokes. Is it the public or regulators or elected officials you need to back your issue? Who can you reach out to that will meaningfully reach those decision makers?
If you’re putting together a statewide coalition, it’s highly likely that you’ll need to engage local chambers of commerce or trade associations because it’s rare that something doesn’t have an economic impact angle.
For hyperlocal issues where there may be no formally established coalition, you have to get more granular: Neighborhood associations can be a good start, along with local business leaders, respected community voices or major institutions that have outweighed influence in a community. Every situation is different and deserves a deep assessment.
When Others Talk for You, the Right People Will Listen
As much as Texans pride themselves on rugged individualism, that’s not the approach to take when getting a new project or initiative off the ground.
You simply cannot go it alone and hope to self-generate credibility. The smoothest and swiftest path to success is working with others who support what you’re trying to accomplish and allowing their expertise and credibility to reinforce your messages.
The Monument Group has worked with countless such organizations across Texas and understands their positions, reputations and personalities. If you’d like to hear more about how we’ve helped companies like yours achieve their goals with supportive coalition groups, let’s talk.