Winning the Internet

Can Your Org Jump on Rapid Response Opportunities?

After a great run, the Winning the Internet blog has been retired. However, you can still keep in touch with New Media Mentors here.

For most advocacy organizations, the easiest way to build an email list is by running a popular petition campaign. I’m not talking about your standard petition campaign that gets an average number of signers—I’m talking about the campaigns that end up giving an organization a major membership spike. Most of the time these are rapid response campaigns that involve jumping on the news or a hot topic (also sometimes called newsjacking). These campaigns can take off like wildfire because they have to do with an issue or topic that people are already talking about and care about.

Knowing rapid response campaigns can be valuable is one thing, but actually being able to jump on these opportunities when you see them is another. If it normally takes your organization a week to decide if you want to run an action, you may struggle to respond quickly enough act on even incredible opportunities.

So, how do you make sure your organization is ready to jump on these opportunities? I recommend putting together a rapid response action plan that defines exactly how you’re going to respond. It doesn’t need to be anything terribly long or fancy—a one-page document with bullets is enough as long as it clarifies what your processes will be. Stuck on where to start? Here are a few things you’ll need to think about when working on your plan.

1. Identifying and evaluating opportunities

First you need to define what your organization’s process will be for identifying and evaluating opportunities. Define the types of opportunities your organization should be looking for (topic, relevance to your issue, newsworthiness, etc.), and who on staff should be looking. You’ll also need to decide what someone should do if they see an opportunity (including after hours and on the weekend), and who has the authority to can give the idea the green or red light.

2. Campaign planning and execution
Next you’ll need to determine who is responsible for planning out your campaigns and executing them. Think about your normal campaign planning process and how long it usually takes. You may need to approach these opportunities differently in order to turn things around quickly.

3. Evaluating success

Finally, it’s a good idea to define the process for evaluating the success of a campaign. Rapid response campaigns often become “all hands on deck” efforts that can take time away from other work. You’ll want to make sure you have a way to look back at the campaign when it’s over and decide if it was worth it. Be open with the rest of your organization about your findings. Looking back on campaigns that weren’t worth the effort can even be more helpful than looking at successes because it may lead you to rethink your action plan, and make future efforts more efficient and effective.

Once you’ve got your plan on paper, all you need to do is start following it! The process might be a little rough the first time around, so be sure to meet with your team when you’re done to debrief on what worked and what didn’t, and make changes to the process.

About Melissa Foley

Melissa is the Director of Training and Mentoring for Netroots Foundation and New Media Mentors. She aims to use her MBA + nonprofit background to teach organizations to use new media tools strategically.

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