How The Pandemic Changed Advocacy Marketing

By: Greg Adams, Chief Executive Officer


There’s no doubt that the pandemic significantly impacted marketing in 2020. My Linkedin feed My LinkedIn feed is filled with people talking about the seismic shifts that COVID created within their industries. The virus caused most of us to deviate from well-worn paths of behavior, and as a result, the ways that we engage and the messages we’re receptive to changed also.

Advocacy marketing is no exception to the upheaval. Because so much of what we do as advocacy marketers is relationship-based, we were ahead of the game in some respects and at a disadvantage in others. Here’s three examples of how ACCESS adapted in 2020:


1. There Was an Increased Need for Empathy-Driven Design

On a tactical level, advocacy campaign design elements that worked well with a pre-COVID audience, like an image of a crowded office space, no longer spoke to pandemic audiences. Rebecca Jami, ACCESS’s COO, shares that “The pandemic reminded us to be even more mindful of the power images hold. We wanted to make sure we were designing campaign pieces that made recipients feel like they were part of something larger than the view from their living room.”

Example: ACCESS created a direct mail postcard for a State Senator who wanted to address the financial strain the pandemic had created. The mailer paired a photograph of an overwhelmed parent sitting at their kitchen table with a typography style and color that mirrored the stress reflected on the parent’s face. Using imagery and fonts that created an emotional tug helped the Senator’s message of financial empathy hit home.


2. Content Saturation Was at an All Time High

The pandemic dramatically increased the amount of information that people were taking in during the day. Remote work, e-learning for the kids, a volatile election, and the changing virus protocols were occupying a lot of mental real estate. Adam Wagner, ACCESS’s Content Director, said, “Nobody has the patience or time to scroll down for the recipe any longer. The content we created for 2020 advocacy campaigns had to demonstrate immediate value, be skimmable and easily absorbed.”

Example: In 2020 ACCESS began making it standard practice to include condensed, 6 and 15 second, versions of the long-form videos they produced for clients. That way clients could still capture the interest of targets that didn’t have the bandwidth to watch a lengthier video.


3. Nobody Wanted to Press Palms Anymore.

Since relationship building is the very heart of most advocacy and grassroot campaigns, the pandemic lockdowns created a big challenge for many people in our industry. Advocacy campaigns work best when legislators hear the message constituents want relayed multiple times, in multiple ways—including in person. We might typically pair a direct mail and mobile campaign with a capital fly-in event or “Day on the Hill” to increase the chances of a positive outcome. However, the pandemic meant that all in-person events were cancelled.

Example: ACCESS applied the same digital and social media tools that work so well for our online campaigns to our client’s remote events. These included everything from online event registration and promotion to virtual town halls with legislators. We also amplified constituent’s voices on social media by providing up-to-date social media handles for the legislators they were trying to reach.
How did your organization adopt to change pandemic challenges into new marketing opportunities?



For the fourth year in a row, ACCESS Marketing Services was recognized by Campaigns & Elections, picking up four Reed Awards, including Best Use of Programmatic Advertising, Best Radio Ad, and two for Best Mail Piece.



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