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By Joshua Belhumeur

The Supporter Journey for Effective Digital Advocacy

With today’s social web, people undergo a more sophisticated and rapidly changing decision making process when evaluating causes, candidates and other traditional public affairs or PR issues. This presents both challenge and opportunity: they are bombarded with information (and misinformation) helping shape their opinions, but they are also more directly accessible and open to hearing your story from you and your network of supporters.

When developing a digital PR campaign, it’s important to shape your tactics around a strategy that accounts for the variety of points people may be at within their decision making process. Some are more ready to support and take action than others. It’s like a game of connect the dots. If you only focus on point D without making a connection from A, B and C, you are failing to draw the big picture and are excluding a lot of potential supporters.

I recommend building a grassroots digital strategy around a consistent model that treats every audience member as if they are at a milestone in a path towards becoming a vocal supporter for you. I’ve identified five classifications that, on a broad level, should apply to any campaign focused on driving support:

  • Floppers – Opposing opinion, but could be persuaded.
  • Ignorants – Lack awareness of the issue altogether.
  • Apathetics – Aware of the issue but have not given consideration.
  • Supporters – In agreement on the issue, but not an active voice.
  • Advocates – Ready to take action on your behalf.


The Supporter Journey Model

This model is loosely inspired by the McKinsey Consumer Decision Journey, a commonly used retail sales and marketing approach.

The goal of your strategy should be to actively define the path you want your audience to take and to develop a wide variety of tactics to facilitate their journey through each phase. A content piece for a flopper (e.g. – articles that acknowledge and refute opposition points targeting the relevant search keywords) serves a different goal than one for an ignorant (e.g. – a simple storytelling infographic that presents the issue objectively so as not to immediately sever trust, rather educate).

The path to advocacy is much like the Wizard of Oz.

“We’re off to be advocates. The advocates for your cause.”

In addition, by segmenting these milestones in your strategy, you avoid making the wrong asks or representing an inappropriate tone in your content for its respective audience. You don’t want to hit an apathetic over the head with “contact your congressmen” asks (they don’t care), nor do you want to create as much urgency with an ignorant as you would with a supporter (it will likely diminish trust). Each tactic has a built in goal which helps inform content, creative, promotion and key performance indicators.

Ultimately, your digital should not be seen as a supporting media channel for a PR campaign, rather the core platform by which education, storytelling and action will occur. The web is the modern public communications sphere. While agencies have been slowly implementing digital arms, they have not been as progressive as other sectors in developing the robust, comprehensive strategies digital deserves.

This supporter journey model should be an effective starting point to help shift the paradigm with your clients, or even your own thinking, and ensure you take the right approach to garner support, empower your advocates and move the needle on your issues.

BRINK develops and executes digital campaigns for a wide variety of public affairs, traditional PR firms, non-profits and associations out of our Washington, DC office — among them the Motion Picture Association of America, Families USA, Levick Communications, Mercury Public Affairs, CLS Strategies, BerlinRosen and a handful of congressional campaigns.

By Joshua Belhumeur