Grassroots – Word of Mouth

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By Beate Potzmader

Grassroots lobbying is the process by which interest groups identify people with the same concerns; sensitise, recruit and activate them (activists, volunteers, etc.).
Grassroots campaigning defines the campaign management/method of grassroots lobbying.
Grasstops lobbying is the integration of local or regional opinion leaders as advocates for a specific cause. Grassroots campaigns are particularly effective for the creation of alliances (coalition building) with interest groups or individuals who share a common concern (through either a formal alliance or an ad-hoc and informal one). Use Grassroots mobilisation as a moving spirit for campaigning.


  • Management of activists and volunteers: a lot of people are necessary for a good grassroots campaign. They have to be coordinated, trained and provided with proposals for activities, arguments, etc.
  • Targeting and micro-targeting: Grassroots campaigns must reach specific target groups. They should be localised and fed with messages, actions, and so on.
  • Web applications: blogging, video integration, viral campaigning, fundraising, mobile phones, web 2.0 (social networks) are some essential tools in grassroots campaigning on the internet.
  • CRM: Customer Relationship Management is not an empty buzzword. Collect data, store them in your database (be aware of the privacy rules!) and communicate with your activists and sympathisers regularly. If they want information or become active in a specific campaign, they should be kept informed – or they will switch off again.
  • Campaign management within the party structure: Ensure that grassroots campaigning is always an integral part of your campaigns. For this you will also need personal and financial resources within the party structure.


  • During the election campaign: mobilisation, stabilisation of supporters and (potential) voters.
  • Mid-term projects (between two elections): building the basis for electoral mobilisation.
  • Keep the fire burning!
  • Continuous communication; web

The three phases of Grassroots campaigning:

Input phase »»» Organisation phase »»» Training Phase = Mobilisation

1)    INPUT:
– Get family, friends, etc., involved in the action (maybe with the help of a survey).
– How can our concern be strengthened? (Research!) Set goals you want to aim for. These goals are to be communicated later on.
– What are you prepared to do? The message for the audience: You are prepared to give all of your energy for these goals.

– Construction of a network of activists.
– Feeding structures: Teams and team leaders to serve the activists should be built. They have to assume their well-defined responsibilities.
– Geographical position of the activists: In large countries and regions, activists should be pooled geographically – as should the responsible teams and team leaders.
– Objectives: Everyone should know the aim they are working towards.
– Activists have different goals, different resources: Keep in mind that activists cannot do all the campaign work. You should suggest different actions to them, in line with their goals and resources.
– Communication with the activists: This is a very important issue! Continuous communication – face-to-face, on the internet, or via e-mail – is necessary to jolly the activists along, ensuring their continuous support.
– Feedback options: Give your activists the chance to give feedback on the actions and support they receive. They talk to plenty of people – they may possess information that is essential for your party and campaign. Activists want to be taken seriously. So please take their feedback seriously.

Train your activists and enable them to talk to their friends in their own language. They must receive the following information:
– What are the objectives (of the campaign)?
– What is the strategy?
– Which tactics are used?
– Which message(s) should be communicated?
– What will the activists do exactly?

Offer exclusivity for your activists. (Give them ‘insider’ information, offer them information earlier than the public.)

Word-of-Mouth (WOM)
In today’s overloaded advertising world, personal recommendations are the best and most effective way to get through to our potential voters. Friends communicate openly, honestly, credibly and accurately at the point of interest.

– 90% of consumers trust recommendations from friends
– 67% of the U.S. economy is influenced by word-of-mouth
– 70% of consumers trust consumer opinions on the internet

Word-of-mouth-marketing is often understood as a tool in downstream communication used in the last phase of the communication process. The power of WOM is in the end-to-end integration of the target group – from the development of the issues and the campaign development to the communication itself.

– Get to know and to understand your target groups and opinion leaders
– Use your target groups as multipliers

The 4 steps of WOM:

  1. XPLORE: Really understanding the target audience. Use existing and relevant market research data to understand and enrich WOM-activities (interests, lifestyle, trends, topics, etc.).
  2. TOUCH: Working with opinion leaders from the target group, for example in trend scout programmes.
  3. INVOLVE: Put the marketing in the hands of the audience, for example in the form of brand ambassador programmes.
  4. ATTACK: Understanding communication with the audience and spreading the message to the target groups.

Factors that increase chances of success:

  • The topic should be current, relevant and simple.
  • Support/alliances/partnerships: Form alliances, enlist celebrities for support, embed media cooperation, convince opinion leaders (such as internet bloggers)
  • Emotional approach: Specifically address the target groups, communicate authentically using witty, not old-fashioned, messages.
  • Use all relevant web 2.0 tools (Facebook, Youtube, MySpace, Twitter, etc.)
  • Adapt all on- and offline activities.
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