Online Advocacy and Activism as a Tool for Action

In the digital era, videos that are really popular "go viral."  This is true of online petitions as well - they spread quickly across social networks and a viral petition takes on a life of its own.

For activists, this is a Godsend.  Petitions have historically relied on word of mouth and community bonds to gain traction (and signatures). Today, it’s easier than ever to rally thousands of individuals who share a given point of view and will show their support through signatures and sharing alike, substantially multiplying the impact.

Unfortunately, the Left has dominated the medium through sites like Change.org, which has gathered more than 100 million users in support of primarily liberal causes. That success has fueled a myth that the tactic of online petitioning is one that only “progressives” can or want to use. But conservatives are increasingly realizing the benefits — and necessity — of incorporating online tools into modern activism efforts.

Fortunately, anyone can become an effective advocate for any of the issues they care about with just a few simple steps.

First, identify a cause you are passionate about — it doesn’t have to be a national issue like Common Core or the Second Amendment. Sometimes the most powerful, effective petitions address local issues that others in your community care about as well.

At StandUnited, an online platform we created to level the playing field for supporters of individual liberty, free enterprise, and limited government, individuals have created petitions that have had diverse impacts, from successfully requesting that Congress repeal the Medical Device Tax, to saving a historic Confederate War memorial in Portsmouth, Va.

The next step is to identify the decision makers that will be able to effectively address the issue at hand. This could mean your local city council or the president of the United States ­— the beauty of digital activism is that anyone is easily accessible with your message.

After identifying the decision makers for your issue, create and share a thoughtful, articulate petition with friends, family, neighbors and like-minded individuals. Nothing has made activism easier and more effective than social media, which is why it’s so crucial that you share your petition on your social media profile to make sure as many people as possible see it. You might even be surprised by who agrees with you.

Make sure that your local media is aware of your petition, and update them on the progress of the petition and the importance of your cause. This can be the most daunting part of the process, especially if you are not familiar with media outreach. Fortunately, most local media are interested in the issues that impact their city or state, and media coverage of your petition is one of the most effective ways to get the attention of decision makers.

A great opportunity to get media coverage is to deliver your petition in person to the decision maker. If there is a deadline such as a vote, a hearing, or an election, use this opportunity to press the decision maker on your issue and get publicity.

Finally, don't give up on your issue. Activism isn’t a process that works immediately — sometimes it takes weeks or months for a petition to gain steam. Keep working to spread awareness of your petition and the issues at hand, and you’re likely to see your hard work pay off.

Thanks to the rise of digital activism, that sentiment is truer than it’s ever been. Never have individual voices had a louder megaphone, higher platform or more direct access to decision makers, and as a result the power of the petition is greater than it’s ever been. You have the power to make your voice heard.

This piece was adapted from a recent Column on Townhall.com.

Paul Van Remortel is the senior product manager at Intermarkets, Inc., a privately held digital media firm founded in 1997. Paul will be leading the “Online Advocacy and Activism as a Tool for Action” webinar hosted by the Leadership Institute on April 27. For a free registration visit https://www.leadershipinstitute.org/live/?ID=31958