How to build a ‘force for good’
Photo / Supplied.
Experienced campaign hands that help Groundswell NZ grow.
It’s a scene that could only happen in the 2020s: a Southland farmer at a Zoom meeting while driving his tractor, talking to advisers in downtown Auckland who were helping him and other grassroots farmers convert. if in a powerful political lobby.
The farmer was a founder of Groundswell NZ, the agricultural advocacy group known for national protests against what they say are “growing government interference, unviable regulations and unjustified costs” that apply to the rural sector.
The advisors were from the recently launched Campaign Company, a creation of Jordan Williams, co-founder and executive director of the Union of Taxpayers.
Williams believes Groundswell’s growth and reach stems from farmers ’passion for its cause and authenticity, reflecting the concerns of rural communities across the country. The Campaign Company is providing Groundswell with the tools to manage this growth and streamline its effectiveness as rural advocates, including advice on how to turn “noise” into political victories.
Behind all this is what Williams calls the power of “grassroots activism, and crowdfunding, which is traditionally associated more with the left than conservative causes.”
Williams’ background, leading the Union of Taxpayers to become the world’s largest per capita base taxpayer advocacy group, was the skill set Groundswell needed to turn his protests into a long-term campaign. “strength for good,” Williams says.
The union has more than 180,000 subscribed supporters with tens of thousands helping to fund the campaign’s efforts and, despite its youth, believes Groundswell has already surpassed traditional rural advocacy groups in number of subscribers.
“We are not experts in government relations, or Wellington-focused lobbyists. Our company advises on how to create movements and provides good practice digital tools to run modern, problem-based political campaigns,” he says.
“A big part of that is advising on best practices and ethical fundraising. No one can save the world if they can’t keep the lights on.”
“Groundswell’s leadership understands his sector better than anyone near Wellington,” Williams says. “His leadership team at Gore picks up on issues and prioritizes his campaigns. But building communities, fundraising and back-office requirements for a growing organization, serving and choosing tens of thousands of queries , is a new territory for those who lead this cause “.
“Groundswell has an advantage in being digital first. They have already conducted successful online shipping campaigns on an alternative emission pricing and on the Water Services Act regulations affecting rural water. Groundswell is connecting farmers directly to decision-makers in Wellington. “
The Campaign Company emerged when Williams found staff with the experience and knowledge that was lacking in the New Zealand political scene: “New Zealand has been about 10 years back,” he says.
All Kiwis, the company has a political campaign software development expert, a campaign consultant who previously worked in a minister’s office and a digital creative, the latter who worked on election campaigns abroad before to Return to New Zealand |
“Robert Calvert, our lead developer, has professional training in web development and software engineering specific to the political space: a rare combination.”
“Our creative manager, Dylan Parshotam, has experience in developing print, online and television ads for major international political figures such as Australia, Canada and the UK.”
“For people like Taxpayers’ Union, Groundswell and our business customers, Dylan and Robert’s experience means that world-class digital campaign tools and strategies are within reach.”
“For my generation, and the Union of Taxpayers is very much a reflection of that, our policy is framed in the angles of communication and media gained. Dylan and Robert reflect the next generation: understanding that the kiwis consume media and information in completely different ways, even a decade ago.
“Instead of ‘comms’, think of ‘content’ ¬ what is the most effective way to communicate the message directly to key audiences? This often means talking over the media, using social media strategies to drive the cut. “
The Union of Taxpayers remains Williams’ passion and main job, he says, “I still spend about 90 percent of my time fighting government waste.” The union alone could not afford to access the skills and experience of the staff The Campaign Company has hired, “but between the Taxpayers Union, Groundswell and other customers, we can.”
“The key difference between The Campaign Company and a traditional communications or online agency is that the policy is about the message, not the brand. Too often, marketers are obsessed with brand recognition when, for politics, what matters is the message and the effectiveness of delivery. “
It’s working. Williams refers to another client, who had dried up in about 4,000 followers for half a decade. “My team implemented a contact generation strategy to recruit, engage and grow their active email followers to nearly 70,000, achieving legislative victories.”
“Throughout my life, politics has become more professional and the gap between Wellington and rural communities has widened. We are proud that The Campaign Company is working with clients to democratize how decisions are made and empower the.” power of the people “in politics, even from a barley paddock in Southland.”