Water Hub Blog

From ivory tower to real world: Collaborating with influencers to drive policy awareness

Celebrating policy wins in a way that’s accessible, self-aware, and relatable can be a challenge. Right now, the climate and water movements have our hands full getting the word out about legislation like the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the single largest investment in climate ever in U.S. history that could cut emissions by 40% by 2030 and provide billions for drought response and Tribal water issues. With $300 billion at stake, the climate and water movement are calling for this funding to be grounded in justice to reach the communities that need it most. 

But most people haven’t heard of the IRA, so we need help from creators who know how to tell a story. Whether it’s to unpack opportunities to shift agricultural practices that protect us from drought, explain why we need to invest in public transit, or to help spark inspiration around nature-based solutions, influencers are powerful partners to educate and mobilize the public.

Three organizations, one goal: How we partnered with influencers to celebrate the Inflation Reduction Act

It’s go time to saturate feeds with positive messaging for the IRA as the opposition is already trying to debunk its benefits and claw back the funding. The policy and traditional media ivory tower aren’t the panacea to reach people and get them to care. More and more, folks are spending more time on social media and look to trusted messengers to distill heady information in a way that’s inviting and accessible. 

That’s why we collaborated with Climate Nexus and Resource Media to launch Let’s Get Loud, an influencer campaign about the IRA featuring over 25 creators on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube with a goal to make the policy’s benefits more engaging and accessible to all. We tailored messaging to eight different frames including water, food and farming, green spaces, transit, and more while infusing humor and entertainment.

What worked

The #WaterIsLife message was one of the top messages across the eight different issue areas with videos from Giiwedin, a water protector from Minnesota, generating deep engagement, storytelling, and positive feedback in the comment section. This was affirming, because we know from our voter polling that 9 out of 10 people agree that access to safe, clean water is a human right. 

Another top video was from Jonathon Stalls who talked about mobility justice and pedestrian dignity and how there’s $1.9 billion for green infrastructure investments to make neighborhoods more walkable. Our takeaway? Partnering with people directly impacted or showing real-world implications gets people more invested in our issues.

@pedestriandignity

🗣️🗣️🗣️ It takes just a couple minutes to click that top 🌳 link & take action. Share this video. #LetsGetLoud to motivate our elected leaders to #GETTHATMONEY for our 🌎 and ALL who 👩🏿‍🦽👩🏽‍🦼🧑🏻‍🦯🚏🚴🏾🛹🚉 #PedestrianDignity #MobilityJustice #UrbanPlanning #ClimateAction #GetLoud

♬ original sound – Pedestrian Dignity

Lessons learned

Let’s Get Loud reached 10+ million people, earning 14+ million video views, 50,000+ website visits, and 348,000+ engagements. The big lesson? Our metrics for success were video completion rates, but we also looked at metrics that spoke to people’s interest and willingness to take the next step by clicking through to our website such as click-through rates for example.

By falling forward, we saw that this was an awareness and education campaign. We experimented asking people to take action with an automated letter tool targeting governors. We originally wanted to provide options to target governors with specific asks on each different issue (eight in total — our first mistake), but having multiple calls to action caused decision fatigue and ended up not being strategic. What did work was when we drove people to a single general letter that earned 70% of signatures showing us that a simple approach would have been more effective.

We also see now that we lacked some key ingredients to drive more actions. We didn’t have a target for folks to rally against and there wasn’t a timely hook. This legislation is also massive, straddling different agencies and elected officials’ oversight, so creating a compelling call to action that was effective and clear was a challenge. It’s also important to have a ladder of engagement when you do get people to take action to cultivate the likelihood for them to help magnify the impact of our efforts. 

Practical tips: Influencer campaign planning

Looking to learn how to work with influencers? We have your back with tips and best practices! 

This could look different depending on what your focus is. For example, if you’re based in the Great Lakes Region, you could partner with a creator to talk about the water crisis in Detroit or how we need to replace lead pipes now in Milwaukee. You could also raise awareness about the dangers of gas terminals and flooding in the Gulf South or how nature-based solutions could help curb dropping groundwater levels and clean and cool the air in California’s Central Valley. 

Here’s a breakdown of the steps when preparing for an influencer campaign. Spoiler: It takes more time than you think to do it right, so plan ahead!

  • Campaign strategy (4 weeks): Think through what target audiences you’re looking to reach, what your call to action is, what’s the messaging, and if you need to develop a landing page. Having a digital plan (will you run paid ads and how, duration of the campaign run for and where will influencers direct people, etc.) for the campaign before reaching out to influencers is also helpful.  
  • Research (2-4 weeks): Factor in plenty of time to do thoughtful research. If you don’t have a tool, you can find creators by scrolling your feed, searching hashtags, checking out other people your creators follow, and Googling. 
  • Outreach (4 weeks): Email is the best way to reach people so you aren’t lost in someone’s DMs. You can often find a website in people’s Linktrees or an email in their bios. Keep in mind you might need to follow up a couple of times. 
  • Contract (2-4 weeks): Once people say yes, you will need to iron out usage rights, deliverables, compensation, and any special considerations.
  • Script and content review (2-4 weeks): Pro tip! Ask influencers to share a draft of their script or concept before they shoot any video to save everyone time. You might catch a tweak that needs to be made for framing or need to fact-check the content.
  • Go live: Once the post goes live, follow up with any additional next steps (like getting a TikTok Spark Ad code to boost the content).

Best practices: How to engage with influencers for good

This work challenges us to be thorough and intentional and to center respect and care in the relationships we build for our movement. Coming into this work with a reciprocal mindset will help you build trust with creators. 

When you’re building your outreach list, pay attention to what topics people like to talk about (and reference that in your email to them!). Do they post social commentary or have any tangential sympathies like public transit or being a parent? Tap into your shared values.

Have a gut check to see if your values are aligned before adding a creator to your wishlist. Like with any partnership, it’s important to dig a little deeper to ensure there are no red flags. Double-check the kind of content they like and comment on as well. A seemingly sustainability-minded mom blogger might reveal anti-science leanings that don’t show up on her channel. While you’re there, notice if their partnerships seem genuine or transactional. 

What kind of engagement does an influencer’s content get? We’ve found that sometimes micro-influencers generate more meaningful engagement than someone with millions of followers because they’re more relatable and likely to also engage with their audiences directly.

Something we’ve heard from influencers is that they are strapped for time and welcome vetted message guidance based on research. We can support them to help frame our issue while also giving plenty of creative freedom! They know how to talk to their audiences best, so showing you have trust in their process can go a long way for the relationship and the content.

Beware of trolls. 👹 Try to think ahead about if you need to resource creators with templated replies. This helps them debunk mis- or disinformation while also deepening conversations for people who want to learn more.

It’s important to honor people’s labor and the effort spent by offering compensation whenever possible. For Let’s Get Loud, we wanted to respect the creators’ role as freelance educators and storytellers, so we set aside a budget for them to produce content. Rates can vary from person to person and you should account for some outliers–– for example, we had someone produce an original rap song with a music video, so her fee was structured differently.

@hilatheearth

Go to 👉🏼 get-loud.org and find out how to get money for your community ! #letsgetloud #GetThatMoney

♬ original sound – Hila the Earth

Influencer outreach templates and resources

Looking for support to get started? Download our Influencer Engagement Guide with a campaign guidance template (including sample message frames), template outreach email, and contract. We also created a template influencer campaign Airtable here that you can duplicate to help with your project management!

If you’re looking to thought partner on an influencer strategy or have questions, reach out to us anytime at [email protected]

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