25-year political veteran and BCW EVP, Sam Myers, Jr., shares his thoughts on how federal agencies can restore public confidence and develop messaging that resonates with vulnerable and hard-to-reach populations. Sam has built countless coalitions in communities across the U.S. and his work has advanced the ideals of three U.S. presidents, including policies that increased investments in equity, new skills training, job creation and economic growth.
On why a polycultural approach to advocacy is important for this administration now more than ever:
A polycultural approach means going beyond general market, multicultural or cross-cultural planning to consider an audience’s multidimensional and sometimes fluid markers of identity, highly differentiated life experiences, and specific views on racial and societal issues.
Severe ideological tribalism set in across America during the previous administration and it took hold in the tumultuous days and weeks leading up to and after the 2020 election. If the Biden administration wants to break through that and convince the most skeptical Americans that the president’s proposed policy investments will benefit them, those Americans need hear it from within their own communities.
A way to achieve this is to identify local surrogates like Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, farm co-ops, local VFW Action Fund chapters, doctors and pastors that that are already part of community fabric. Engage them and explain why and how policies will lift up their families, friends and neighbors. Then have these individuals tell that story through local channels like newspapers, radio and TV, and online newsletters that communities often trust more than mainstream media. In effect, this is a polycultural public affairs approach, overlayed with grassroots advocacy campaigns and local contextualization.
On a policy area that can benefit from grassroots advocacy:
Veterans Affairs. Once active military leave their force branch, veterans become part of a healthcare system that has incredible intention and passion to give them the care they deserve, but that’s vastly underfunded.
The Biden Administration is proposing investing $18 billion in the VA system to ensure world class, state- of- the-art care for veterans. The administration should leverage that and activate veteran communities as powerful third-party advocates in the backyards of any member of Congress opposed to those investments.
On how government communicators ensure their messages resonate with harder-to-reach populations:
‘Hard-to-reach’ is such a multifaceted concept. Key audiences can be hard to reach because they don't have access to high-speed internet, they live in remote locations, they only trust people within their own community – or all of the above.
When BCW recently partnered with the U.S. Census Bureau, we used local channels to get the attention of hard-to-reach Americans. Note the word ‘channels’ and not just ‘local media’ – I mean online newspapers, community newsletters, local leaders who used cold call chains for churches, etc. Our approach brought a level of credibility that just can’t be gained from traditional mass media. And it spread the word far and wide.
On how government communicators can scale a grassroots approach, reaching hard-to-reach populations on a tight budget:
Government communicators don’t need to reach every single community across the entire country to be successful. Of course, they need to invest budgets and the power behind their individual agency’s legacy brands. But they can focus on inserting themselves more fully and authentically into a series of targeted communities and make a real impact there. Start by making solutions very real for these hard-to-reach populations, and then use those examples to spread the word on a broader level.
To learn more about BCW’s Grassroots capabilities, go here.
Sam is President of Direct Impact, the nation’s leading grassroots public affairs agency, and is EVP, Growth and Marketing, for BCW Washington.