INTERNET: Basics of Internet Adocacy

The Internet is a powerful tool for advocacy. An e-mail alert to a list of a few hundred organizers, if it’s passed on, can go around the world and reach thousands, or even millions, of people in a matter of hours. A web site can post information, an alert, or a petition that’s viewed or signed by, again, thousands, or even millions of people from all over the world. The Internet has no time or distance constraints, compared to other means of communication, it can cost very little to use, it’s enormous (it’s estimated that there are now over a billion web sites), and in the 21st century, it reaches far into the corners of the globe.

There’s a difference, however, between simply using the Internet and using it effectively. To do the latter, you have to understand the medium and your own needs, and decide exactly how the two best fit together. You also have to consider the effect of your electronic messages and packaging on those who’ll be receiving them, and adjust accordingly.

Some basic guidelines to keep in mind:

• Keep it simple. For both web sites and e-mail, avoid the bells and whistles, so they’re quick and easy to download.

• Don’t overuse e-mail.

• Make requested action as easy as possible.

• Be absolutely clear about what needs to be done by when. (And keep it simple.)

• Collect e-mail addresses at every opportunity.

• Publicize your web site wherever and whenever you can.

• Pay attention to language.

• Be culturally sensitive.

A more specific guide to e-activism includes:

• Decide what you want to use electronic advocacy for.

• Consider your audience.

• Consider your resources.

• Assemble an e-mail list.

• Learn how to prepare an e-mail action alert.

• Work with the media electronically.

• Understand about learning and building a web site.

• Integrate e-mail and web tools.

• Make your newsletter electronic.

• Publicize your URL and necessary e-mail addresses.

• Think about security of your website.

The Internet represents a significant change in the potential for successful advocacy, and can make your own advocacy both easier and more effective.

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