INTERNET: How Do You Use Electronic Advocacy?

Keep it simple. Don’t use many graphics, video, Java or Flash programming (animation and moving images) – try to make it as quick and easy to download your messages as possible. Make sure that your format won’t defeat anyone, even if his computer is years old, or s/he has a slow modem connection. Note that emails programs such as YAHOO often add complex graphics to the emails you send.

Don’t overuse e-mail. If you send out too much information, or send a panic alert every time you get another piece of news, your e-mail will start to look like spam (electronic junk mail), and people will ignore it, or worse. Your alerts should be real alerts, and used only when it’s actually necessary. If you want to keep people up to date, do it at a reasonable rate – perhaps once or twice a month, unless the situation really is constantly changing in significant ways. One way to make sure you’re not offending anyone is to ask those on your list whether they are willing to receive updates, or whether they’d prefer just to see alerts and other first-priority communication. Then you can divide the list accordingly.

If you’re requesting action, make it as clear and easy as possible. People should be able, for instance, to sign onto a web site-based petition by just typing their names and clicking once. If you’re urging a specific action, include a how-to or a sample – letter, phone or e-mail script, step-by-step instructions, hyperlink, etc. – for whatever it is you’re asking recipients to do. If you’re asking people to pass on a message or petition, package it so they can send it easily (ideally with a single mouse-click), and include detailed instructions about how to create and send to a list.

Be specific and absolutely clear about what you’re asking for and when it needs to be done. Include step-by-step instructions, time limits, report-back addresses, and whatever else anyone could possibly need to know in order to complete the task properly. Assume no one knows anything to begin with. People are far more likely to act on your request if they feel secure that they know exactly what to do.

Collect e-mail addresses at every opportunity. Use every opportunity to build your database of contacts.

If you have a web site, publicize it in every way possible. Put your web address on your stationery, in every communication, in your e-mail signature, in anything that goes to the media, etc. Mention it (and post it where it can be seen) at meetings and public events. Put it on your organization’s business cards, on fliers and brochures, even on notices you post on bulletin boards and telephone poles. Your web site will do you no good if no one visits it, and they can’t get there without the address. If you don’t have your site, publicize HIC’s ( to ensure others can access housing issues.

Watch your language. Be simple and straightforward: avoid jargon and academic or obscure words and phrases. If you’re trying to reach a diverse (and international) population, translate your messages into as many languages as necessary.

Be culturally sensitive. Be aware of what might be offensive, not only to people of different races and ethnicities, but of different religions or backgrounds. Avoid profanity and references to God or religion that might be taken amiss. Consider the views and sensibilities of people from different societies, religions, and regions of the country or the world.

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