When planning advocacy communications, the messenger matters as much as the message. As Pennsylvania debated its state budget, we got a real life lesson in this maxim.
The school choice community's misstep in choosing messengers has plunged Pennsylvania into a budget impasse.
You often turn to third-party validators or messengers in advocacy communications to carry your message. You want messengers that connect with your audience or carry credibility. Sometimes you turn to non-traditional messengers or voices whom the audience might not associate with a particular issue. For example, if you’re advocating for an increase in the minimum wage and your target audience is conservative Republicans, you would try to get business groups to weigh in on your behalf. Conversely, it wouldn’t be helpful to this target audience if, say, Bernie Sanders jumped into the conversation and tweeted his support of a minimum-wage bill.
At a time when lobbying was at its most intense, the school-choice movement sent a letter to the Shapiro administration, which was made public It outlined the case for the voucher legislation and encouraged Gov. Shapiro to support the bill and lobby his fellow Democrats.
The organizers behind the effort failed to heed one of the principle rules of advocacy communications: the messenger matters as much as the message. School-choice supporters snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.