The Perils of Bad Data: How Inaccurate Data Can Compromise Your Cause’s Reputation

As campaigns and causes fight for voter, constituent and policymaker’s attention, the accuracy of an organization’s data is now more critical than ever. Data integrity affects every aspect of public affairs campaigns, from strategic and informed decision-making and campaign efficiency to constituent activation and advocate recruitment. Causes and campaigns increasingly rely on accurate data about members and constituents mapped to their correct political districts and their respective elected officials. With outdated, inaccurate advocacy data, organizations, brands and causes connect with the wrong audiences, encourage their audiences to connect with incorrect elected officials and end up looking foolish with political powerbrokers. Ultimately the cause is forgotten while their mistake is what leaves a lasting impression.

In addition to negatively impacting reputation, the perils of poor data can range from ineffective communication with stakeholders to misinformed policy advocacy. This not only undermines credibility but also hampers the organization’s ability to make meaningful impact in the public sphere.

Mapping Constituents to the Right Districts Makes all the Difference

Public affairs organizations often maintain databases of members, supporters, and constituents, along with their contact information and other relevant details. They also purchase commercially available voter data to find new supporters and activate new advocates. All this data forms the basis for targeted outreach, advocacy efforts, and civic engagement strategies. However, if this data is inaccurate, outdated, or duplicative, it can result in wasted resources, missed opportunities, and a diminished ability to effectively mobilize support.

Crafting a robust advocacy campaign begins with identifying potential supporters who can contribute their voices, time, and resources to advance a cause and who are constituents of the elected official holders that can hold sway over the issue of concern. Matching comprehensive voter-file data is key to pinpointing voters who are likely to have a significant impact on the campaign’s success.

As an example, a national veterans group is trying to persuade constituents in an Ohio congressional district to have voters contact their Member of Congress urging them to support an upcoming bill on veteran benefits. Ensuring that the veterans group public advocacy arm uses the right voter data to reach likely veterans residing in that Members’ Congressional District rather than young urban professionals who have little interest in veterans’ benefits is critical to their mission and campaign. As you see, a blanket outreach to all adult voters in the 3rd district will have a detrimental impact.

Enhancing the Effectiveness of the Advocacy Campaign

The Congressional Management Foundation our country’s foremost authority on what tactics make a difference in persuading an elected official or their staff to engage with grassroots advocates. With decades of research analyzing legislative staff responses to surveys about what gets them to pay attention most to advocates, a key characteristic is that advocates must be constituents of their boss. This means that any cause that willy-nilly encourages residents of a state to contact a City Council Member or a Member of Congress even though they may live hundreds of miles outside of the officials’ district is wasting the time of the advocate as well as the government staffer. This also makes the staff recognize the unsophisticated tactics being deployed by the cause and it diminishes the brand in the eyes of the staff.

Case in point, Uber recently engaged in constituent advocacy campaign to try and block a new ordinance guaranteeing minimum pay for rideshare drivers in Minneapolis. Unfortunately, the effort to mobilize residents encouraged them to reach out to a suburban city council member versus Minnesota city council members that could affect the vote outcome. The ordinance was ultimately passed by the Minnesota city council, but the suburban legislator publicly expressed their irritation with the campaign. Push notification in their app through the entire region of the Twin Cities – why are you sending us random ppl four hours away.

To overcome this potentially harmful issue, causes must match their lists to political districts twice a year to ensure their advocates are appropriately matched to their respective elected officials. This approach not only enhances the effectiveness of the advocacy campaign but also saves valuable time and resources, ensuring that the activism is directed towards the most impactful targets.

What’s more is that redistricting is not longer on a ten year cycle tied to the decennial Census. Due to partisan power plays at the federal, state, and local levels, redistricting commissions and courts are now adjudicating cases about representation and redrawing lines more frequently. This means that causes must be vigilant about redistricting and the downstream effects it will have on data accuracy and their brand reputation. The key is ensuring that both the correct policymakers are identified, and political district boundaries have been correctly mapped and correlated back to the appropriate constituents.

Developing Smart Identity Resolution Strategies

To mitigate the risks of poor data, organizations involved in public affairs should apply smart identity resolution strategies. This includes implementing robust data collection processes, regularly updating and verifying data sources, and investing in data analytics tools to ensure data accuracy and relevance. Collaborating with reputable data providers and leveraging data validation techniques can also help enhance the reliability of data used for advocacy and engagement purposes.

For example, a local advocacy campaign in San Francisco run by an environmental group can mobilize its base through smart identity resolution strategies which target the right constituents at the right time. Faced with the challenge of building and rallying support for a comprehensive environmental protection bill that would limit contamination of a nearby water source by a manufacturer, the environmental group invests in advanced data analytics tools to clean and verify their database of supporters. By collaborating with reputable data providers and employing rigorous data validation techniques, the group is able to ensure that their outreach efforts are targeted and accurate. This not only maximizes engagement but also strengthens their credibility when presenting data to policymakers and the public.

Ultimately, maintaining data integrity in public affairs is not just a technical concern but a strategic imperative. By ensuring that data is accurate, up-to-date, and actionable, organizations can safeguard their reputation, strengthen their advocacy efforts, and maximize their impact on policy and public discourse and ability to effect change.

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