Successful #NASPadvocates Twitter Campaign at the 2016 GW/NASP Public Policy Institute

By: Christina Koch, Mamager of Professional Relations, NASP

naspadvocatesFrom July 18-22, 97 school psychologists, teachers, school administrators, graduate students, and others interested in advocacy and education policy came to Washington, DC to participate in the 2016 GW/NASP Public Policy Institute (PPI)- making it one of our most successful PPI's to date!

In addition to the wonderful public policy and topic-specific expertise provided by national speakers, PPI is designed to be an intensive training in advocacy. In preparation for our participants to arrive at PPI this year ready to learn, share, and grow their advocacy skills we rolled out a new hashtag, #NASPadvocates. We decided to focus our social media efforts on Twitter this PPI, as almost all members of Congress use Twitter! More than three quarters of legislative staff agree that social media enables senators and representatives to have more meaningful interactions with constituents. Further, nearly 70% agree that social media has made them more accountable to constituents. We wanted participants to not only use Twitter to post photos and stories of their time at PPI, but to actively engage their legislators about issues and solutions surrounding this year's Capitol Hill talking points, as well as join larger virtual conversations related to the topics being discussed at PPI.

We provided participants with information on how to find their elected officials' twitter handles, sample tweets, twitter handles of PPI speakers and organizations represented, topic-specific hashtags, and a #NASPadvocates graphic to share. This had tremendous payoff as there were 570 tweets during the course of PPI using the #NASPadvocates hashtag from 80 contributors reaching 562,620 individuals! This is a great example of how when it comes to advocating for children's mental health services in schools and the profession of school psychology- our voices are truly stronger together.

You may be asking yourself, "I wasn't at PPI, do I still need to advocate? It seems like a lot of the work was done at PPI." Well, the answer is yes. Even though PPI is over, our advocacy work is never done. There are 535 members of congress and 25,000 NASP members. The number of participants at this year's PPI represents about 0.4% of NASP's membership. Even if 10% of NASP members regularly advocated, that would only equal an average of 5 contacts per member of Congress. Why should a Congressman care about our issues if only 5 of us knock on his or her door?

If advocating is new for you or if advocating on social media is a little intimidating, NASP has resources to help. Check out the "Advocacy Tools & Resources" section of the NASP website as well as the "Advocacy Social Media Guide" to get started. To be successful when advocating you want to develop your professional relationships by having meaningful,  regular, and organic shared experiences. Social media is a great tool to help facilitate that. Professional associations and coalitions, as well as grassroots groups and membership organizations usually have strong voices on Twitter. Interacting and engaging with them on Twitter can help foster relationships. Additionally, we encouraged participants to use Twitter to thank their elected officials for meeting with them during Capitol Hill Day. Often times Congressmen actually respond and it's extremely beneficial to keep up a relationship with them if you have previously met in person, in case they ever need guidance from a school psychologist, or there is a new bill you want them to take action on! Remember, excellent advocates are: great at communicating, committed to take action, are responsible with good follow-through, and are able to represent their profession or issue with good perspective.

Although PPI is over, the #NASPadvocates hashtag is still live and flourishing with individuals sharing related articles, advocacy action items, and information about upcoming events. We encourage you to use it when advocating for children and school psychology on Twitter. Be sure to remember, when you want to capture an audience on Twitter your must consider why the information matters to them. It's beneficial to outline a problem statement, a potential action or solution, and/or benefits. Keep your message concise and purposeful for best results!

We hope to see you at the 2017 GW/ NASP Public Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., but until then we hope to see you online! Good luck with your advocacy efforts, and to view more about this year's PPI check out The Final Review of the 2016 PPI.