Advocacy Gets Creative

ICBA is taking an innovative approach to its campaign messaging, whether in print or on social media

By Mary J. Yerkes

ICBA has always made advocacy a priority, harnessing grassroots engagement to work toward positive public policy outcomes. Now, in its efforts to deepen engagement with community banks, the association is developing new creative campaigns and outreach tactics.

The ICBA advocacy efforts are building off past proven methods to include more creative communications, infographics and visual storytelling, relying heavily on social media to get the message out.

“With the proliferation of groups that are active in public policy, it’s important that we stand out,” says Joshua Habursky, ICBA director
of advocacy.

Take ICBA’s recent Merchant Mark-Up campaign, which asked community banks to call members of Congress to urge them to repeal the debit-interchange-fee price controls mandated by the Durbin Amendment. Working with a retailing theme, the campaign featured a receipt that listed specific problems with the amendment. The direct mailing piece was an ICBA-led initiative that went out just before a vote on the Financial CHOICE Act, a bill containing numerous regulatory relief provisions for community banks. The initiative was a creative approach that complemented many other efforts of the ICBA and the Electronic Payments Coalitions (EPC).

ICBA is the only community bank representative on the coalition. The bill, which included Durbin repeal, passed committee, which was a major victory over retailers.

Habursky is quick to point out that creativity alone can’t account for positive outcomes like this. Synergies with ICBA’s marketing and communications team and high-level support across the organization are also crucial to any successful grassroots campaign.

And successful they are. Recent conversion, open and action rates are significantly above industry standards, and community banker involvement and enthusiasm is at a high point.

Social media is another important component of ICBA’s advocacy strategy. “A few years ago, social media was an option,” Habursky says. “Now it is a necessity.” He says ICBA integrates all of its action alerts and campaigns with Facebook and Twitter.

Be heard!

To join ICBA’s advocacy efforts and learn more about current issues before legislators and regulators, visit

Community bankers aren’t the only audience on social media. “Nearly every U.S. senator and congressional delegate participates in social,” says Aaron Stetter, executive vice president, policy and political operations, and congressional relations for the ICBA. “It’s important for us to use it wisely, making sure we’re not just adding to the noise.”

ICBA’s recent Halloween-themed campaign is one example of how ICBA is leveraging social media. The communication featured Halloween images and a “trick or treat”—a positive fact about community banks and a playful poke at their opponents. These messages were posted on Twitter each day leading up to Halloween, and then all the posts were compiled and published on the day itself.

One trick read, “Community banks lend $2.7 trillion to consumers, small businesses, and the agricultural community but are suffering from excessive regulation.” The treat read, “Congress should take up and pass ICBA Plan for Prosperity-inspired items to allow community banks to do what they do best … Serve their communities.”

Habursky notes that ICBA hopes to explore many new advocacy communications methods in 2017, such as Facebook Live and LinkedIn, in coordination with the marketing and communication team.

Deep impact—ICBA campaigns took the form of trick-or-treat and a receipt

Another goal he has for the new year is to encourage community bankers to call or meet with congressional representatives. Webinars and easy-to-digest training will give community bankers the tools they need to succeed.

Of course, community bankers will always be ICBA’s greatest assets. “We view a community banker not just as a grassroots soldier but as a grass-tops leader,” Stetter adds. “Both are instrumental to the success of an advocacy campaign.”

Habursky adds, “Yes, we are upgrading a lot of our technology, tools, and style of communication and advocacy, but the focal point will always be community bankers and their stories. We need to draw upon community bankers to recruit their peers to become active champions of ICBA advocacy.

Mary J. Yerkes is a financial writer in Washington, D.C.