What is your stance on smoking in cars? Wearing fur? Censorship in different countries? Low funding for domestic abuse shelters?
You have seen ad campaigns for all the aforementioned. Some are poignant and struck a nerve, others shocking you with harsh facts or maybe even some humorous ones that got you thinking. Building an advocacy campaign that works is a long and arduous task. Advocacy has been defined as a planned, deliberate, sustained effort to raise awareness of an issue or issues; it is an ongoing process where support and understanding are built incrementally in order to change attitudes, policies or practices.
You must first analyze the situation and then define your campaign goals. Advocacy campaigns require a clear mission and purpose.
Harnessing the power of the idea, a campaign needs to be easily identifiable and highly visible. While much of the activity will happen at the local level, there needs to also be a strong presence at regional or national level.
- Identify potential target audiences
- Focus on key audiences
- Reach those audiences
Sometimes the easy part of advocacy campaigns is finding people who are passionate about your cause. Where many campaigns stumble is when you start to translate passion into action, and then action into a movement. Talk is easy, sustainable action requires planning, dedication, and discipline.
To build a successful advocacy movement, grassroots-minded organizations should focus on these key steps:
Create the strategy. Bridging the gap between goals and actions is where your strategy comes into play. Your strategy will determine which campaign tactics will be most effective. There is no single advocacy campaign template you can use for your strategy. Instead, develop a small team who can collaborate openly to develop a dynamic and diverse strategy.
Clearly, communicate. Your message needs to be simple and clear to the right audience. It also needs to reach them where they are. Your strategy should take into account who you are trying to reach, what message is important to them, and how they are most likely to receive that message. From print to blogs, the message and call to action for your audience must be relevant to them.
Use new media. New media isn't new anymore, and the fact remains that, no matter how someone hears about your message, if they have access to the internet they will go online to learn more. If you are not using new media, you are losing both credibility and the ability to expand your audience.
Get fundraising. No matter how big a volunteer force, or how much passion and energy you have, successful advocacy still requires cash. Money for resources like advertising, advocacy tools, tables at events, feeding volunteers, etc., should all be laid out in your strategic plan so that you know how much you will need to fundraise.
Building coalitions and stronger relationships are also recommended. Advocacy is all about banding together with like-minded people for a single purpose or cause. The same collaboration can, and should, happen between organizations. Organizations who learn to work together can bring about the policy changes that would have otherwise been impossible to impact separately and alone.
Having a community makes things easier. This is where you start to execute on your strategy. Whether it is through formal events, directly on social media, or through door-to-door knocking, how you organize should be focused on both how to motivate them individually and as a group.
Engage policymakers, this where you will start to see results. Elected officials rely on the information from their constituents to make the right decisions and membership organizations can compile that information to educate them. Organizations who educate and engage policymakers on the views of the voter around specific issues will be seen as a credible and useful source of information.
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