How to build a successful campaign

Campaigns can vary in length – some may last a few weeks and others may last years. It is helpful to follow some basic planning rules when creating any campaign.

1. Set aim/objective – SMART
2. Resources
3. Target audience
4. Partners/opponents
5. Evidence
6. Methods
7. Timing
8. Evaluation

Setting an campaign aim

Think about what it is you want to change and how things may look once you have changed them. Think about what you would like to achieve and write that down – the overall campaign goal may be difficult to achieve and a long term goal in your overall plan. To maintain momentum, it is a good idea to think of realistic milestones that will indicate progress. Also, having a clear aim to refer back to can be useful to keep the campaign focus and ensure that everyone involved is on board with what you have decided.

Can you provide a solution to the problem? Think about the problem/issue you are campaigning about and provide alternatives and options for consideration if possible. For example, if a local community centre is to be closed then a group may campaign for improved services at another centre/library/village hall.

Following SMART is a good rule of thumb – is your campaign aim:

  • Specific – Ensure sure your aim is clear
  • Measurable – Ensure your aim can be measured in terms of success
  • Achievable – Ensure your aim is possible!
  • Realistic – Ensure your aim is realistic in terms of time, knowledge, resources, evidence
  • Time-bound – Ensure you have a clear idea of time for completing your aim
  • Resources – Consider what resources you have to help with your campaign, such as people, budget, technology and organisations that may be willing to assist.

Target audience

Target audiences can be broken down into two sections – the ’decision makers’ and the ‘influencers’. The ‘decision makers’ will be the people that have the power to make the decision(s) regarding your campaign, for example the local council or the board of a private company.

The ‘influencers’ will usually be the public – they have the power to influence the people who make the decisions and may be engaged through some of your campaign methods.

‘Influencers’ can also be people in a position of power, so your local Councillor may influence a council committee on your behalf.

Partners/opponents

Consideration can be given to those who could work with you to achieve your campaign aim (allies), those who could support you (supporters) and those who may oppose your campaign aim (opponents). For example if running a campaign on improving bus timetables then allies may be passenger forums, supporters may be the public/passengers and opponents may be the bus company itself.

Evidence

Having a good evidence base will make your campaign stronger. Types of evidence include statistics, personal stories, current research, financial information and professional opinions/testimony.

Statistics – seek out statistics that support your case, such as number of people affected by a reduced bus service or bank closure. If statistics don’t exist already you could carry out your own survey, either face to face or using a free online service such as Survey Monkey.

Personal stories are a very powerful way to evidence your campaign – this could be a written or filmed account of how someone is affected by the issue you are campaigning against/for.

Current research (or research from similar campaigns in other areas) can provide sound evidence and support your cause.

Testimony from professionals can strengthen your campaign, for example an environmental professional may lend their view on foresting operations or the impact of windfarms on wildlife.

Consider who you are presenting the evidence to and tailor it accordingly. You may want to summarise points but provide a full report/statement as a reference.

Keep a record of what you have sent and when you sent it – always allow time for a response in your campaign timing.

From your evidence you can develop your three or four key messages. For example, if you are campaigning to keep a local primary school open you may state ’If the school were to close then 25 children would have to travel xx hours a day’ as one of your key messages.

Methods

Campaign methods are a big subject and another article has been devoted entirely to ‘Campaign Methods’ for this reason click here.

Timing

Timing is important as it is easier to campaign for change before a decision has been finalised. Consider your campaign aim and if any decisions or activities are scheduled for a specific time and work your campaign plan around them – for example if your area has been overlooked in the planned rollout of improved digital/broadband connection then are there meetings or public consultations/announcements that you can schedule activity around?

Consider the time of year – the height of summer and Christmas can be a challenging time to campaign (depending on the nature of your campaign).

Evaluation

It is always helpful to evaluate your campaign – what went well? Who was involved? What could have been done better? Did you keep to any targets you set?

Taking the time to consider the above points when building a campaign can help create a well thought out and effective campaign.

Fiona Thompson

Fiona Thompson

Fiona joined the Scottish Rural Action team in February 2017. Fiona has been working in the field of community development for over ten years; with particular focus on adult learning, mental health campaigning and service delivery across Scotland but with particular focus on the Highlands and Islands. Fiona is a resident of Lochaber and has a keen interest in hill running and open water swimming when time allows a break from two small children.

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