Planning is important. It helps you avoid a family like the Gallaghers from Shameless. It also help you to develop effective campaigns. I sometimes say to myself that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. And then I realise I sound like a zany motivational speaker and shut myself up.
Anyway, as a campaigns officer, its my job to plan and roll out campaigns. So what kind of things do I need to think about when planning a campaign? I feel another top five list coming up…
If the campaign is successful, what will it have achieved? It seems like an obvious question but I’ve come across campaigns where the answer to this question is unclear or fuzzy. Having a very clear sense of what you want to achieve at the very outset is, I think, really important.
Who has the power to give you what you want. Or to help you get it? I find it helpful to think of power as being like a series of concentric circles. At the outside, you might have members of the public. And then with circles going further in, you might have the media, think tanks, civil servants, Government Ministers, people with the ear of the Prime Minister and then finally the big man himself at the very centre. Its hard to target the very centre – so you have to think about how the targets in the circles outside can help you get closer to the centre. I think a good campaign should try to target and influence as wide a group of targets as possible.
Is it clear what you want? Is it simple, easy and straightforward message? Or is it complex, heavy on jargon and full of caveats? I strongly believe that the simpler a campaign message, the easier it to ‘sell it’ and be understood by the wider public and decision-makers.
Timing really is everything. Sometimes this can be about assessing the political ‘mood’ and whether your message is something that people are going to be interested in. Sometimes its about spotting opportunities, like a Government inquiry or consultation into something that you can build on and respond to. To give an example, Amnesty International are currently campaigning on human rights in China, reasoning that the Beijing Olympics this summer mean that the world’s attention is going to be placed on China – and that the Chinese government may be more likely to take action, if only to avoid any bad news stories.
What are you going to do to get your campaign noticed and get people listening? This is an issue I was musing on when I wrote my earlier blog on Greenpeace. Greenpeace’s tactics often involve very loud and visible protests – such as climbing up Big Ben. There’s no denying this gets people’s attention (though there’s a debate to be had about whether this undermined their campaign – do people remember what they were actually protesting about?). Other tactics might involve face to face meetings with civil servants, trying to generate media stories, or trying to get your members to write to their MP about a really important issue. Greenpeace themselves talk about how they do a lot of private lobbying. I reckon a good campaign should flexibly deploy a range of tactics to maximise the chances of it getting noticed.
All of this is, of course, a horrible over-simplification and I’ve barely talked about why it’s so important to get members involved. But I hope its interesting/useful.
Of course, this all means that I now have to set out some of the planning behind the campaigns that I’m currently working on. I’ll be inviting feedback, comments, devastating critiques, etc. on this very blog very soon!
PS On the subject of tactics, check out a recent article in the Guardian on how to campaign without straying onto the wrong side of the law! Again, I should stress I have no plans to do anything that might involve getting arrested… Ahem.