Getting the ‘target’ and ‘ask’ right in your action is fundamentally important if you want to have a successful campaign, so here are some thoughts about what should go into a ‘good’ action.
It’s not often that cry out in frustration at a campaign action but I did this week when a colleague forwarded me this action from Stop the Traffik, a campaign which aims to bring an end to human trafficking worldwide.
Now I’ve tried to avoid highlight ‘bad’ campaigning on this blog, preferring to celebrate the creativity and ingenuity that’s been demonstrated by many campaigns, but I wanted to mention this one as an example of ‘not so good’ practice.
Why? Because I’m saddened that a campaign with such a great aim hasn’t done its homework to identify the most effective things to be asking an MP to do and had instead come up with a ‘shopping list’ that I fear will mean most will choose to ignore the action.
I’m not suggesting that every action that it written from now on needs to be the length of an essay. Indeed many of the actions that organisations like Avaaz and ONE ask me to support are often little more than a sentence or two long, but that’s in part because the web or email copy that accompanies it sets out a clear rationale for why I should be supporting the action and are supported by evidence of extensive policy expertise.
Now I know that many campaigns are run by a small staff teams who are juggling multiple priorities (and I’ve made suggestions before about how that shouldn’t hold you back and that lots of campaigners would love to help out) but getting the target and ask right in your action is fundamentally important if you want to have a successful campaign.
For me a good action should have the following components.
1 – Be specific – To a named individual not an ambiguous group like ‘world leaders’ or similar, this post from futuremediachange.com explains why its a bad idea. It needs to be targeted to the person who can make the change that you want to see happen. Sometimes this will be the Prime Minister or President but often it won’t be.. Indeed I’d argue that when campaigns make more use of different or unexpected target it has the potential to wield more influence than when it focuses on a ‘usual suspect’.
2 – Be achievable – Now by this I’m not saying that we should compromise our asks to make the politically palatable, if you want to ‘stop climate change’ or ‘put an end to world poverty’ continue to include that it your action.
But do ask what’s the one or two things that you want your target to do that will lead to the bigger goal. What’s the step or steps that they can take to achiever your ask? The challenge for the writer of the action is to help the person taking the action understand how achieving the immediate ‘ask’ will make the big goal move a step closer.
3 – Be informed – Linked to the above. Spend some time thinking about routes to influence on your target, who are the people that they really listen to and at the end of it don’t be afraid to change the person you’re focusing your action towards. Equally find out what your target can actually do and if you’ve got a menu of options then choose the one that your intelligence tells you will be most effective at this moment.
4 – Be measurable – How are you going to be able to know if you’ve achieved what you’re asking your target to do. Good asks should have something in them that can be measured to show if it’s been successful. It could be doing something by a date, or increasing support by a certain %, or including certain language in a piece of legislation. Include that and the report back to that took action when you’re successful.
At the end, I find that it’s help to ask, does my action pass the ‘Elevator Test’. It’s a simple rule taken from the world of marketing. Imagine that the person you’re targeting walks into a lift with you. Suddenly you find yourself with 15 seconds to make your ‘pitch’. Are you able to explain what you want them to do succinctly enough that when they walk out they’re able to turn to their advisor or aide and instruct them to do it.
What tips do you have to ensure effective actions?
NB – If you’re reading this from Stop the Traffik, please consider this constructive criticism, and get in touch as I’d be very happy to have a chat about how you could sharpen your asks.