Reflections from campaigning in Brussels

Last week I spent a fantastic three days with campaigners from across Europe in Brussels calling on the MEPs and representatives of Member States to help to unearth the truth. We were calling on them to pass legislation that would require all oil, gas and mining companies registered in Europe to be open about the payments they pay for access to these valuable resources to governments.

The group outside the Danish Embassy to the EU
It was the culmination of months of campaigning across Europe and we had a hugely productive time together, meeting with dozens of MEPs, handing over 10,000 actions to representatives of the Danish Government who currently hold the Presidency of the EU and holding a well-attended briefing in the Parliament.
I came back with lots of great memories and some reflections on campaigning towards the Brussels based institutions;
1 – Time – I was struck how much time many of the MEPs gave to the campaigners they were being lobbied by. Meetings of up to an hour happened on a number of occasions and it struck me that the pace of the debate is perhaps slower and more deliberative, coupled with the fact that MEPs are perhaps not as bombarded casework requests that they have time to invest into the issues that they’re interested in, which is predominately shown through their involvement in the different committees and groups.
I also got the impressions that although the political groupings were important they were far less controlling than in the Westminster system where the ‘whip’ is used to ensure MPs vote the right way and as such a space for discussion and agreements amongst those MEPs with similar political views as opposed to rigid voting blocs.
2 – Complexity – The European institutions are very confusing and eyes will often quickly glaze over when you start to explain the difference between the Council of Ministers and the Commission, but its worth investing the time in understanding how they’re meant to work and also the dynamics of how they actually work. I found reading this guide from BOND hugely useful. There are a huge number of opportunities for campaigners to utilise to push their issues.
3 – Importance – In the UK perhaps we’re guilty of disregard MEPs as having limited influence in comparison to MPs but the reality is that they have a significant amount of influence on certain issues. For example, if our campaigning is successful the legislation that we’re asking for will be implemented in all member states, achieving the same using a country by country would take much longer. On issues where the European Union has exclusive or shared competency we shouldn’t overlook the importance of engaging with Europe.
4- Absence – Many of the MEPs that we meet with remarked how much they valued hearing the views of civil society on this issue we were campaigning on as they’d already been lobbied by business groups. I heard one estimate that Brussels is home to 15,000 – 30,000 lobbyists, most of whom are employed by corporate interests, and that clearly presents a challenge for civil society which is likely to be unable to match that level of personal resource!
However, I didn’t get the sense that most MEPs have come under similar campaigning influence to their counterparts based in national capitals, as I walked around I saw lots of posters publishing the European Citizens Initiative (see my post on it here), which I sense is one way that the Commission hopes to engage citizen and civil society, but I also wonder if as organisation we need to be doing more. Perhaps it’s also time to create a pan-European equivalent of 38 Degrees focusing on activities in Brussels?
5 – Being European – Our campaigning was successful because we were able to build a partnership with colleagues from across Europe at the outset of our campaign, it meant that our supporters were lobbying in Brussels alongside campaigners from Portugal, Germany, France and the Netherlands, plus we were able to handover campaign actions from 22 member states. As UK campaigners I think we need to be doing more to help create these partnerships where they don’t exist.
6 – Using constituents to drive attendance. We were involved in hosting a very successful briefing event in the Parliament on Wednesday, with one civil society representative saying that the 15+ MEPs in attendance was unusual. I think this happened in part by asking our supporters to message their MEPs and invite them to come along to the meeting. It’s a tactic that I’ve seen used before in the UK and one that worked well in Brussels as well.
Have you been involved in campaigning in Brussels? If so, what insight would you share? If you haven’t, what are the barriers that stop you? 

Reflections on my Daily Mail diet

Regular readers of this blog will know that over the last week I’ve been on a Daily Mail diet.
After realising that I’m living in a bit of ‘media bubble’ getting my news and opinion from very different places from most of my supporters, I’ve been focusing on getting my news from the one most read newspapers amongst the supporters of my organisation. I wrote more about why I thought this was important to do.
So for the last week I’ve been buying the Daily Mail alongside my regular paper of choice (The Guardian) and in the process trying to better understand how the paper approaches issues and stories, and think how I might be able to get my campaigning into the Daily Mail, and in front of thousands of my organisations supporters who read it every day.
1 – Daily Mail readers need to be treated with respect – The response of others to my diet has almost been as interesting as reading the paper itself. A number of people have in effect said ‘why are you bothering with the Daily Mail readers they’re never going to be convinced‘ and while most of the editorial positions that the Daily Mail take aren’t the same as mine with 4 million daily readers its lots of people to write off as being closed to my campaign message. We need to respect those who read the paper even if we reject the papers views.
2 – It’s all about people – Most of the main stories this week have focused have had a strong focus on the individuals at the heart of them. Most of the stories go into considerable depth, so any organisation that’s looking to get it issues in the Daily Mail will need to ensure it’s got some really strong and compelling case studies to go alongside any campaign recommendations.
3 – The Mail loves polls, surveys and putting money back in the pocket of its readers – Alongside the focus on people, I was struck at how many stories were based on the results of polls, surveys and research that had some strong and compelling empirical evidence behind it. A large number of the stories cite academic research as the basis for their stories, so perhaps this presents an opportunity for campaigners to ensure their research has compelling and accessible headline numbers to accompany it.
4 – The consumer is always right – Interesting the one campaigning organisation that seems to get regular mentions is Which?, the consumer charity, perhaps it’s because it’s able to speak to the Mail’s concern about getting good value for its readers. I was struck by how few other campaigning organisations got mentioned during the week.
5 – It’s got lots of pages dedicated to comment – This surprised me but the average weekly edition seems to have around 8 pages dedicated to coverage. You get a number of pages of columnists and editorial pieces, along with a number of commentary pieces by the papers staff. That’s lots of writers looking for stories to write about what’s happening, and I’m sure presents an opportunity for campaigns.
6 – I need to do this more often – This whole exercise of thinking about where I get my media from has been really interesting and challenging. I’ve come away convinced that I need to step outside my media bubble more often.
As a colleague pointed out to me this week, the algorithms being Google, Facebook and Twitter are all designed to expose me to more people who think share similar views/contacts/opinions to me, so I need to become more active at stepping outside the bubble (this book looks interesting on this topic).  It’s a challenge I’d encourage other campaigning colleagues to take up.

Five for Friday….KONY 2012 Special

The Kony 2012 phenomenon is still going (and growing), it’s the officially the most viral video ever.
So this weeks ‘Five for Friday’ is dedicated to some great articles reflecting on KONY 2012 that you should be reading.
1. SocialFlow have done some brilliant work looking at how online networks helped to share the campaign and then the impact of tweeting by ‘culturemakers’, while Forbes looks at who’s watching the film. Answer – they’re 13 – 17 year old females watching it on their mobile phone.
2. Jason Mogus asks Why your non-profit won’t make a KONY 2012. It’s a very perceptive look at many of the blockages that more traditional NGOs would face if they wanted to repeat the success of KONY.
3. This is a brilliant deconstruction of why the film is so successful using lessons from persuasive techniques used by marketeers.
4. Both Weldon Kennedy and Daniel Solomon look at why the messaging and narrative of the film are so compelling. Lots of really useful lessons here for all communicators. The Mobilisation Lab also asks why the campaign hooks viewers in.
5. Ross Bailey shares his reflections and reminds us that Invisible Children didn’t get here overnight.

Why has Kony 2012 been so successful?

The Kony 2012 campaign is everywhere….if you haven’t heard about it you soon will!
Since releasing their latest campaign film just days ago it’s had millions of views (the statistics on the Vimeo dashboard show the way that views of the film have grown and grown since its release on Monday), been trending worldwide all day on Twitter and was filling up my Facebook wall last night, although many of these are comments which are rightly questioning the approach of the organisation and the campaign.
In short, the campaign is about introducing the ‘world worst war criminal’ the leader of the Lord Resistance Army Joseph Kony, and calling for the US to provide troops to help arrest him in Uganda and bring him to trial at the International Criminal Court.
Both the message and organisation are proving controversial, as a development advocate I agree with many of the concerns about the approach the campaign has taken, not least as this blog describes it that ‘they take up rhetorical space that could be used to develop more intelligent advocacy’ that will lead to long-term peace in Northern Uganda and the portrayal of the solution as being delivered by an outsider alone.
But regardless, as a campaigner I also have to admire the effectiveness with which they’ve got out the message out in such a short period of time, and reflect on how I might be able to use similar approach to get what I hope to be more intelligent advocacy solutions. Here are my thoughts on why I think they’ve done so well.
1. Built and nurtured a community – I’ve not really been aware of the work of Invisible Children until today, but it seems that over the last few years they’ve been slowly building a huge online community on Facebook, with a million+ people ‘liking’ the campaign over the years as the result of showing previous films on campuses across the US, presumably much of the traction that the campaign has got is because many of these supporters have been sharing it. Cheap but effective mobilisation in action.
2. Demand the engagement of the viewer – There is a line at the very start of the film that says ‘the next 27 minutes are an experiment, but in order for it to work you have to pay attention’. At 29 minutes the film is very long and you’d expect to get board quickly, but the presentation is very engaging, well produced, fast-moving and doesn’t feel like it’s dragging at. It’s got many (all) of the elements of what a good campaign film should include, a story, a call to action and it’s emotive.
3. Communicated its theory of change clearly – It’s evident how the campaign thinks that change is going to come about and this is explained to the viewer. For them its all about demonstrating public support for action to a small group of political leaders, which interestingly doesn’t include President Obama. You may or may not agree with this approach but it’s simple and clearly communicated throughout the film.
I like the idea of influencing 20 ‘culturemakers’ who they identify as being able to spread awareness of the issues. I’ve not really seen this done in such a systematic way before, and it’ll be interesting to see how these ‘culturemakers’ will respond to the call in the coming days, presumably some of them have already indicated their support for the campaign.
4. Made it clear what they need you to do – The call to action at the end of the film is to do more than send a message to the selected targets, but it’s also an invitation be involved in making Kony known. The campaign is building on the knowledge that it’s an election year in the US and focusing on a night of action in April where supporters. It’s a bigger and bolder action, asking you to buy a kit full of posters and resource and make Kony know. It’s also again shows the high value that the campaign on individuals as multipliers of the message.
5. Put creativity and social action at the heart of the organisation – It’s interesting that the organisation isn’t one that was started by humanitarian professionals, but instead by filmmakers who were moved to respond on their first trip to Uganda back in 2003. They describe their mission as ‘using film, creativity and social action to end the use of child soldiers in Joseph Kony’s rebel war and restore LRA-affected communities in Central Africa to peace and prosperity’. You can see this approach is evident throughout the film, and it’s different to what you might expect from a more traditional NGO.
Thoughts? Comments? What have you learn’t from the success of the Kony 2012 campaign?

What did we really learn from Make Poverty History?

The Sheila McKechnie Foundation is running it’s annual People Power Conference tomorrow. It looks like a fascinating line up of speakers. Sadly I can’t make it in person although I’ll be doing my best to follow via twitter.
One of the sessions that stands out to me is the panel debate on ‘The Legacy of Make Poverty History‘, it was one of the first campaigns that I worked on professionally, so I’m interested in what the panel have to say about how we can still learn from the campaign.
The Foundation have managed to organise an impressive line-up of speakers who were involved in the original campaign, including;

If I was able to attend here at the questions I’d be asking;
1. If we’d had the research and thinking done by the Common Cause team around the role of frames and values in campaigning available to use back in 2004 what might we have done differently?
2. Have we done enough to capture the learning from the campaign and share it with others across civil society? To my knowledge there has only been one significant academic study of the campaign by Nick Sireau. Do we need to be doing more to encourage academics to study our campaigns to help us increase our understanding of what works?
3. Make Poverty History was one of the first campaigns that effectively utilised email as a tool for action, building an email list of hundreds of thousands of individuals. How much should campaign movements like 38 Degrees and Avaaz thank Make Poverty History for demonstrating the effectiveness of this campaign target? How much impact did the e-mail actions actually have?
4. Tony Blair wrote in his memoirs that the campaign worked because ‘Bob, Bono and the NGO alliance had mounted an effective campaign…by demonstrating the breadth of public support for action on Africa. It was done cleverly, with them always giving enough praise to the leaders to encourage them’. I’d be interested in knowing if the panel agrees with the statement and if we need to do more to praise and encourage our targets?

Do we need to change where we get our news from?

I guess I’m like many other professional campaigners when it comes to where I get my news from. My media day looks something like this.
I wake up to BBC Radio 5 (or the Today program if my wife gets to the kitchen first), pick up a copy of The Guardian on my way to work, will take a look on the train at what those I’m following, who overwhelmingly hold left of centre positions, on Twitter are saying.
I will probably have a look at the BBC News or Guardian websites at lunchtime and then scroll through the long list of ‘progressive’ blogs on my RSS feed. When I get home I look forward to the next copy of the Economist or Foreign Affairs coming through the letterbox and I’ll end the day by watching Newsnight.
So this post by Mark Pack about the importance of reading the Daily Mail got me thinking. Am I reading the right news sources or is it time for me to change my media habits?
Most organisations will have spent time researching what their ‘average’ campaigner is like based on information from your database. It’s an invaluable exercise to do as it means whenever your writing copy or developing a campaign you can have someone in mind that is the likely recipient of your hard work.
But do we think enough about the news sources that our ‘average’ campaigner is receiving their information from? Given that as individuals we’re wired to seek data that is compatible with beliefs that we have, do we spend enough time understanding the news media that many of our campaigners are consuming?
The reality is that if I were to draw a Venn diagram between the news media I consume and the ‘average’ campaigner for my organisation you wouldn’t find much in the middle, even less if I’m thinking about key audiences that I might want to bring in to support my campaign. So I’m challenged to change my habits.
As campaigners an awareness of the various monthly circulation or viewership figures that come out are really helpful in getting a better sense of what the majority of the public are reading or viewing. Here’s what the latest figures show.
Newspapers – As Mark Pack points out the Daily Mail claims to have readership of over 4 million people daily, although its circulation figures show it sells just over 2 million copies each day. The latest ABC circulation figures show that The Sun is the biggest selling tabloid and The Daily Telegraph has the highest circulation of the broadsheets. The Guardian and Independent have relatively small circulations. These figures don’t appear to include the free sheet ‘Metro’ that is ready by many commuters on their journey into our major cities.
Magazines – The latest ABC figures show a continued decline in sales of traditional magazines, with TV listings magazines having the highest circulation figures followed by titles such as Now and Closer. What’s interesting is these figures don’t include the massive circulations that free magazines produced by Tesco’s and other supermarkets have. The Tesco magazine goes to over 2 million people, and while circulation doesn’t equal readership it reaches almost as many people than the newspapers with the highest circulations.
Radio – The last set of quarterly figures from Rajar show that Chris Evans is the voice that more people in the country wake up to, pulling in over 8.8 million listeners, with Radio 2 being the best performing station, listened to over 14.2 million people each week.
Social Media – Their aren’t similar figures available for social media, but the Independent this week has come up with ‘The Twitter 100‘ for the UK based on ratings from Peer Index and for blogging this list is instructive.
So next week I’m altering my media habits for 7 days. I’ll be picking up a copy of the Daily Mail alongside my Guardian, heading down to the Supermarket to grab some copies of their free magazines, turning into Radio 2 and following some of the ‘Twitter 100’.
It’s a discipline that I hope will help me to better understand where the majority of the campaigners I’m trying to get to support my campaign are getting their news information and the impact that has on the worldview and the context that they place their ‘activism’ in.
As I read, watch and listen I’m going to be asking myself some questions;

  • How do they tell a story? What level of detail do thy use? What angle do they focus on?
  • How would they communicate my campaign? How much space do they give to related issues?
  • What others topics do they seem to be most concerned about?

As campaigners, we also need to be aware of the news sources that the decision makers that we’re trying to target are reading and listening. On that a few years ago Duncan Green shared some useful insight drawn from research carried out by Oxfam, my sense is that is still fairly accurate, while a recent Freedom of Information request showed which newspapers and magazines were arriving in the offices of different ministers.
What are the key media sources for the campaigners you work with? How do we ensure we don’t get stuck in our own news media bubbles? 

The US Presidential election and the future of campaigning?

It’s the US election season, and suddenly anyone who’s watched an episode or two of the West Wing will become an expert on the best approach to win the 270 Electoral College seats needed, the opportunities presented by the Michigan Primary and the role of Super Delegates in a tight convention.
While predicting the result of the Primary and Presidential race, and while we’re at it I think we’re going to see Santorum push Romney all the way to the convention and Obama will win a second term, is a great conversation starter amongst the political engaged, it’s also a good time to start paying attention if you want to see the future of campaigning.
Why?
1. The election campaign is has a bigger budget than any other. This year President Obama is expected to fundraise over $1 billion and I’d expect the eventual Republican frontrunner won’t be far behind, which means it can develop some of the most powerful tools and employ the best and brightest staff.
2. It’s the most ‘important’ single political campaign in the world to win. The President of the United States is still the world’s most powerful elected official.
3. It’s got huge numbers of people involved. The Obama team already has over 200 staff working full-time in its head office in Chicago, a figure that is likely to increase rapidly in the next month, plus hundreds of thousands of volunteers on the ground ready to be engaged and resourced.
While I accept that election campaigning is different to campaigning to change public policy, and that the campaigns will make use of many of more traditional techniques like TV adverts, that are perhaps less available to public policy campaigns. I believe it’s still interesting to see how the tools used in previous campaigns have often tracked closely to the tools that are now common place in most campaigning organisations.
As Slate notes;
1996 saw the debut of candidate Web pages
2000 was the first time website were used for fundraising.
2004 saw Howard Dean pioneer the use of online tools (like MeetUp) to organise campaign events to link supporters together.
2008 led by the inspiring Obama campaign saw the emergence of socia media as a mass-communication tool, and the most sophisticated use of sites like my.barackobama.com which turned online interest into offline activism.
Add to that the resurgence of the concept of Community Organising fueled in part by the background of the current President but also the way that it was put to work to increase registration and turnout of previous under represented groups. (If you’re interested in learning more about the 2008 campaign I’d highly recommend that you read ‘Race of a Lifetime’ and the ‘Audacity to Win‘.)
So what are the early trends for 2012? Well the overriding one seems to be the most sophisticated use of data.
Slate suggest;
‘From a technological perspective, the 2012 campaign will look to many voters much the same as 2008 did…..this year’s looming innovations in campaign mechanics will be imperceptible to the electorate, and the engineers at Obama’s Chicago headquarters racing to complete Narwhal in time for the fall election season may be at work at one of the most important. If successful, Narwhal would fuse the multiple identities of the engaged citizen—the online activist, the offline voter, the donor, the volunteer—into a single, unified political profile’.
While the Guardian reported this weekend;
‘At the core is a single beating heart – a unified computer database that gathers and refines information on millions of committed and potential Obama voters. The database will allow staff and volunteers at all levels of the campaign – from the top strategists answering directly to Obama’s campaign manager Jim Messina to the lowliest canvasser on the doorsteps of Ohio – to unlock knowledge about individual voters and use it to target personalised messages that they hope will mobilise voters where it counts most’
And this sophisticated use of data doesn’t seem to being the sole preserve of the Democratic Party, with Slate reporting in January about how Mitt Romney built a similar database to help him almost win the Iowa Caucus;
‘Romney’s previous Iowa campaign allowed him to stockpile voter data and develop sophisticated systems for interpreting it. It was that data and those interpretations that supported one of the riskiest strategic moves of the campaign thus far: Romney’s seemingly late decision to fight aggressively for his first-place finish in Iowa’
For more on the digital and data tactics that the campaigns are using take a look at this from the Washington Post and this from ABC News.
In the UK, we don’t have anything that comes close to the Presidential Elections. The nearest equivalent is the Mayor of London elections that are happening in May. It’s a highly personalised contest trying to reach one of the biggest single constituencies in the world, and certainly the Ken campaign is making use of some innovative tools;
1. Last week saw the launch of personalised Direct Mail which make of QR codes to invite a response.
2. The  Ken campaign has made a significant investment in using Nation Builder tools to launch ‘Your Ken’ – a community to resource and mobilise its activists which was received with acclaim when it was launched last year.
3. The heavy emphasise on the use of text and email to get the message out to potential voters across London.
I’ll be watching with interesting at how both these elections campaigns make use of new tools and tactics in the coming months, and reflecting on the opportunities they present for campaigning for social change. 

Why trust matters in campaigning..

I’m fascinated by the importance of trust in driving campaigning activity, and increasingly convinced that it’s a key  element for successful advocacy, both in the context of the trust that individuals feel towards the person or medium inviting them to take action and also the target that we’re asking them campaign towards.
Which is why the results of Edelman Trust Barometer (a summary of the UK findings are here) last week are interesting to reflect upon.
Although the Barometer isn’t really focused on NGOs, instead being produce for businesses wanting to understand how to better position themselves, many of the messages that come out of it are really useful for anyone thinking about how best to position their campaign.
Here are a few reflections;
People need to hear a message 3 to 5 times to believe it. This isn’t new news, but once again it’s useful to be reminded. What implications does this have on the way we communicate our campaign messages and the importance of ensuring its reinforced through multiple communication channels. How do we get better at ensuring the ‘trusted messengers’ are the ones delivering them.
Globally, academics and technical experts are considered to be the most credible spokespeople. When people are asked to form an opinion of a company, academics have a 68% trust rating, by comparison CEOs have a 38% trust rating.
Does this mean we should be more proactive at making use of academics in our endorsing our campaigns, perhaps using them to publish research that will support our asks? As an aside, the growth in ‘someone like me’ (peers) and a ‘regular employee’ suggest that we might want to make more use of ‘normal’ supporters in our campaigning communications.
Growing separation in the trust that people place in the media. The survey found that in the UK’despite selling millions of copies, only 14% trust the tabloids to tell the truth. While broadsheets command around 50% trust, TV and radio is almost 60%‘.What does this mean for the channels we use to communicate our campaign messages. Interestingly, globally Social Media is only ‘trusted’ by 14% of people, but that’s jumped by 75% in the last year.
Trust in governments is falling, with the majority of countries now distrusting their governments. Indeed in almost all EU and G20 countries trust in government is well below 50%.
Does this have implications on our campaigning when we invite individuals to take action to ask the government to do x,y or z? If the majority of those we’re asking to take action, don’t implicitly trust the government, what does impact does this have on their belief that the action they’re calling for will ever be achieved?
People trust NGOs. The research found that ‘for the fifth year in a row, NGOs are the most trusted institution in the world, and in 16 of the 25 countries surveyed, more trusted than business’.
Great news and an exciting opportunity, but as the decline in trust in countries which saw scandals involving NGOs happen a figure the sector will have to work hard to stay at the top.

The beginners guide to getting your email updates read

While I’m certainly not an expert in e-campaigning, occasionally in my role I get asked to share (or offer to share!) some thoughts about what makes an effective campaign email.
I did this last week while in Geneva with Micah Challenge campaigners from across Europe, or before Christmas with some inspiring campaigners involved in this campaign in Brazil work to stop the sexual exploitation of children during the 2014 World Cup. In both cases, the campaigns didn’t have huge budget or capacity, so they were looking for some simple and actionable ideas.
From working alongside some fantastic e-campaigners over the years I’ve picked up a few tops tips, so here are my top 5 thoughts about what makes a good campaign email. I’d welcome comments or links to other useful resources.
1 – Send your message at the right time – There is a whole bank of evidence about when emails are open and action and while I’m sure this is likely to differ a little from country to country and issue to issue, this research from Mail Chimp is a good place to start. They looked at the open rates for millions of emails and found that more messages were opened between 2-5pm and that midweek lead to the highest open rates, with the weekend, perhaps predictably the worse time.
2 – Opened emails are read emails – The reality is that if your email remains unopened in someones inbox its not going to lead to the action that you’d like to see. As such it’s key to think about the subject line that you use and the ‘from’ field.
Go for a subject line that intrigues the reader into open in but also let’s them know what to expect, and make your ‘from’ field from a real person not an organisation, even if you end up going for ‘Joe Bloggs (Make Poverty History)’ it making an effort toward greater personalisation.
3 – Be clear about what you want your email to achieve. To many email updates sent don’t have a clear objective to them, before you write it be clear what one thing you want to achieve from the message. There is a reason why organisations like Avaaz and 38 Degrees only ask you to do one thing in their email message, because they’ve found it’s likely to lead to a better response rate.
While making lots of different asks might make it sound like your campaign has got alot going on,  in reality the more choices you give people the more likely they’ll choose not to do any of them. They become paralysed by choice and overwhelmed by the options, so choose to do none.
4 – People scan read emails. Just like webpages, people interact with emails in very different ways to letters or printed documents, so big blocks of dense text aren’t likely to work. In general, people scan a message, so using short paragraphs, bold and underline is key to help people navigate around the email and understand what you’re asking them to do. (For more have a look at this evidence drawn from research into using eye-tracking software into how people read emails)
Try to make the ‘ask’ more than once in your message, and don’t forget that for some strange reason the ‘PS’ is one of the most read lines in any email, so make use of it!
5 – The metrics matter – The best way of knowing if people are actually reading or responding to your emails is to use a website like MailChimp or CharityeMailto send out your messages. They’ll  provide you with a user-friendly ‘dashboard’ of what people are actually doing with your messages by measuring open and click-through rates. Over time you’ll be able to build up a better picture of what your audience responds to and what they don’t.

An example of the MailChimp dashboard
If you’ve got the time invest in testing different subjects, from fields, etc. Sites like MailChimp make this easy to do, as well as taking the hard work out of managing your e-lists as they manage the subscribe/unsubscribe function.
I’m aware that I’m just skimming the surface of a vast bank of evidence, and haven’t even written about how to compose the content of a good action email (have a look at this for a good summary).
I know that a few e-campaigning gurus read this blog so I’d especially encourage them to comment or share other useful links.

Campaigning for the 'long haul'

We’re told that patience is a virtue, but if we’re honest with ourselves it’s not one that’s always found in abundance within the campaigning world. As campaigners we’re paid to be impatient people, we want things to change now.
But a recent conversation with a colleague who’d been involved in the start of the Australian anti-smoking campaign over 20 years ago reminded me that some times our campaigns are going to take years, even decades to win rather than the weeks we’d like it to!
My colleague was celebrating because just the week before the conversation the Australian government had announced another victory for the campaign, that packets of cigarettes would no longer be able to be sold with any branding on them, a step that advocates on the issue believed would help to reduce sales of cigarettes to minor, another important step in the campaign to reduce the public health impacts of cigarette smoking.
It was a good challenge, as it raised questions for me about how we plan our campaigns for the long-haul. Here are a few thoughts about what we can do, if we subscribe to the belief that sometimes change will be a ‘long time coming’!
1 – Be clear about the steps on the journey to success – I often come across campaigns that are quick to announce their ultimate goal, but are less clear about the journey that they’re going to need to go on to get to it. How much time in our planning do we map out the potential steps that we might need to take on that journey, the policy wins, the changed attitudes or the key individuals that we need to bring on board to be successful. These interim goals are as important to identify as the final goal.
When we do this do we need to do more to communicate our anticipated story to our supporters and donors to give them a sense that we’re on the right trajectory as opposed to demotivating them when the final goal doesn’t feel likes it coming around as quickly as we’d like?
2 – Consider the ‘What If’s’ – Do we spend too much time thinking about a simple and clean liner path to success in our campaigning. We assume that we’ll be successful every step of the way along, but sometimes that doesn’t happen, we find that a target is immovable, or the argument that we’re using isn’t getting the traction that it needs, but how often in our planning do we ask ‘what if’ and come up with multiple options towards eventual victory, anticipating when we might need to shift our plans. The excellent paper ‘The Elusive Craft of Evaluating Advocacy‘ has lots of more on the importance of this approach in successful campaigns.
3 – Communicating our ‘signs of transformation’ – We often have stories to share that help to prove that we’re heading in the right direction. Where I work we’re encouraged to capture and communicate our ‘signs of transformations’ to staff and support, these are the tip bits that we pick up in conversation with policy makers, politicians or others that help to justify our decisions. In the long battles for success capturing and celebrating the small victories become important both to those working on the campaign but also those supporting it.
4 – Holding something back – Thinking back to the experience of Make Poverty History, and perhaps to a lesser extent the climate campaigning ahead of Copenhagen, one of the biggest challenges that I observed was that after the main moment their were few people around to keep the campaign going.
During Make Poverty History everyone became so fixated on the G8 meeting in July that their were few people around to keep the campaign going for the second six months of 2005. I’m increasingly convinced that campaigns need to be developing a ‘bench’ of experienced campaigners who can come in to keep the momentum going after these key moments. For those leading campaigns that are going to take time to ‘win’ we need to consider what we have in reserve.
What lessons have you learn’t about campaigning for the ‘long haul’?