If you’re having trouble getting your campaign noticed, keep it simple, get the evidence and support – and embrace technology, suggests Elin De Zoete
A single school or charity often has a difficult time getting its message across, but when groups and organisations with similar aims come together the results can be impactful.
Here are some simple steps to help to build an effective education campaign:
1. Clearly define what you are asking for
This might sound simple, but when you bring a diverse group of people together to campaign on an issue, you need to work hard to pin down a common cause that can unite you all. Going in to local or national government with a shopping list is never warmly received, but a simple request, with an identified mechanism for making the change you want to see happen, will get
2. Back up your request with evidence
In austere times there is no point just banging a drum of protest. Any request you have around policy or funding must be backed up with clear evidence that demonstrates the advantages of taking the course of action you are campaigning for. This evidence might be quantitative; economic modelling that shows the positive impact of your proposition or the negative impact of the status quo. If you only have the capacity to do qualitative research, you can underpin your request with case studies that bring to life what will happen if funding or policy doesn’t change.
3. Demonstrate support
This is essential. Working as a coalition already goes some way to show breadth of support for your aims, but you must show that the issue you are campaigning on resonates with a wider audience. Councillors and MPs will be very interested in an issue that connects with their constituents, so if you can demonstrate that your campaign has wide appeal, decision-makers will stand up and listen.
Don’t go in with a shopping list. It won’t be welcomed
As an example, in 2014 PLMR worked on a campaign for bingo clubs that historically had been taxed much higher than other, less “soft” forms of gambling. The campaign group had been engaging directly with MPs for many years, but progress was slow. When we came on board, we told them that they had to show MPs that bingo mattered to voters, not just to club operators. So we got bingo players engaged in a national celebration of bingo and drove a bottom-up campaign. After just seven months, the chancellor cut tax on bingo and recognised it as a social activity at the heart of British communities.
Mobilising parents, families and your local community behind your campaign will help it to be a success.
4. Embrace technology
Campaigns don’t have to be expensive and require big investment in printed collateral anymore. There are free sites to make basic web pages and you can engage with your audience through email and social media. MPs are very active on Twitter and, in most cases, still run their own Twitter feeds.
This makes it easy to elevate a local campaign to the national stage and ensure that it grabs the attention of the people you are trying to influence. But make sure that your supporters write at least some of their own messages, as auto emails will no longer get through the MP researcher spam filter!
5. Plan your timings carefully to build momentum
If your request is around funding for a project, you need to assess where the decision point might be (ie, the budget) and work backwards for a number of months. Don’t start a campaign too early so that it runs out of steam. You want to be able to demonstrate that support is building, momentum is behind you and that more and more people are endorsing your request . . . then you’ll be well placed to achieve a win!
Elin De Zoete is Managing Director at PLMR