Advocacy Campaign Tips for the Win

Mar 29, 2021
Runner crossing finishing line on track

Advocacy Campaign Goals Win Your Public Affairs Campaign

Running an effective advocacy campaign takes skill and planning. As we head into 2021, there will be a lot of competition for different advocacy issues to take a spotlight, so you need to be ready to hit the ground running. We put together five tips to help you run a winning advocacy campaign.

Have a clear and measurable goal.

Advocacy organizations often have goals for their campaigns that are hard to measure. For example, it can be tough to determine if a goal like “raising awareness” actually happened. Instead, you should try to find ways to define your advocacy campaign in hard numbers. Some common advocacy goals are gaining x new supporters or raising donations by x percent. One way to measure if you have “raised awareness” is to run a paid digital ad campaign with a target number of impressions or reach. Another thing to be mindful of is prioritizing one goal for each campaign. While you can have secondary and tertiary goals, in order to accurately evaluate the success of any campaign you have to be able to focus on one main objective.
Plan ahead.

While its common to have to run rapid response campaigns these days, try to plan ahead as much as you can to make sure you get the most out of your advocacy campaign. After you’ve pinned down your primary goal, map out what you’ll need to do in order to reach it. If you’re trying to get a bill passed, consider who you need to influence and who can act as an advocate to help you persuade them. In this case, there would likely be key legislators you would target and people like their constituents, your activists, or members of the press who they might listen to. Then you’ll have to work on organizing the people who would persuade those legislators as efficiently as possible. If there are any assets you need to create or gather like user-generated testimonials, start pulling them together as soon as possible to avoid delays. Take a look at any important dates, like the day a bill will be voted on, and work backwards to allot how much time you can give yourself for each part during your campaign planning. Then, let everyone else involved in your campaign know what that schedule is so you can stick to it!
Create urgency!

Nothing creates action for an advocacy campaign like an urgent deadline and nothing promotes procrastination like a vague one. If you are lucky enough (I use “lucky” loosely here) to be working on an advocacy campaign that has a strict timeline (e.g., you are looking to get a governor to veto a bill before the end of the legislative session, or maybe you are trying to get a local city council to place a ballot question on the upcoming ballot), make sure your targets and advocates know what the deadlines are. If, on the other hand, your advocacy campaign doesn’t have a strict timeline—and the urgency that comes with it—create one! For example, set a specific date for when you will send a petition to a legislator or file a ballot measure. Make sure your advocates and targets know and believe the urgency of your timeline. 
Make sure your advocates know how they can help.

Lay out clear and easy ways for your advocates to get involved. Can they sign a petition online? Call their legislator? How about collecting petitions or signatures from their friends and neighbors? If it’s not an official form, can they download a PDF from your website to collect the signatures? How can super-advocates tell their stories and get the word out about why this issue is important in their lives? Can they add it to a story bank, get in front of a legislator on lobby day, or maybe speak at a press event? Once you’ve figured out your asks, make sure you communicate them clearly to your supporters. Your website should include a list of things supporters can do to help, and you should also communicate those items to them regularly via social media, email, and volunteer meetings.
Work with experts.

You don’t have to do it all yourself. Planning and managing an effective advocacy campaign isn’t easy. Make sure you’re in contact with other organizations that can act as allies to see if there are ways you can work together to divide and conquer. Plan regular meetings with these allied groups so everyone can go over each group’s role in the larger effort. This will also give everyone a better sense of which groups are getting communicated with and about which issues. You can also hire a consultant to help you take your campaign to the next level. At The Campaign Workshop, we work on advocacy campaigns daily—big and small, federal and local, all over the country and even some around the world. 

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