Starting a campaign

Building your campaign can be a scary business. It’s your issue, it’s you. At the same time, it can be greatly empowering. You’re about to start creating a movement of people around an issue, who all want to achieve the change you believe in.

Before you start writing the text of your petition, take a moment to think. What is it you want to achieve? Is there a group of people committed to achieving the same change as you? Do you have much time yourself? While a campaign doesn’t have to consume your life, the more time and effort you put into it, the more successful it will be.

Once you think you’re ready to begin the campaigning journey, this blog post will help guide you so that when you go forth and click on “Start a Campaign”, you’re all set!

Petition title

Great titles are to the point. In fact, they look long sentences in the face and strike them down with a fervour that says “I will not be complicated”. Your title should bring together your key issue with the change you wish to seek.

Example:
What area of the world needs changing? Pirate Recognition.
What would you like to happen? More pirates in print media. 
Potential title: “Increase the representation of pirates in print media”

Try to be specific. Try not to attack a particular group in your title – save this for later (or never is also good). Your title is the way in. The gateway to the soul of your campaign. You may not be representing a movement that already exists. You’re building the movement.

What is the problem you are trying to solve?

What is the outcome you want to achieve?

What are the keywords that describe this?

Whom are you petitioning?

Essentially, who can give you what you want? Try to think about the people and institutions who have relevant power. Can your local butcher change whether whiteboards are used in schools? Well, maybe. That would be an interesting community. Probably not. Is this the sort of thing the local school principal or board looks after? Most definitely. Exactly.

Think about who your target could be: Local Councillors, board members, company CEOs, MPs, businesses, etc. Then, think about what power they have to help your campaign.

Example:
Brainstorm at least 3 options of people who have the power to replace all school whiteboards with blueboards (a fancy new technology that incorporates the functionality of whiteboards with the aesthetic appeal of the colour blue).
– Regional School boards
– Principals of Schools
– The Current Suppliers of Whiteboards

What can each of these people do to help you achieve your outcome?
– Regional school boards can develop a plan to implement blueboards in schools across their region.
– School principals can decide to replace all of their school blueboards with whiteboards.
– Suppliers of whiteboards can re-direct their focus towards supplying blueboards instead.

Try to also think about what power/resources your group has and what kinds of targets you will have most influence over. A school principal will probably be more accountable to a group of concerned parents than the Prime Minister will.

So.. considering all of this, who is your best target? That is ‘whom are you petitioning’. Write that in.

A quick last note: multiple targets may be appropriate, but the simplest approach is often the best!

Who has the power to help you achieve your outcome? (‘targets’)

What can those targets do to help you achieve your outcome?

What power/resources do you have to influence the targets?

What do you want them to do?

Alright. Here’s your chance. You’ve got people reading and they’re excited. This section is the text of your petition, the ball game.

Give readers an explanation of how joining your campaign will lead to the outcome you desire. Strategy is about verbs. What can we do? How will it bring us what we want?

Example:
Petition title: “Change cricket oval turf from green to red”
Target: The owner of your local cricket oval
What do you want them to do? Replace the green turf of the local cricket oval with a more vibrant red.

Keep in mind the power that your target has. What is within their reach? Ask them to do that. Like your title and target, your ask should be clear and punchy – more words in this case are not more helpful. Your petition text would be what you would write in a letter to your target (and you can even start it with “Dear [X], “).

What can your target do towards achieving the desired outcome?

How will your target be influenced by your power/resources?

Why is this important?

This is your opportunity to provide more information about what your issue entails - this section should be longer than your petition text (keep that snappy). What is the problem you are trying to solve? Who/what/where is being effected? To what extent are they being harmed? Most importantly, why now? What about acting now will be more advantageous than acting later? Will we, in fact, move backwards or downwards or in a generally negative direction if we hold off?

Remember, people who have read this far are becoming more and more engaged with your issue. Persuasion, though, is still critical – many will look to this section to convince them as to why the campaign is worth their while. Try to use a mix of both personal stories and facts. Personal stories draw people in, tap into their empathy. Facts appeal to the reflective quality of the mind. Both together, make an argument that cannot and will not and must not be ignored.

Who is being affected?

Why is acting now important?

What will this change mean – how is it for the better?

Image

Your petition image should sum up your campaign and draw people in. Search for a bunch of images that are relevant. Don’t limit yourself to a simple google images search: ask people who are close to the issue for photos, take one yourself, draw something!

As with the rest of your petition, ask others for feedback on what they think of the various choices. One thing to keep in mind is the copyright laws surrounding certain images. Make sure you get permission to use an image. Alternatively, select an image that has been declared suitable for public use.

Is the image human?

Does it provoke interest without provoking discomfort?

Does it work with the petition title?

Does it prompt curiosity?

How will your petition be delivered?

Creating a really effective campaign petition is great. It builds support and gathers energies in one place. The delivery of a petition, though, is just as important. In delivering your petition, you not only engage directly with your target, but confirm to your supporters that your campaign is about active change.

You should always aim to deliver your petition (and email your supporters a photo of it.. and have a next step action plan.. but that’s another story!). However, it is not necessary that you have all of your delivery plans ready when you create your campaign – you can edit this section later.

Try not to pass this section off as if it were a vague bookend. Delivery summaries like “We’ll email the petition” fail to build excitement about your campaign. If you really want to write something in this section but don’t have a plan yet, you could try something like “We plan to deliver the petition directly to [target/person X]. Stay tuned for further details.” Even better, ask your supporters to help you plan a really engaging delivery!

And lastly… editing

What’s most important when writing your petition for the first time is to think of it as a draft. Think about all of the things you’d like to say. Get all of your ideas on paper. Put together a petition you’re happy with. Then walk away. Don’t launch it just yet. Don’t change it immediately. Return in a few hours. Get other people to look over your text. Edit it. This process may take a little while, but a well thought out petition will come across infinitely better.

In addition to revising the style, make sure to cast your scanning eye across the strategy many times. Book a dental appointment. Go to the dental appointment. Ask the dentist (or any stranger in your life) to ask you the following questions:

What is the problem you are trying to solve?
What is the outcome you are looking to achieve?
Who has the power to give you what you want?
What resources/power do you have?
How can your power be used to influence others towards achieving your outcome?
Why act now?

Good luck!
The ActionStation Team

P.S. If you have any questions or comments, you are more than welcome to send us an email at info@actionstation.org.nz