Five things not to forget for your next campaign

With a federal election on the horizon, I’ve been hearing more questions about how best to approach campaigns to effectively engage people and achieve goals and objectives. With a background helping mobilize people as a volunteer and in NGO circles, I’ve had the opportunity to learn from some inspiring organizers in the progressive movement and developed some ‘spidey senses’ on what makes a successful campaign tick.

So if you have something to campaign on that you (and your team) think is going to help change the world (or at least some part of it), here are my top five campaign tips:

1) Don’t forget to listen

In my experience, people will be more open to hearing your message if it puts people’s stories and experiences at the forefront. You want to see national pharmacare? Make sure to talk to people who need pharmacare now, and are suffering as a result of not having it. Want free transit? Make sure to talk to people who use transit, or want to use transit but can’t because it’s too expensive. Want a Green New Deal? Talk to communities impacted by the fossil fuel industry and workers whose jobs will be impacted by the transition to green energy.



Find people who are connected to the changes you hope to see and engage in a meaningful conversation, and do it before you develop your campaign plan. If they have their own campaign, consider directly supporting and amplifying it. Explore collaboration, opportunities for advice and ways to integrate their experiences and stories into your campaign.

It’s also a great idea to listen to people engaging in your campaign about next steps, and what would inspire them to stay engaged in the campaign. Consider campaign tactics such as polls, surveys, face-to-face meetings and Q & A opportunities.


2) Don’t forget about digital

Does your campaign bring people together to meet and strategize regularly? Are you holding a public event? Are you canvassing door-to-door? Pairing these on-the-ground actions with an engaging digital strategy will extend your reach. Make sure to take advantage of face-to-face opportunities using digital tactics like posting pictures and short stories of people you meet, live tweet-ins, getting attendees to sign and share your online petition, and using event apps that integrate social media into events.  


3) Don’t forget about face-to-face

Conversely, is your campaign predominantly online, engaging with people on social media platforms and using digital tools? Don’t underestimate the value of talking, and sharing with people directly. The best campaigns I’ve participated in and observed have mastered the art of connecting these on-the-ground events with digital tools.

All too often I’ve seen organizations structured in a way that divides campaign and communications into separate teams. Bridging these silos can be challenging, but the benefits of an integrated campaign — one that offers multiple levels of engagement and inspires and challenges people to take further action — are worth it. Tools like Slack can be helpful in bridging divides.


4) Don’t forget to follow up

There’s nothing worse than a missed opportunity. If you are bringing people together, ensure you take the time to think through event logistics. The small details matter. Make sure someone has a sign-in sheet and is gathering contact information. Make sure you have a clipboard with your petition to circulate in the crowd. Determine how you’ll engage people further in the campaign after your event, be it a follow-up discussion, meeting, rally or another creative action that moves you towards your goals.  


5) Don’t forget to adapt

You can have the best, most strategic 12 month campaign plan and then some outside force throws you a massive curveball. The constant challenge of campaigning is to balance agreed-upon objectives with staying relevant to rapidly changing political, social, digital and media contexts. Challenge yourself to be flexible, to be able to adapt and take advantage of moments as they arise. Think about implementing rapid response plans for when surprise media opportunities arise, regular check-ins and evaluations, and pursuing professional development to keep campaigns relevant.  

Bonus Point

6) Don’t forget to have fun

Art installations. Cocktail or mocktail parties. Comedians. Think outside of the box and welcome elements of art and culture into your events and plans. This can broaden your outreach and enrich people’s experiences in campaign events. Let’s get rid of the manels and bring on the fun!

Andrea Harden is a Senior Strategist at MediaStyle

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