Lesson Three: Successful Campaigns Prioritise Communications
Collective Insight & Wisdom
- How you frame your message matters – what you have passion to say may not be what you need to be saying.
- Ground your communications strategy on good research that reflects the concerns, values and priorities of those you are trying to influence.
- Decide your campaign message and tone, and stick to it – keep your messaging relevant and consistent.
- Support message discipline across all your activists and allies.
- Story telling needs to be at the core of your communications strategy – facts convince, but emotions motivate people to act.
- Model the journey for the undecided – use messengers that people can relate to and who will give people permission to evolve their thinking.
- Find “unlikely” messengers that don’t fit the image people expect – spotlight the voices of “permission givers” like athletes, celebrities, faith leaders and other role models.
“Almost all panelists highlighted the importance of effective and sustained market research when it comes to successful campaigning. Frank Sharry spoke of how polling conducted in the early days of America’s Voice was actually found to have negative consequences: the way questions were framed left respondents feeling anxious and uninformed, and questioning if they themselves were racist. Subsequent focus groups and polling helped America’s Voice find a middle ground. Both Frank and Tim Dixon outlined how the research conducted by their respective organisations has come to a similar conclusion: “middle-ground” voters want to see order and fairness in migration policy. They’re motivated by questions like “How do we exert control / manage this process?”: if there’s no sense of control, it undermines their sense of compassion and justice. Interestingly, Tim Dixon said the research conducted by Purpose Europe is showing that reports of right-wing extremism and anti-migrant sentiment are exaggerated. The numbers of people with cosmopolitan views (younger, better educated, living in cities) are growing, he said, and – in almost all countries – a majority believes more should be done to address the refugee criss and their country should accept refugees. Prejudice is actually in decline – BUT extremists are louder and better organised than in the past.”
“One of the most important lessons I will take with me from this summer school is: decide what your campaign messages are and stick to them. For me this means it’s about setting your campaign goals, methodology and communications at outset and sticking to the core of your campaign. Of course, change tact when circumstances dictate that, but in the end the core messages must not be eroded.”
“Frank Sharry spoke of how America’s Voice has prioritised comms, hiring and training Communications Officers in regional locations…and developing a sophisticated communications strategy, focused on three key areas:
- Mobilising and expanding their existing supporter base (i.e. turning sympathisers into activists).
- Transforming sceptics into supporters.
- Defining and marginalising opponents, so that most people begin to view their opponents as a threat to national values.”
“The success of effective social change depends on the ability of advocates and activists to recruit at a grassroots level, to inspire ordinary citizens and trusted public voices to speak out.”