Playbooks and checklists play an important role in planning and executing digital advocacy campaigns. These tend to be procedural. They ensure the right things happen in the right sequence to improve your chances of campaign success.
What’s been missing for those planning a digital advocacy campaign is the foundational requirements for a successful campaign. This is not about the procedures. This is about making sure your campaign resonates with the public and motivates some kind of action, whether a change in attitudes or behaviour. They should feed into the procedures that will follow.
That’s why I created the Digital Advocacy Hierarchy of Needs, a model that I presented this past week at the Canadian Medical Association’s 2016 General Council. It’s based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and incorporates the three pillars of my Triangle of IRE (for emotion marketing and crisis response).
Emotion determines the popularity and reach of almost all online content these days. This is true of what gets attention and what motivates action. So, you don’t just compete against other organizations in your field for attention (and action and dollars), you compete for attention with the news of the day (serious matters and the celebrity scandal-du-jour), memes and the latest cute animal video.
Emotion becomes the platform on which the rest of your campaign will stand. Your campaign must make people feel a real emotion — happy, sad, anger, hope, fear.
Know, also, that emotion is what will drive the reaction to your campaign — both from supporters and detractors. So, as part of your campaign procedures, make sure you do a Threat and Risk Assessment (TRA) so you can be better prepared to respond to criticism.
Information determines what makes the campaign necessary. This is the logical add-on to your emotional foundation. Your information should be compelling, accurate and concise. Few people have the patience (or interest) in all of the details. They need the straight goods with the key nuances (rather than all). It should be snappy and understandable, and can be delivered in text, images, videos or a combination thereof.
Critics will also use information, likely incorporating some degree of misinformation or disinformation. These will be successful because critics will often torque their distortions using emotion.
It’s best to build the relationships you need when you don’t need them so you have them when you do. The “if you build it, they will come” adage rarely works. Build community then harness it if and when necessary. That is a bigger discussion beyond the scope of this post.
Relation here means that you’ve struck the right emotional chord and provided the right information so people can recognize you, your team and your campaign as credible and trustworthy. This can also be achieved (perhaps more easily) if your audience can relate to the situation. Perhaps they have experienced the referenced health problem or supported a loved one through theirs. Maybe their home was threatened by a developer. All of these will help build those relationships, depending on your campaign.
It is also incumbent on the campaign to resource itself to build connections with potential supporters. That can be through specific outreach, or responding to those who comment or declare their support online. And don’t rule out reaching out to people who are productive in their criticism or skepticism of the campaign. Their opinions may be moveable.
The important thing to remember is that a one size fits all approach to your campaign may not be appropriate. If your campaign depends on support from multiple generations, multiple geographic regions and/or multiple demographics, you’ll need to tailor your messaging and calls to action to each of those groups. Social media is perfect for that. If you’re pursuing a government plan for seniors care, you might target seniors with one message (that people are looking out for them and that policy changes are needed), their children with a different message (geared toward helping them care for their aging parents and that they can influence policy changes) and another for grandchildren (that the issue of seniors care affects them because it affects their loved ones). That’s where research, strategic communication and creating audience-specific sections on your campaign website is helpful (a playbook item).
If your message is more informational and less action-driven, you might do what Procter & Gamble has done and move more of your budget to television where you’re more likely to reach a broad spectrum, and couple it with some online efforts, paid and organic.
No campaign is worthwhile without some form of action. Perhaps you want people to change their behaviour (encourage people to do breast self-exams, go to the skin doctor or register as a blood or organ donor) or influence public policy (get people to sign a petition, donate to a cause, write to their politician or volunteer to help the campaign) — I’ve provided some examples here.
Actions should be accessible, simple and scalable. Many campaigns have proven that giving people a social media avatar overlay, encouraging them to create their own images, challenging them to shoot a video of themselves doing something crazy and challenging others, or being part of an effort to get a celebrity to do something is effective. However, it’s been done. To stand out, and you want to stand out, you’ll need to do something others haven’t.
Engage & Measure
Unleashing the campaign then getting on with your day is ineffective. Campaign teams need to commit to the process. This means making sure the campaign is engaged with:
- Target and actual audience: building relationships and understanding who the people are.
- Critics: understanding the criticisms that may derail the campaign and responding to those who participate in a productive manner.
- Journalists: reaching out to those who report on the campaign in both positive and critical ways and following the comments sections of all media coverage.
- Decision-makers: understanding how companies, organizations and politicians are responding to the campaign and what you need to do to ensure success.
Of course, you should also know how to measure and report on success.
Note that success should NOT be measured on how many people liked or retweeted your content. Success should be measured on tangible, conscious actions such as signing petitions, making donations, signing up as an organ or blood donor, creating their own content and challenging others to do the same (in a way that proves they understand your issue and its importance to them), volunteering, writing a letter to a politician, etc…
If behaviour or policy changes are what you’re after, success should be easy to measure.