Tips for running a great campaign

The game changers

Joe SaxtonJoe Saxton is the Founder and Driver of Ideas at nfpSynergy. In 2007 and 2008, he was named one of the 1,000 most influential people in London by the Evening Standard.

We asked Joe for his top tips for running our next campaign:

1. Campaigns need to be clear on how they will deliver change.

Spending money is easy. A few posters (on the CEO’s route to work), some nice advertising and a good slogan. Hey presto, Scope has got itself a campaign. Well no.

A successful campaign needs to have a clear theory about how it will change things. It needs to be clear on target audiences and it needs to be clear on how it will reach them.

2. Remember the inverse law of change against size of audience.

The biggest audience who is the target of any change, the harder it will be to change their attitudes. So changing the mind of MPs, who number in the hundreds, is much easier than changing the minds of GPs who number in the thousands.

3. Under-promise and over-achieve

Scope is in the habit of claiming it is the UK’s leading disability charity. I admire the aspiration, but worry that Scope may start to believe its own propaganda. Scope simply doesn’t have the resources to be the charity for all disability. Is it really claiming that it has more to say to blind people or those with arthritis, than the specialist charities in those areas? Is Scope really clear what its statement of intent and strategy is behind its bold claim? I don’t know. Any campaign needs to avoid falling into the same trap.

4. Changing attitudes takes a long time.

Changing attitudes is the most difficult campaign task in the world, and disability is no exception. While we have seen massive changes in attitudes to disability, sexuality, race and a host of issues over the last 50 years, change is measured in decades not months. So how long will Scope run its campaign – 6 months, a year?

5. Learn from your history.

Scope’s campaign Time to get Equal was a great example of how to appear aggressive and threatening to the general public, rather than insightful. While a strapline like that may have played well with some disability audiences, it has more of the whiff of a vigilante mob, rather than a broad-based inclusive ethos.

6. Time it right.

Carefully consider ways of saving yourselves extra work in your effort to reach people by having campaigns piggyback on the publicity of any relevant awareness days or news stories. If disability is an issue currently hitting the headlines then you can save yourselves time trying to bring it to public awareness in the first place and the message of your campaign can filter through more efficiently. The same goes for not releasing an expensive campaign which is likely to be drowned out by media activity in other areas; for example, releasing a full scale campaign during the November Poppy Appeal is only going to be competing for people’s attention and you may find yourselves shouting into the wind.

7. The Snowball Effect; Get stakeholder-savvy!

There are hundreds of different stakeholders in a campaign but they can be very broadly split into two groups; the people you want to influence and the actors the people who help you get there.

Actors are frequently thought of as ‘the people behind the scenes’; but realistically, you should be aiming to turn your target audience into instrumental actors who help the campaign ‘snowball’ and gather momentum once they become engaged. For example, if you have a poster on a train (see point 1) and you have used the power of the personal story; can you have your commuters then follow a link to somewhere where they can share their personal stories too? Draw people in to your campaigns and they are more likely to chat about it to friends and family and things snowball.

8. How will change be measured?

Campaigns can often be better at producing the feeling of action, than real change. A campaign isn’t there to produce a rosy glow internally, its there to change the lives of disabled people. So before a campaign is begun, the methods by which it is to be measured (to prevent wiggling and revisionism once the campaign has become).

9. Steps are what is sliding downhill.

Any campaign needs to have stages or steps, which not only better measurement, but also make it easier for people’s attitudes to slip. However, few people have a revolutionary change in attitude, so it is unlikely they will move all in one go. So change takes place in steps. For example, somebody may with good arguments and gentle persuasion believe that first civil partnerships are ok, and then gay marriage, and then gay adoption.

If you would like to submit your story or find out more about the Game Changers community, visit the Game Changers website.