Advocacy & Lobbying Online: Designing and developing a campaign

ADVOCACY & LOBBYING ONLINE

Designing and developing a campaign

(From "Research, Lobbying and Advocacy: a guide to working online" by Women'sNet, South Africa: http://www.gn.apc.org/intranet/training/training_materials/advocacy.html)

Identifying and stating the issue

It is important to clearly state the issue you are advocating change or policy reform around, or the issue you are trying to campaign for.

Without this clarity you will be unable to communicate your needs and demands to your target audience, and you will also find it difficult to marshal support from other organisations in your sector.

Communication is at the heart of lobbying and advocacy, and using Information and Communication Technology to achieve results means making your goals and objectives clear and accessible to the people you are trying to reach. For example, if you are launching an online advocacy campaign, people without Internet access will be unable to participate. It is important to bear these things in mind when you are trying to bring something into the public awareness.

Collecting relevant information

Gather enough background information so that people can be informed of the process and history around your advocacy issue. Look at things like current legislation and how it came to exist, organisations/ departments/ individuals who have influenced the development of its current status as well as those involved in trying to change it.

Mobilising interested people

Contact people who work are activists in this sector, or who are stakeholders in the issues you are lobbying around. For example, if you are advocating for a stronger and more reliable police presence in your neighbourhood streets, you could contact organisations in your area who work to fight crime and violence against women and children. Informing them of the issues and ideas you have can bring together a large group who represent the interests of your community.

Developing a strategy

Meet with these people and decide how you are going to develop your campaign:

Raising and managing necessary finances

It is vital to have the funds available for your campaign. Someone should be in charge of managing the funds and developing a budget.

Networking

Once again, using an email mailing list can be an effective way to network with each other. You can also invite people to join this list and so keep broadening your network. If you have a web site, you should definitely advertise your mailing list there. Sharing information and ideas can only inform your campaign and make it more representative.

Forming & sustaining alliances & coalitions

It will be important to strategise with people from different groups, and to gather support from them. Sustaining interest and activity can be difficult, but once again it is useful to try to use mailing lists to promote discussion - you can seed discussions by setting topics for the week, etc if there is little participation and people are shy to use their electronic voices.

Another important point is to ensure that everyone stays up-to-date with what is happening and how the campaign is progressing. Asking people to contribute and allocating specific tasks is a good idea.

Involving media

It is important to make your issue part of the public awareness. Using the media can be extremely effective. Try to develop a relationship with people in the media who may be supportive and provide effective coverage.

You can also use media like community radio to inform communities of your campaign - call up your local station and ask if they are interested in hosting an interview with you and someone from government, for example, to debate the issue. You could also suggest a call-in show so that listeners could ask questions.

Establishing contacts with government

Find out who has decision-making power in government that can effect your campaign. Also, it is important to identify sympathetic lobbyists in parliament who may either wish to become involved in your campaign, or to debate your issues at National Government level.

From a local government perspective, contact your local councillors and ask them to represent your issue on the Council. You could also use Ward Committee meetings in your area to discuss your campaign.

Consider how Internet tools can be used in this process

The web and email are very effective ways to mobilise support and advertise your campaign. Throughout this section of the manual there is a emphasis on using these tools - but you can also use posters (print them on your PC) and pamphlets to let people know about the campaign. These could be designed by someone and emailed to others as attachments so that they can be printed, photocopied and distributed.

EXERCISE

Visit these web sites to have a look at some campaigns which are using electronic media:

Women’sNet Elections Campaign: http://www2.womensnet.org.za/gov

Gender Advocacy Program: http://www.gender.co.za

Oneworld Campaign Links: http://www.oneworld.org/campaigns

Global Internet Liberty Campaign: http://www.gilc.org

Femshuleni - not a campaign but an interesting and successful example of using IT to manage a project: http://www.femshuleni.org

EXERCISE

Rate these sites out of 10 on the following features:

(10 = excellent, 5 = average, 0 = terrible)

Interactivity (INT)

Does the site make it easy for you to become involved in the campaign/s?

Background information (BGD)

Does the site provide good, accessible background information?

Inspiration (INS)

Did you feel inspired to become involved in the issue?

Integration with other media (MED)

Does the site effectively integrate with print, sound, email, fax, mailing lists, etc?

Effectiveness (EFF)

Do you find the site effective in promoting the campaign or issue?

SITE NAME

INT

BKD

INS

MED

EFF

Women’sNet

Gender Advocacy Program

Oneworld Campaign Links

Global Internet Liberty Campaign

Email Alerts

An email alert is a message sent to other users in order to alert them to an urgent matter, and perhaps ask for action to be taken. It is important to format this correctly as well as to send your message to the correct forums.

False email alerts (or email hoaxes) are a form of virus on the Net and make people angry and not do your cause any good. They simply block access by taking up bandwidth! Also, people are busy and do not appreciate having their mailboxes filled with junk - so be careful when you use alerts!

15 steps to effective and reliable email alerts

1. Establish authenticity

Ensure that the email is true and that the sender is who they say they are. You can check this by trying to reply to the sender and ask for details. If this is not possible, do not pass on the alert - it is probably a hoax. If there are contact details on the alert, which there always should be, try to call the person responsible for sending it.

The date should be in the text of the alert

Many alerts go around and round the Internet until they are hopelessly out of date and no longer relevant. Make sure that the alert is no more than a week old before passing it on - and this should be the date in the original alert, not the date when you received it. It may have been passed to you 6 years after the original message was sent out.

Include clear beginning and end markers

Use clear and simple lines or stars (see example below) to show where your text begins and ends, so that people can easily see where the main message is and not be confused by what anyone else has typed before they forwarded the message.

EXAMPLE

**************************************************

ALERT: Preventing Violence Against Women Campaign

text

text

text

**************************************************

4. Ask the reader to take a simple, clearly defined, rationally chosen action

Do not ask the recipient of the message to perform some complex task. Rather, ask for a simple action - e.g., ask them to visit the web site devoted to the issue where they can find out more and participate if they wish to. Or, ask them to print our a petition and ask others to sign it before they mail it back to the campaign organiser.

Alternatively, you could ask him/her to sign a letter that is provided in the email and post it to the person in government or the private sector who is being lobbied. Always provide the necessary addresses, etc if you do this.

Make it easy to understand

Use clear and simple language and provide the basic facts in an easy to read format. Assume that your reader knows nothing, and think about what they will need to know:

Get the facts straight!

Make sure that everything you state in the alert is correct. If there are conflicting facts, investigate and make sure that you know what the truth is before you make a bold statement about something which may be untrue. If this happens, you can cause your campaign damage as people will not take you seriously.

Start a movement, not a panic

Do not use alarmist comments and statements. Allow the facts to speak for themselves - remember that in email, people cannot hear your tone of voice and emotional statements may come across as wild and unsubstantiated. Present the facts in such a way that the issue and urgency is clear, and your arguments can be seen as reasonable and rational.

Tell the whole story

Provide an accurate history of the issue and refer to alternative arguments - telling the "other side's" story provides an opportunity to explain why your campaign is important and necessary.

Don't 'preach to the converted' only

Send your alert to people who do not know about the issue as well as those who do - e.g., inform the media via email, as well as other organisations and/or people in government who deal with the issue you are campaigning around.

5. DO NOT use a chain-letter petition

Asking people to forward the email alert is ineffective and has been proven to do no good to the cause of a campaign. Asking people to forward to 20 others leads to duplication and sending the message on beyond the time of your campaign.

6. Urge people to inform you of their actions

Ask people who receive the message to email you or call you and tell you what they have done. This will provide you with an opportunity to monitor the progress and effectiveness of the campaign.

EXERCISE

Design your own email alert using these guidelines and email it to the other participants.

Try to design something that you can use in your daily work.