Want your election-based campaign to be noticed? Here are six key steps

With one year to go, Peter Gilheany offers his advice for charities who want to make sure their message doesn't get drowned out in the noise

Peter Gilheany says campaigns should be based around realistic goals
Peter Gilheany says campaigns should be based around realistic goals

There is still have a year to go, but we are already being treated to near-constant posturing and positioning ahead of the scheduled general election in 2015. Fixed terms are a good thing, but they have elongated electioneering activity almost to the extent of US presidential elections.

I am pretty politically engaged, so if someone like me is getting bored it is likely that the wider public are switching off in their droves. This creates a big challenge for charities that want to use the election as a hook for campaigns and policy initiatives.

Politicians of all hues and politically active members of the public will be inundated with campaign communications in the next year. This might mean a lot of disappointed organisations whose campaigns are drowned in all the noise. So here are six steps to ensuring your campaign gets noticed.

Campaigns are for life, not just for elections

Before you start making your voice heard, make sure the tail isn't wagging the dog and that all the campaigning you plan fits with your overall strategy and objectives. The election provides a useful rallying point for campaigns, but it shouldn't be the sole reason you are running one. Your target audiences are more likely to respond and engage if they can see the bigger picture.

Be realistic

You probably want to change the world for the better, but your campaign is unlikely to do more than nudge things in the right direction. Set realistic goals for what you want to achieve, led by external targets and backed up by internal or organisationally focused ones. Then consider the gold, silver and bronze outcomes you would be happy with strategically. Aim for gold, but plan for bronze.

Take an inside-out approach

The more people are engaged with your issue, the more likely they are to respond positively to your campaign. That means focusing on your existing supporters, volunteers, staff and partners as much as on the new audiences you hope your campaign will engage. Momentum can build among the people you already know, and new people are more likely to respond positively to a campaign that already feels like it has some support and impetus behind it.

Don't rely on political engagement

Politicians must be dreading the next year in some ways. Don't predicate the success of your campaign solely on the number of MPs and prospective parliamentary candidates you reach and engage; develop a broader set of metrics so not all your effort is funnelled through a very narrow and put-upon audience.

Collaborate

Hard as it might be to believe when you are in the middle of everything, your campaign and cause are unlikely to be unique. When looking at your campaign's objectives, consider whether you really should go it alone or would do better by linking up with others who share your vision. If your objectives are weighted towards an increased corporate profile, going it alone might be the most effective route. But if you are looking for genuine influence on a key issue, there is strength in numbers and coordinated effort.

Do something different

Many of us sign a lot of petitions and, if we are completely honest, we don't always have a complete grasp of exactly what it is that we are supporting. Many politicians have started calling the bluff of petitions and ignoring them. Petitions still have a role, but it is worth spending some time considering less traditional ways of getting through to policy-makers and influencers - for example, desk drops to MPs using fortune cookies with campaign messages inside.

Imagination and wit need not be expensive and can mean the difference between being noticed and sinking under the tide.

Peter Gilheany is director of the social change PR agency Forster and a trustee of CharityComms

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