13 Strategies for your Advocacy Campaign - Part 1

Advocacy originates from advocare, ‘call to one’s aid’ or to speak out on behalf of someone. It is the organized efforts by citizens to influence the formulation and implementation of public policies, laws, regulations, programs, distribution of resources and other decisions that affect people’s lives by persuading and pressuring state authorities and other powerful actors. Advocacy also influences socio-political processes that enable and empower the people, to speak for themselves.

Advocacy is generally directed at policy makers (legislature), and government officials and public servants(executive), whose decisions impact people’s lives. It fits into a range of activities that include organizing, lobbying, and campaigning.

Features of Advocacy Campaigns:

An advocacy campaign can be defined broadly as a strategic course of action, involving communication, which is undertaken for a specific purpose or objective. The campaign publicly promotes an agenda, involving platforms and using a variety of tools and communication channels, so that a wider range of audiences can hear the core messages. These include - public demonstrations, protests, letter writing, lobbying, use of media and the internet and legal action, messaging, and an organized set of communication tactics just to name a few.

In their classic study of campaigns Everett Rogers and Douglas Storey (1987) identified 4 features shared by most campaigns:

  1. A campaign is purposeful – you intend specific outcomes from the communication efforts

  2. A campaign is aimed at a large audience – to persuade enough people to make a difference.

  3. A campaign often has a specifically defined time limit – by a deadline when the window for any further action will close.

  4. A campaign involves an organized set of communication activities – evident in the construction of campaign messages and in efforts to educate and/or mobilize different constituencies.

Purpose of Advocacy Campaigns

Advocacy campaigns are done primarily to:

  • create support for a policy or amendment of an existing policy or law, based on its implementation and

  • to build public recognition of an issue.

They are used to raise awareness on important issues and stimulate groups or individuals to seek information and services. An increase in knowledge helps in shaping beliefs, attitudes, social norms, and actual behaviors in the mass public.

Strategic considerations for Advocacy Campaigns

Often citizens and their organisations use a combination of different strategies to achieve their advocacy goals. Strategic communication is essential to any effective campaign. It is important to determine communication channels to be used in the advocacy campaign. This will depend on:

  • the communication preferences and behaviours within the target population.

  • the complexity of information to be shared.

  • the available budget and resources for implementation.

The preferred communication channels often vary depending on age, social group, ethnic background, literacy and education levels, familiarity and access to technology, gender, religion, disability, or other characteristics. While deciding on communication channels, take into consideration ways in which they access information including those who live in geographically isolated areas and those who face barriers to information.

Strategy 1: Creating identity through collective slogans, campaign logo, common objectives, advocacy demands

The identity is what people think and feel about the advocacy campaign and the core issue it deals with. In the commercial sector, this would be equivalent to the brand. Branding matters for advocacy purposes, because if there is a strong identity that is communicated in a clear and consistent manner, it can be more effective in advancing the advocacy goal. Bit by bit, the public, government bodies, and other organizations will recognize the campaign which in turn will enhance its reputation.

Identity is communicated in different ways and generally includes a name, logo, and messaging or slogan. Slogans are messages that people can identify with and understand. A slogan or tagline is the catchphrase or group of words that are put together to identify a cause or issue. It could be a one-sentence slogan as brevity is the key to memorability. Messages should be persuasive and crisp statements about the advocacy issue - what is to be achieved and why this is important. Logos and symbols help sustain movements and campaigns. For example, ‘Red Ribbon’ and the ‘White Ribbon’ logos are instrumental in spreading awareness about HIV and AIDS and eliminating violence against women, respectively. Identity is communicated through the distribution of campaign merchandise such as caps, bags, T-shirts, wrist bands, pens, etc. These provide visibility to the cause and hence help in promoting it.