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Five Steps to Maximize Public Engagement in Your Advocacy Campaigns


Effective integration of social media with on-the-ground action creates a great way to engage more people in your cause, generate media attention and boost your overall campaign efforts.

But how do you put it all together?

We recently helped the United Steelworkers of Canada launch their current Off The Podium campaign to put pressure on mining company Rio Tinto – supplier of the Summer Olympics medals – because of its very un-Olympic treatment of their locked-out workers in Alma, QC and its poor labour and environmental track record.  To date, the campaign has generated 13,000+ letters to the Olympic organizers and media coverage around the world — and after six long months, Rio Tinto ended the lockout in Alma, heralding a victory for employees.

That got us thinking – “How could we use this campaign as an example to help others combine social media with more traditional communications channels to make their campaigns more effective?”

Here’s what we came up with:

1.   Create a Cohesive Visual Brand

In the Off The Podium campaign, the creation of a high-impact visual brand was critical to carry the campaign’s goal and ‘ask’ to the public.  This helped ensure a seamless transition between online and physical environments and has helped mobilize union members and the public in Canada, the UK, Australia, and the US.

2.   Content is King

When mapping out the campaign plan, make sure you have identified your target audiences and have the right people to tell your story.  Then choose the media you will use to spread the word:  blog postings, website updates, news releases, video clips, and so on.

Flickr photos, Facebook updates and YouTube videos are very easy to set up and a great way to build engagement. Just remember: when you build your campaign plan, devote some resources to the generation of ongoing, dynamic content. You want to get people coming back to your site!

3.   Integrate Online and On-the-Ground Planning

For many campaigns, the campaign website serves as the information hub and connects all of the physical and online activities.

Create room for your events on the ground to feed your online activity, and vice-versa.

For example, build news feeds and Flickr streams into your campaign site to share your big events with online visitors.  Provide useful campaign materials online with print use in mind for those who want to do more (e.g. fact sheets, posters, how-to campaign templates about spreading the word)  so online viewers can access and then use them for events and talking with people face-to-face.

4.   Find Friends to Help Get the Message Out

By building a ‘big tent’, you multiply opportunities for more people to help you deliver your message – and maximize your impact.  

In the Off The Podium campaign, our client actively partnered with environmental, human rights, and labour organizations as well as Olympic athletes. When former Olympian Bruce Kidd spoke out against Rio Tinto, or when the London (UK) Mining Network launched a global contest to name the worst Olympic corporate sponsor – our client used this opportunity to tell their story, and was able to gain national media coverage.

In the marketing of your campaign, finding the right partners can multiply your reach.  In our example, the organization LabourStart, came on board and was very willing to help our client’s cause.  They became integral to driving significant online traffic from posts on their site and by sending emails to their large subscriber list.

5.   Make Use of Online Supports

After you launch your campaign, how do you continue building momentum online?

Most non-profits know that Google adwords are a proven way to get supporters to your site, but remember to explore other opportunities to extend your reach.

For example, Care2 is a social network site that has built a large online community within Canada. Making use of either their list services or their petition site (they will host your petitions for free) can give your campaign a boost – whether simply driving more traffic to your action or finding more supporters for your work.

And don’t overlook the importance of like-minded websites where you may be able to post blogs to update people on your progress or make a call to action.  Many sites are seeking new content, so make sure you ask around for space to share yours.

A strong visual identity, good planning, and a strategy for integration of on- and off-line activities, as well as targeted outreach, give your campaign the best possible chance to reach the goals you’ve set.

What do you think will help you make a bigger impact with your next advocacy campaign? We’d love to hear from you!

Carl Mavromichalis is a Senior Associate with Stratcom and an Accredited Business Communicator with over a decade of experience in private sector and non-profit environments.  Deanna Bickford is a Senior Consultant with Stratcom in Fundraising and Communications.

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