People’s stories: passion lives here

yellow brick roadOne of the key tasks of a public affairs professional is to create content which is then communicated to engage people with what organisations do and what they believe in. We do this by:

  • Commissioning new research

  • Identifying an interesting statistic

  • Developing some key messages

  • Enlisting a “celebrity” or an “expert” and

  • Composing case studies/human stories

Stories can be collected in a structured or unstructured way. With the first you’re collecting information from a prescribed list of questions. For instance, you might be collecting case studies to support an awareness campaign so you want the story to speak to that campaign.

With unstructured story collection you’ve chucked the questions out of the window. You’re open to what might emerge. One benefit of this approach is that it enables people to talk to their story. It can also produce some helpful insights and shape a story that – perhaps – you never knew existed.

If you want to know more about how to tell a great story why not click here. Includes a video by Isobel Allende’s (activist, feminist, writer).

I hope you found this post helpful. Please do leave a comment or question; and follow me @businesses4good if you want tips on how to communicate, campaign and lobby more effectively.

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In pursuit of virtue: value-based campaigning

tree image1“Once upon a time there was a small girl who gazed at the last tree in the world . . . “ It’s a short-story exercise an inspirational primary school teacher set me back in the early 1970s. I remember seeing that beautiful tree in my mind’s eye, how we all needed it, how good it felt to be next to it. I was that kind of kid. I wanted the tree to live and then more .

 

What I didn’t know then is that the love of the tree connected with some of my deepest intrinsic values: protecting the environment and promoting well-being. There’s loads of other intrinsic values that people share such as caring for the community and each other and social justice. 20 years of public policy making and campaigning has taught me: you can bombard people with statistics and tactics; but what’s going to stick and create lasting change is appealing to the intrinsic values people hold dear.  Yes, money is tight. But here’s an idea: perhaps obsessing about money to sell solutions merely helped  create the lone tree in the first place.

 

If you want to know more about the empirical evidence in support of a value-based approach to campaigning please visit: WWF’s Strategies for Change project 

I hope you enjoyed this post. If it has touched you in any way then please do add a comment. If you want to know more about effective communication and creating social good then please do follow me on twitter @businesses4good.

Effective e-mails: 6 useful tips

email meContacting influential people – whether they’re newspaper editors or MPs – can be a little like walking a tightrope. You know they’re busy people so you don’t want to hassle them unnecessarily; but you  really want to engage them with your latest news, ideas, campaign . . .

Here’s some strategies that have worked for me:

  • Do your research. Do you know someone who knows them? Perhaps they can give you an insight into the editor’s future scheduling; or an issue that’s keeping the MP awake at night.
  • Keep the e-mail short, simple and straight to the point. 
  • Have these three key sentences ready: an introduction proving that you know something about the person; why you’re contacting them; and what your idea, offer or question is.
  • Include your URL in signature. Make it easy for people to contact you.
  • Be realistic and generous. Thank them in advance for any help they can offer. If you don’t get a response, don’t take it personally. Follow-up though.
  • Write short, descriptive subject lines that give the reader a reason to open up. So you really need to know your audience. What’s important to them at the moment?

If you want to know more:

How to email important people

Best practice in writing email subject lines

Perfect subject lines

Do you have an email tip to share? Please do add a comment; and why not follow me on twitter @businesses4good.

 

14 campaigning tips: to help you out

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAProud to share 14 group learning outcomes from a recent successful Creative Public Affairs workshop Create Impact: Campaign Training aimed at community groups and smaller charities in Reading.

  • Make campaigning a key discussion in your organisation.
  • Understand the impact you want to have as a starting point.
  • Keep focused on that objective
  • Have a good, strong, clear, memorable strap-line (campaign objective).
  • Identify your key stakeholders: the high interest, high influence group.
  • Be effective. Always use strategies that are minimum effort, maximum impact.
  • Have a clear strategy.
  • Prioritise. Being over-ambitious means you spread yourself too thinly which leads to being ineffective.
  • Speak to and discuss ideas with lots of people.
  • Create coalitions: work with other groups who shared concerns and outcomes.
  • Don’t lose sight of direct action and ‘old’ off-line techniques. Don’t necessarily expect to rely on technology and social media for the entire campaign
  • Be flexible and willing to adapt where necessary.
  • There is no one magic solution.
  • Remember the key words: impact, outcomes, influence and effectiveness.

Thanks to @GetInvolvedRDG for funding the event and @RISC_Reading for the excellent venue.

Please do comment on your favourite campaign tip; and follow me @businesses4good to find out more about how to campaign effectively and with impact.

We’ll start campaigning in the morning, Ding, Dong, the bells are gonna chime . . .

Looking forward to running Campaign With Impact Workshop next week on behalf of Get Involved Reading.  One of the first challenges we’ll probably face together is to accept that campaigning means different things to different people. This may sound simple but 20 years of colourful, campaign experience has taught me that people tend to believe that it’s one of the three things: fighting a war, raising awareness or having a conversation with people.

All three hold some truth:

  • When you’re fighting a war it helps if you’re clear about you objective, strategy and tactics.
  • When you’re raising awareness you’re looking outwards and focusing on building alliances.
  • When you’re having a conversation with people you’re thinking about how you can effectively influence ideas, behaviours and attitudes.

Some things you might like to look at if you’re interested in how to:

Other posts of mine you might like, if you like this one:

Stakeholder mapping: it sounds scary but it ain’t necessarily so 

Oh let me in: social media and policy development 

Creating a public affairs strategy/3: What does success look like?

If you’ve found this of use it’d be good to hear from you, perhaps add a comment at end. Please do follow me on twitter @businesses4good. You’ll pick up lots of communication and influencing tips.

But is it art? Reaching out to real people

Excellent article by Ekow Eshun on the Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei on how to use simple participatory art movement campaign tactics to reach out and connect with “real” people affected by “real” social issues.

  • Have a provocative key message. In Ai Weiwei’s Sichuan campaign the allegation was that 1000s of children had died needlessly because of shoddy, building work fuelled by corruption.
  • Organise people to get to real people with real lives affected by real social issues.  In the Sichuan campaign 200 volunteers went door-to-door to collect information and record the bereaved families’ stories about the children they’d lost.
  • Share these stories on blog posts quickly.

Is it art? I think it is because it’s making people see the world differently, making them aware of something that they perhaps hadn’t seen before. Look through the prism at a different angle. Change starts with a change in perception.

 “This investigation [Sichuan campaign] will be remembered for generations as the first civil rights activity in China. It directly affects people’s feelings and their living conditions, their freedom and how they look at the world. To me, that is art.” (Ai Weiwei)