PLANNING A CAMPAIGN

A campaign requires a great deal of commitment, planning and organization. While it's possible to do this alone, the support of others is very desirable. In either case, it's important to establish an identity as a group. Once you get going, others will join you. You, however, must expect to lead the way.

Your first step is to thoroughly research your opponents. What arguments will they use to defend their position? What do you hope to achieve? Decide exactly what your demands are: What do you want your target to do? What is the minimum you'll accept? Are your goals realistic?

If you've got a good target, start developing your strategy. Begin by designing a timetable for your campaign. Then establish short-range goals. Short-range goals keep momentum going and bring you closer to your target.

Prepare for countercharges. What claims will your opponents make to defend their actions? How will you refute them?

Decide whose support you really need to win; don't just say "the public." Which part of the public? Which groups or individuals in particular? Consider how to reach them. Whose support can you count on from the beginning? How will you work with those people? And analyze how you will win over or neutralize supporters of the opposition.

CHOOSING YOUR STRATEGY

You may be able to accomplish your goals with a low-level effort, such as a letter-writing campaign or a series of leafletting and tabling activities - not all campaigns require demonstrations, boycotts or rallies. If you start out with a bang, you must be able to sustain it.

Take the time to consider what's going to make your campaign a success. The more planning time you give yourself, the better chance you have of winning your cause.

Here are some general strategies to follow:

  • Try to communicate with your opponent. Write to the head of the company or organization, politely state your grievance and ask for action.

  • Give them time to respond, but set a deadline so they don't keep you dangling forever. It's always possible that your opponent is unaware of abuses, and there may be room to negotiate a change. Regardless, if you don't go to the source first, your credibility will be impaired.

  • Document your communications. Keep copies of letters and a written record of telephone calls.

  • Before you go public, try to get some expert opinions to back you up. Such statements lend credibility to your campaign and make it easier to convince both the public and government officials. Approach scientists, veterinarians, doctors, or anyone else who has the experience and credentials to be considered an expert on the issue. Inform them of the situation and ask them to give you a written statement criticizing your target and recommending alternatives.

  • Produce some basic campaign literature first: a fact sheet, a background/history sheet, an alternatives sheet, a page of expert opinions, and a short leaflet that lists your demands and tells people what they can do to help. These provide essential factual information for the public and the media.

  • Arrange a meeting with the mayor's office and/or the specific regulatory office related to the issue. Clarify the facts about the issue and the changes you are proposing and try to get their support.

  • Write letters to local government officials, congressional representatives, and the head of the organization you are targeting. State the problem, your demands or alternatives, and specify what you want the official to do.

  • Arrange to meet personally with as many elected officials as possible. Try to enlist their support.

  • Write to news editors of local papers and to related trade journals to try to interest them in doing a story on the issue.

  • Educate your community. Setup tables and hand out leaflets to publicize the issue. Run an advertisement in the newspaper if your budget allows. Create a website and/or social media pages.

  • Try to get support from other national and local groups. Contact civic associations, the League of Women Voters, Rotary Clubs, and political clubs and ask for their support.

  • Give your opponent a second chance to negotiate with you. This may also be the time to issue an ultimatum if negotiations are unsuccessful.

When you escalate to a new level, don't abandon your original activities. Public education should be a constant effort, complementing all your other tactics.

Escalation means finding ways to exert more pressure, such as picketing, holding a candlelight vigil, organizing a march, encouraging a boycott or holding a rally.