When organizations plan advocacy strategies, they are usually reacting to a current situation or concern, or they are preparing to launch a “soft approach” advocacy campaign designed to build awareness of an issue. Whichever approach is needed, an advocacy strategy should be the organization’s guide for the year, or years ahead, that outlines how it will strategically implement its various advocacy initiatives and campaigns.
While different resources provide tips and tactics that will support effective advocacy, the method to develop a strategy remains quite consistent.
1. Identify your issue (s).
2. Set your goals for the year or years ahead
3. Identify your target audience
4. Develop your position statement and support documents.
5. Build an implementation plan for the year or years.
6. Engage your networks.
7. Track and evaluate your experience.
IDENTIFY YOUR ISSUE(S)
It is important to understand the key issues that are important to your organization. Ensure that you have these issues articulated clearly and that your staff and board agree on what these issues mean in your organization. Along with the issues you will want to identify potential solutions, as well as the details required for implementation.
Develop contingency plans for emerging issues. A process that is approved ahead a time will be helpful in avoiding confusion when responding to an issue
SET GOALS FOR THE YEAR…OR YEARS AHEAD
Any successful advocacy campaign must begin with a clear vision of what a positive and realistic outcome would be. Ask yourself and those in your organization, “What is it we want to do?” Do we want to change policy, or just build an awareness among decision-makers? The answers will set the tone and intent of your strategy.
WHO IS THE TARGET?
There will be a particular audience that can help bring you closer to your goal(s). It may be more than one target group. While you may need a local MLA to help lead your policy change from within the government, it may be the media that is needed to ignite the passion of public support. Once you define these target audiences, then you can identify the pressure points that will cause them to respond or act.
WHAT IS THE MESSAGE?
You will need to create a message that is persuasive for the different target audiences you are trying to reach. Tailor the information to not only catch the attention of your intended audience, but also call them to action.
WHO ARE THE MESSENGERS?
The same message can have a different impact depending on who communicates it. For some audiences, you will need “experts” to deliver the messages; other audiences will be more included by real people who speak them their personal experiences.
WHO ARE YOUR PARTNERS?
Who are some other individuals or organizations who share your goals and will help collaborate on building support? The more of the public, from different sectors, you can rally behind your issue, the more impact your cause will have with decision-makers.
IDENTIFY YOUR TACTICS
Now you have all the details identified, you can strategically determine which methods will be needed to deliver your messages, and in what order. Considerations for advocacy tactics include:
- Meeting with government officials
- Letter-writing and/or email campaigns
- Editorial board meetings with the media
- Media conferences
- Online petitions
- Letters to the Editor
- Putting elected officials on your mailing lists
- Inviting government officials to your events
- Monitoring committee and legislative work and attend committee meetings
- Hold breakfasts or luncheons on particular issues and invite elected officials to speak.
- Write an article for your legislators newsletter
- Sponsor a MLA Reception.
PUBLIC EDUCATION STRATEGY
There is great power in hosting information sessions, panel discussions or workshops.
Though time consuming and not as effective in regards to reaching large numbers of people, the intimacy provided by such events—and the learning being tied to an
Experience—contributes a great deal to people actually retaining a significant amount of the information provided.
Publications such as brochures and newsletters can be much more far reaching, provided proper distribution is in place (e.g. mailing list, fax list, e-mailing list). Public Education Campaigns can be launched using print, television, radio and the Internet, which are far-reaching and very effective although costly.
Planning ahead is always a wise decision. The same can be said for advocacy. Having a simple advocacy strategy for your organization is recommended.
Advocacy on the Agenda, Volunteer Canada