Nine Steps to Successful Campaigns
In a Network for Good webinar last month, "Campaigns in Nine Steps: How to Succeed With 'Just Enough' Planning," presenter Kristen Grimm, founder and president of communications solutions firm Spitfire Strategies, discussed some of the key steps outlined in "The Just Enough Planning Guide," created by her firm and the Communication Leadership Institute.
The guide is designed to help in the planning of policy, issue, corporate and public education campaigns, i.e., "if you are looking to pass a law, win popular support for an issue, organize a boycott or let a bunch of people know that something is bad for them, this guide is for you," according to the guide intro. But the best practices recommended can be applied to a host of other types of campaigns.
According to Grimm — and based on analysis of dozens of campaigns and interviews with campaign experts — there are nine steps to campaign planning. Completing the nine steps takes roughly two months. Grimm walked attendees through the nine steps and key questions organizations should ask at each step.
Stage 1: Confirm that a campaign is possible
To determine whether or not it's a good idea to run a campaign, as yourself if you have a solution to a known problem?
"For many years I worked on sweatshop issues," Grimm said. "We really wanted to make sure that people didn't buy sneakers, say, from sweatshops. But the problem was we were running a campaign and, in fact, we didn't have a solution. There were very few shoes that we could guarantee were not made in sweatshops."
Good examples of campaigns with a solution, she said, are those intended to offset carbon footprints.
But also make sure that the problem you're presenting is actually viewed as a problem to your audience and that there's urgency behind it.
Other questions to ask are, “Is this the right time, and is there opposition to the campaign?” For example, smoke-free initiatives initially were met with some serious opposition. Bottom line: You should feel confident that you can run and have success with a campaign before starting it.
Stage 2: Set a clear, measurable, realistic goal
Grimm said she breaks this down into the good, the bad and the ugly. The good is when an organization has a very specific goal, like "pass a statewide ballot initiative in November of 2008 that imposes an additional 12 cent tax on tobacco products in California." The bad is a goal like "get legal counsel for more people who can't afford it when accused of a crime," and an ugly goal is "stop genocide." While absolutely worthy goals, the last two are not specific enough.
Your campaign goal should say exactly what needs to happen, by whom, where and when. Determine whether you're trying to make something happen or stop something from happening, and know what metrics you're going to measure.
Stage 3: Chart your course
The course, Grimm said, shows the steps you'll take in the campaign, likening it to a road trip. Chart those things that allow you to move to the next step in the campaign, taking into consideration the economic and political climate, your skill set, budget and timeline. Estimate the timing for each step on your course.
Questions to ask: Which option is fastest? Which is easiest? Can you learn from other organizations and campaigns that have had success in the past? What are some of the benchmarks that you could measure along the way to know that you're making real progress on your journey?
Research who your audience is and where you want change to occur? Do you seek a change in attitudes, behavior or priorities? Who possesses the power to influence the decision maker? Will it be a behind-the-scenes effort or a public effort? Who are potential allies/opposition? What secret weapons do you have (e.g., celebrity spokespeople)?
Stage 4: Anticipate conditions
What routes, shortcuts, potholes and rest stops stand between you and your goal? Visualize all possible scenarios so you're prepared to leverage opportunities and mitigate challenges. Who will support the campaign? Who will be against it? Who is the competition, and how do you differentiate yourself from competitors? What assets do you bring to the table? Is there an external deadline driving the timing of the campaign? The bottom line: What stands in your way to win support for the campaign?
Stage 5: Know how to make headway
This stage answers the question: What campaign activities will get you from point A to point B? What kinds of activities are you going to have to operate? Do you have a field campaign? Do you need to release a report or a poll? According to Grimm, by the end of stage five "you've really got a road map with some detail in it that's telling you exactly what's going to make up your campaign."
Stage 6: Prioritize your target audiences
Review who the primary decision makers are from your strategy, then list and prioritize the target audiences you need to mobilize to influence and inform them. Measure the target audiences against your budget, and determine who will give you the most bang for your buck.
"The amount of energy and resources you spend should be directly proportional to the importance of each target audience," Grimm said.
When prioritizing your target audiences, consider what you need them to know about the issue, what you need them to do regarding the issue, and what they already know and do about the issue.
Stage 7: Put a public face on your campaign
Give your campaign a name and a personality that is memorable and easily understood, and come up with four main messages that your campaign wants to get across. You want to inspire people to join your campaign. What value do you want to convey? Make sure you convey them in a way that's easy for supporters to turn around and relay to their friends and family members. Are you for something or against something? (Depending on which you choose, the emotions you elicit will be different.) What is your basic campaign theme? Is it credible?
The guide warns against being so creative that people don't understand your name. Once you have a name, run it by a sample audience and see what they think. Also do an Internet search of the name to see if and how it's being used.
Stage 8: Operationalize your campaign
What are the day-to-day tactics you'll need to employ to run the campaign successfully? The guide notes that there are six main campaign tactics: intellectual knowledge, government relations, public mobilization/field organizing, communications, coalition building and fundraising.
Select which tactics you need for your campaign, and build them into your operational plan.
Stage 9: Stay on track
Prepare for the unexpected, and be ready to adapt to changes in the campaign. Build evaluation mechanisms into your plan that let you know when you're making progress and when you need to re-evaluate. Campaigns are going to succeed in some places and fail in others. Meet regularly with your team to discuss progress (preferably weekly) and go over benchmarks (preferably monthly). Ask a predetermined set of key questions to gauge progress and pitfalls. Celebrate small successes in the campaign, and use them to keep your audience and campaign team engaged and motivated.
For a more detailed analysis of each of the stages, including diagrams and sample charts, download "The Just Enough Planning Guide"
To learn more about free webinars offered by Network for Good, visit www.fundraising123.org