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Successful advocacy takes different kinds of work: persuasive policy analysis, clear communication and savvy use of communications channels—from the press to the web to one-on-one meetings—among many others. Persuasion is as old as conversation, but even though languages and tools change, the rules have hardly changed at all.

In policy advocacy as in any purposeful communicating, getting the job done requires that you know your audience, know your goals, and know how to tell a good story. Even if you’re telling it in 140 characters on Twitter.

Later this month, on September 25, we’ll be hosting a webinar discussion on seamlessly linking digital communications and traditional communications for better planning and more effective outreach. Topics will include choosing tools that suit your audience’s online habits; using different media to deliver the same message; improving your impact by measuring results; and unifying online and offline messages across a project or campaign.

As we work to bridge transparency policy and technology strategy, we’ve learned that a return to first principles of advocacy communications is never a waste of time. Not only does a check-in on goals, audiences and good story-telling help strengthen any project, but it also draws out the same questions that techies and web strategists must ask to plan smart online work.

Groups that understand this are usually more persuasive online and are always more influential as a result. If you have a story about a project that linked online and offline efforts well—or didn’t—or questions about how your own group can create a better outreach plan from the ground up, please join us later this month.

Some of the key topics we will review include:

All-purpose communications principles:

Goals: What is the specific change you are seeking, modest or large? How will the world be different if you succeed?

Audience: Who are you trying to influence with this project? Who is the imagined reader/user(s) of this information?

Tone and Voice: Have you matched your words and tone to your message and audience? e.g., Did you say “citizens” or “people?” Did you use policy jargon? Did you write for attorneys or for average newspaper readers?

Story: Are you telling a story or just asserting things? If the world will be better because of your work, for whom will it be better? If there is a problem you are proposing to solve, who currently is experiencing the problem and how is that affecting their life?

Digital communications reminders:

Audience-driven strategy: Do you need Facebook page for your campaign when you are trying to influence members of parliament who never go on Facebook? Have you aligned your technology opportunity with your audiences’ day-to-day behaviors and habits?

Choosing the right “channels” online: If you want a minister to rethink a policy, which newspaper does that minister read—or the minister’s chief of staff? If you want citizens to understand a mining budget, is it better to post a graph they can share with friends? Or a picture of a closed-down school? Don’t just choose the right technology, choose the right medium for your message.

Talking AT people versus talking WITH them: Social media gives everyone the chance to be an information source, not just an information consumer. Are you prepared to turn your audience into partners? Can they help tell your story—perhaps by telling their own stories? Can they help you spread the word in a way that feels like collaboration, not just dissemination on your behalf?

Don’t promise content you can’t deliver: Starting a blog can be like owning a dog or a farm animal. If you can’t feed it, clean it and pay it some attention, don’t do it. The same is true for a Twitter or Facebook account. Make sure you have the capacity and resources to engage people on these channels.

Two communications planning tools that use similar principles are the “POST” method, which asks groups to think about people first, technology last, and the “SMART Chart” designed to ensure that outreach plans are both savvy and achievable.

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