Implementing a campaign

Now it’s time to look at what you could actually do during your campaign. In this podcast, you will hear SCI activists and campaigners Danai, Claudia and Thomas speak about their experience on how to implement successful campaigns. They will give you some tips and advice on what to do or not to do.

Feel free to sit somewhere comfortably while listening to this podcast. You could take a paper or a notebook and write down the things you find most interesting. If you want, you can also write some of your impressions and thoughts here in the comments.


00:00:00 Thomas

Hello and welcome to this podcast episode, as part of the Speak Up For Peace online course. My name is Thomas. I am a campaign strategist, I have done some campaigns and I can talk from my experience. I’ve done all kinds of weird campaigns. Mostly around climate justice, animal rights, but also about antimilitarism.

And with me, I have two other people. Who are you?

00:00:28 Danai

My name is Danai. I’m currently residing in Greece. I am not a campaign strategist but I’m working a lot on the communication for social initiatives and also campaigns, and I’m just young and fascinated with the Internet and how it can change things. So this is my role in this conversation today, and I want to pass it on to Claudia.

00:00:58 Claudia

Thank you, Danai. I’m Claudia and I work as the Communication and Volunteer Coordinator for the International Secretariat of SCI. So in my job, I also create campaigns together with other SCI organisations.

And it’s mostly social media and online campaigns for awareness raising or information to volunteers.

00:01:24 Thomas

Thank you. Nice to have the two of you here. If you’re listening to this, you probably just did the previous module about campaign strategy – Strategies for Advocacy – and I would like to start with this maybe. What tactics do you have or what makes you think that a campaign can be effective?

What ideas do you have for that?

00:01:46 Claudia

In my experience, it’s very important that you know who you want to talk to and why. Then you can choose specific days, for example, or specific networks or other existing campaigns or topics to connect your campaign to so that it will exist in an already present environment and conversation, and it will make it stronger.

00:02:18 Thomas

So for example, around 8th of March, the International Feminist Day, or 21st of September, on International Day of Peace.

00:02:26 Claudia

Exactly, exactly. So you can choose international days that are in the list of the UN days, but there are also other international days, for example. Proclaimed by International organisations that are very well known. Yeah, so you can choose the one that is most connected to your topic and to the message that you want to send.

00:02:48 Danai

From my side, thank you Claudia for this. The first part is who you are and what do you want to tell. These are two crucial, base questions. Based on these answers, you’re gonna make your tactics. But I think a very crucial element also in this is originality.

Because in a way you want to be provocative in some way, or annoying in some sort of way. So you have to pick what works best. The the first stage for this is always a very thorough research on what is your context? Who you are? Where are you coming from? What do you want to say? Who do you want to say it to? And then you can inform, based on these needs, what do you want to do. But keep it original. Keep it fun also for you. Make sure that it’s something you enjoy doing. So, I don’t know, if you don’t like gathering signatures, maybe it’s OK to not do it, but it’s usually based on the context.

00:03:54 Thomas

So, so far we had: international days are good, originality is good, keep it fun, something that you enjoy doing. I already heard a bit, yeah, if you want to get attention, there are many different ways to get it. And usually I think for me, a core principle is that, what you think of when you think of a protest, you shouldn’t do.

That will not get you attention. Lots of people who are dressed like protesters, walking in the street with the same signs that we already know – it will usually not get you where you want to be. I think what I’ve done that was a bit more effective, I used to work in an animal rights organisation and we were like 5 activists. We dressed up in like different clothing. We had one in front of a slaughterhouse where I was the slaughterer and my 2 colleagues were a cow. And we did a whole kind of performance in front of the slaughterhouse and just invited journalists to come, and journalists loved it because they saw “ ah, all these crazy animal rights protesters, all dressed up”. And then they could put us on the headlines because it’s an interesting image.

So it’s good to think in images and something that catches attention. It’s not always about getting the biggest number of people. That can be one thing, like I think it’s good to have superlatives. Like, “The so and so many people go on the streets”, but it can also be “ohh these activists, this strange thing”, or “they did this really unlikely thing somehow.” So yeah.

00:05:22 Claudia

I also wanted to know, in your experience, what you think about either appealing to more negative emotions or to positive emotions. Because I find that when you appeal to positive emotions, people are more likely to then act. But if you like, shame them into acting a certain way then it’s not very useful. I don’t know what you think about this as well.

00:05:50 Thomas

Yeah. For me both are useful. Like, positive emotions have their legitimacy and negative emotions as well. I think from some of my experience a little bit of negative emotion, like sadness or anger, can work really well in activating people. Especially anger. I mean, it’s anger at injustice, no? They’re kind of the core elements of this emotion. So in that way, sparking anger, can activate people somehow. Of course, you need to be careful with this anger. Like what you’re directing it to, and whether this is actually justified.

And like in the strategy chapter, you will also probably learnt just now, but you shouldn’t escalate immediately like you should start with a small action and build up to it.

Yeah, like people need to understand why you have this anger. Like, people shouldn’t be alienated by this anger as well.

So for me it always depends a bit on the context, like how angry it can be, or how negative it can be.

Sometimes positive emotions are actually more effective and sometimes negative emotions can be more effective. So it could be either. Emotions in general are good. I think it’s good to read books on emotion.

00:07:00 Danai

I completely agree with this, and also it depends on the context again. Just because for example, I’m going to give a case study from Greece. Greece has a lot of problems socially, and I have noticed people working here have become kind of desensitised to them, so it’s very difficult to draw them in with positive emotions. Like “yes, let’s do this, so everyone can feel included!” or something like that. So for me, I always try to shock them out in whatever campaign I’m a part of. “Look at this, look at what you are so desensitised in”, and I am highlighting why this should be resolved and it shouldn’t exist.

But for example, this same thinking would there be applicable necessarily to another context, so it’s really dependent on the context, what kind of things you want to evoke. The only thing I want to highlight is the strategy and the tactic that works across the board, is that you’re basically offering the bridge between inaction and action, inaction and change. So you have to really think about how you select the way, for lack of a better word. It should be accessible to everyone. It shouldn’t be something that only a few people can do. Something that speaks to the emotion of people, because emotions are something that we universally as humans have, so it’s great to tap into it. And then give them what they can do to resolve it. So you basically build up an emotion and you offer a resolve as well. Usually in this way people are like, “yes, I will go, I will do this.” At least this has been my experience so far with activism.

00:08:51 Thomas

I think, something that I’ve also experienced is to mix different kinds of emotions. So for example, you like, you fight against something really cruel, to fight it with cuteness is something that people would not think about usually, you know. But sometimes these kind of unlikely things can be what gets you attention.

In Austria, for example, there’s a group called Grandmas Against the Right Wing and it’s grandmas that protest against right wing politics. It’s interesting because they are not as affected by police violence or by the kind of backlash that you usually have because they are grandmas and they are very nice. Like journalists love to talk to them. So these kind of like things can, I don’t know, in an antimilitarist context you have grandmas against killer robots or grandmas against nuclear weapons.

This would automatically get news attention just because it’s unlikely.

00:09:45 Danai

Yes, I think that paradoxes make head turn and this is what you want. So grandmas against killer robots – it’s amazing! I want to support this already because it makes me laugh. And also humour works sometimes, depending on what you are targeting. For example I think about like, White Savour Barbie, for example. It’s another great example because you just see Barbie in all sorts of volunteering scenarios. And it’s really actually fun and enjoyable to watch and you learn something from it. So it’s another good example of how cute, or different elements that you didn’t really think they would go together, actually generate traction.

00:10:29 Thomas

How about press work? What else? Anything else that that you think is important? Like this element of “don’t keep doing the same thing, doing something surprising” is the most important.

But also it needs to go together with keeping a red thread. So OK, you do lots of things that are maybe unlikely, but still you should always have the same message. Every action that you do should come back to your message. People should understand your message just by looking at your action and they should see some kind of consistency in that language.

And use the same kind of images that you show. People should understand that it all comes from the same place and it all leads to the same thing – which is trying to get your more involved in it, by sending a petition or by joining a protest.

00:11:15 Claudia

Yes. And I think it needs to be very clear what the action that you want from your audience is. So if you want them to sign a petition, then at some point your action needs to lead to that. Also with press work, I think if you can already incorporate your final goal, what it is that you want people to reach already, in the press, then people who are interested can come and already join you in that. Or just be curious about what you have to say and then they will be present and they can step into your action.

00:11:59 Thomas

And how do you find journalists to invite reactions?

00:12:04 Claudia

So when it comes to, journalists can approach it in two different ways. One, you can just try to call different newspapers and try to find the right contact. Maybe the right department that is connected with your topic and call them. Calling is usually more effective than writing an email or other ways of contacting them. And when you call you should be very direct in what you want them to do. Present very quickly your message and the fact that you want this message out. They don’t have much time for you, so you need to be quick and to the point.

The other way is to build connections. So if you know someone who is a journalist and they know someone that writes about the topic that you want to discuss, then it’s good to have these personal connections. And if you have an inside contact or you built a connection from the previous calls that you had, just keep it, nurture it, and that is very important.

00:13:17 Thomas

Yeah, I have similar experiences. I just started collecting contacts of journalists. I called, I tried different ways to get connect contacts of journalists. I also looked at “OK, what journalists have already written about a topic like this?”. I just googled and I would look which ones might be interested in this. And then I add them to a list as well. Yeah. It’s also good to think of like stuff like radio or TV.

Yeah, it’s not just newspapers that could report about it, but also other kind of media, magazines…

Anything is interesting. Maybe we slowly come to social media. Any tips for social media? For people who want to do campaigns on social media.

00:14:08 Claudia

I’m just thinking two things. One is you have a campaign in person, you know, in the square and then you want to advertise it before and showcase it after. So this is one thing and the other thing is having a campaign completely online.

My first tip would be really have a solid concept and plan before going into your action. Don’t wait for the concept of how you will present your action online until the very end, until you are in the action.

You have to have a plan before so that the in-person action and the online action are very tied together. They have the same concept, the same visuals, the same message, the same hashtags or slogans. This you need to plan in advance.

00:15:01 Danai

Specific fonts that we use, specific letters that we use, specific language that we use, colour… all of those things really, really help because people can see that “these posts” for example, “oh, it’s from this initiative”. For example in my mind I have Greenpeace. The kind of campaigns that they were doing, they were generating a lot of traction because they were using negative emotions in their visual and they were not shying away from it. So for me this is an example of a good campaign – how to do it online. And because they were always doing this, they never changed.

The other thing is transparency. Sometimes campaigns don’t really invest in making their work more known and archiving it online somehow. But this makes it difficult for people to see what has been going on with this campaign.

What are the goals? All of those different things. What are the steps? What has been accomplished so far? So transparency around what you’re doing. I actually think it’s a great, great thing to have.

Also, because my motto for this is that you want people to look at you as legit. That you’re legit and serious, and you know what you want to do. Because these generate a lot more engagement. People will generally gravitate towards something more legit to participate in. If they see that this is something a bit all over the place, maybe not. And this can actually still be cultivated in the way you present yourself online and offline.

00:16:46 Thomas

On the legit part – also offline, it makes a big difference if you have like a printed, designed protest sign somewhere, and everybody has the same, the same colour. Or if you just have like a cardboard sign that you wrote on – like that also has its charm, but it just seems less organised and seems less professional basically.

The more you fake your professionality basically, or the more you just include this kind of professional design into your campaign, the more legit you will seem as well. And that gives you power as well, which is what campaigning in the end is all about. Gaining the power to influence decision-making.

00:17:25 Danai

For this I want to add that there are great tutorials online. I would highly suggest looking at tutorials from YouTube, especially about branding and how businesses are doing it. Because they have great, great ways that you can that you can use actually to put it into the campaign. So also don’t be shy to like search a lot, ask around.

Try to find things, maybe in unconventional places like businesses. This stuff actually works.

00:17:56 Claudia

Yes. Also, it’s good to keep this consistency. For example, you can advertise your in person action before on social media. This could be very explicit, or it could also be a bit mysterious to, you know, entice people to come to your event and see what’s going on. And then to publish pictures or videos, or also more organised interviews for example afterwards. If you did manage to have these press articles published, or videos from influencers, or other external content, it’s very good if you share it in your own social media. This gives you more legitimacy that we were talking about before.

More credibility, and yes, it expands your reach.

00:18:52 Thomas

Thank you for all of your wisdom. I think I want to come towards the end of this podcast episode.

Is it actually a podcast episode? Isn’t a podcast is more like a running thing? OK, sorry dear listener.

Anyway, so we want to talk a bit about backlash, and self-care. It’s kind of this aspect around it.

I think for me, what’s important is, so you have your target in mind and you want your target to do things. Sometimes it’s good to try to talk to your target. So to consistently offer, “hey, would you be up for a meeting now? Could we talk about this?” and try to get their attention, and get them to sit on the table here to negotiate. I think for me that is always important. And changing tactics according to that. But yeah, the targets, and of course the general public, they can also not like a campaign. What ideas do you have for backlash? What experiences do you have with this?

00:19:51 Claudia

I think it’s important to identify what comments you receive are genuine and can be reasoned with, or they can lead to interesting and positive conversation, and what comments are trolls or are hateful and really don’t lead anywhere if you comment on them or if you engage with this conversation. So this is a bit up to your interpretation. But yes, general suggestion, take a deep breath before you decide if you comment, if you don’t comment, and what to do. Don’t panic, don’t just comment right away before deciding what your strategy is and what also is the best way for you to protect yourself as well.

00:20:46 Danai

We start from another place, which is that you generate a campaign to generate annoyance and provocative feelings. So, good if you have backlash! And people being like, “oh, why are you doing this? Why are you blocking this road? It gets very irritating for me.” Perfect! You’re doing your job.

So the next step is to see how do you want to respond to this. What I do is usually before everything starts, when I am in a calm place, I sit down and write all of the answers I want to give in different scenarios and different kinds of backlash that I might encounter. For example, if I know that my action is about blocking a road, I write down, “OK, one person gets very annoyed with me and they step out of the car. They ask me to move.” I write down what I want to do in this scenario. Or someone starts getting very offensive with me. What do I want to do? So planning ahead is great also emotionally. Because our stress as humans is kind of like rooted into not having a plan.

If we don’t have a plan, we get stressed. But if we do have a plan, not so much because we already know in our toolkit what we have to respond to this.

Of course we cannot predict everything, but you can have a pretty big plan. An array of things already prepared.

And then it’s the other thing about trolling. Thank you for mentioning it, because sometimes you might engage in conversations that are actually fruitful and get your point across. But sometimes you get people the most usual one I get is “yeah, OK. You are doing this. But what about this other thing?” And usually the person doesn’t really care about this other thing. They just want to say this to shut down whatever actual point I’m trying to make. So in this scenario I make plans again.

How do I want to respond?

And the way to plan out all of these responses is, how can I navigate this by completely shutting down the other side? If I don’t want to engage with it.

And stay true to my message. And what do I want to say? Usually I prefer not to get personal or answer from an interpersonal point of view, but rather as a campaign to person point of view. Because, remember, you are carrying a message here. It’s not just you as a person, but yeah, stuff like this most of the time. But also sometimes it’s very helpful to unplug, especially if it’s online. If you receive hate online, maybe you can choose to filter out comments, or to not respond to messages, or have another person respond to messages for you.

00:23:38 Thomas

Yeah. We also talk about this all sitting in places where it’s possible to do to do activism on the street and so on. So this is of course not safe and possible everywhere.

What is safe, always very much depends on your context, so keep that in mind, keep yourself secure and make a risk management plan out in advance, and include that in your strategy. Like there are places where it’s forbidden to talk about war. Then maybe you can’t go to the streets and talk about war, you know? But maybe there’s a sneaky little way that you can find that you could still do something. Or maybe there’s another kind of form of action that you could take that is still possible, you know? So campaigning is all about being creative and finding a way that is effective, gets the attention of people, gets change done, but also keeps us yourself healthy and safe.

Maybe that’s it for today’s episode of Speak Up for Peace. Thank you so much for joining Danai and Claudia, it was a pleasure to have you here. Have fun with the rest of the course!