1. Campaigns are stories and should be presented as narratives
The lifespan of a campaign creates a story, and the emotional content of how the story is told is an important factor in keeping participants engaged. Good storytellling means highlighting and interpreting the emotional content of the tale – playing up the highpoints and dramatizing the low points to evoke responses with the audience (in this case, the campaign membership base). Simplification and repetition of key campaign messages is important, as well as variation in the tone – upbeat & positive vs. serious & determined.
2. Campaigns evolve over time, and participants should be re-engaged in each phase
In setting out the short, medium and long term timetables, the campaign coordinators should build in points where the activist base can be re-engaged to launch a new phase in the campaign. This is the way to re-energize and re-focus the participants, and get them to repeat actions. As much as possible the cycles of the campaign should be forecast – for instance, the MakePovertyHistory campaign has identified 4 key international meetings that will be held over the next year, and have already presented these dates to their activists as future campaign highpoints for action and mobilization. A new mobilization cycle will begin well ahead of each of the forecast highpoints.
3. Participants should be visible actors within the campaign
The campaign content is not just generated from the centre – i.e. the “official voice” of the organization, but includes places where input and content from individual activists is encouraged and visible. This doesn’t have to be a free-for-all – in fact it works best to have the user-created content fed through a mediated and managed communication venue, such as a guestbook or opinion survey or blog.
In a deeper sense, the campaign needs to be designed around the participants and communicate clearly that their involvement is a prime focus of the campaign. As an example, see the Greenpeace No Whaling Virtual March (http://whales.greenpeace.org) where the prime front-and-centre focus of the campaign is squarely on the participants.
4. Recruitment into the campaign is active and assumed
Recruitment into the campaign is not presented in a passive manner, as one option on a menu (i.e. a Take Action or Join the Campaign button). Instead, the Take Action/Join the campaign option is the default assumption– i.e., the homepage is designed with the assumption that everyone who arrives is there to join the campaign. In design terms, it would be like making the Take Action/Join the Campaign page into the front page of the site.
5. New signups are drawn immediately into action
New recruits are walked through a “gauntlet” of easy online actions to get them engaged in some of the current actions – this could include signing an online petition, inviting others, sending an email to politician, posting a self-introduction, answering a survey or quiz, entering a contest, etc.
This it to help participants view the campaign as being an active venue, where they are expected to respond and participate in actions, not just to be informed and concerned.
6. Open campaign management
Participants should be engaged as co-activists by the campaign organizers — and not viewed as a “target audience”. This means opening up the processes of the campaign to an extent that allows the participants to feel they are party to the inner workings of the campaign. They should be given broader contexts for actions and decisions – not just told “now we need to do this” without explaining how this action fits into the overall strategy and supports further phases of the campaign. Campaign messaging can be more engaging when internal goal setting is made “public” – as in “we need to reach our goal of 10,000 members before the G8 meeting next week. Please forward this message to 5 friends”
7. Participants are encouraged to self-organize and high-value members are identified and cultivated
Instead of existing only as a mass of unconnected individuals, the campaign participant base should be encouraged to interact and form subgroup based on geographic location, tasks, issues, or a variety of other factors. This creates a structure of peer support that will extend the active lifetime of the participants, and help to increase the capacity for action within the network. Differentiation should also be encouraged in terms of identifying and recognizing the most active, committed supporters. These high value members can be encouraged to take on larger roles as volunteer organizers, local captains or advocates for the campaign, and can become an important subgroup for launching new campaign actions. Keep in mind the old rule that 80% of the activity is likely being done by 20% of the people.
8. Members may generate their own activities within the campaign framework
One of the prime strengths of a mobilized supporter base is its ability to generate its own forms of participation. This can be a great asset for many forms of campaigning, both online and offline because it decentralizes mobilization and coordination responsibilities and brings a level of creativity and spark into a campaign that canâ€™t be built entirely from the centre. Campaign activities can be designed to encourage the generation of local activities – for instance, Amnesty Canada’s annual write-a-thon encourages participants to sign up to create their own “letter-writing event”, which in practice has been as varied as a whole classroom activity, a private tea party, a sign up table at a local cafÃ©, or even a discounted a haircut at a barber shop – all to encourage more writing of letters to support the campaign.
9. Leverage the social network connections of members
Many individuals are active in multiple social circles or networks (family, work, friends, faith, hobbies, etc.), so one primary potential area for network growth is to engage existing members as recruiters to secure more signups from within their own circle of associates. Members should be encouraged regularly to invite friends, colleagues, and family to join the ranks of campaign supporters.
10. Fundraising as an engagement tool
Fundraising is sometimes considered to be an anti-activism activity that can work against motivation to take action in other forms. In-campaign fundraising, for specific needs or to achieve certain targets within the campaign has the opposite effect, and draws the donor in deeper – since they are making a personal investment in the campaign, they are more closely tied to its eventual success. As well, one of the easy ways for members to approach their associates to help the campaign is in the form of a personal fundraising drive – i.e., “sponsor me in this event or cause”.