Actions can be positive and subtle (a community walk) or loud and confrontational (demonstrations). The primary goal of an action is to encourage a decision maker to meet with you to engage in negotiations. Other goals of your action may be that your group gets attention for the work you are doing to change policy and more people are interested in volunteering or donating.
- Stay focused on your goal. If you need to meet with Senator Smith, plan actions that move your group toward that meeting.
- Know your limits. Only plan on taking actions that your group has the resources (including time, money, and energy) to sustain until the stated goal is reached.
- Keep track of media coverage. Keep your original media list updated by adding new media outlets and continuing to note animal-friendly reporters and publications. Remember that the media work on deadlines, so return their calls immediately. Prepare a press kit (press releases, factsheets, supporting documents, background information, and photos). Keep your press kit simple. Offering press kits electronically will help reporters meet their deadlines quicker and give them easy access to any photos you provide. Learn more about working with the media. View an example on the Alley Cat Allies website of appropriate press photos.
- Do not allow enthusiasm to destroy sound planning. Enthusiastic supporters may want to block the street that the mayor takes to work every day, but if this will only anger your mayor or if the mayor isn’t the decision maker on this issue, then don’t block the street. Take action that will be most likely to lead to the outcome you desire, and take the time to think through the best strategy.
Overall your grassroots campaign should have a logical and coherent plan to ensure its success. Begin with a well-planned public announcement of your campaign goals followed by a set of strategic activities that build upon each other and generate momentum leading to a climax and celebration. The effect should be that of gradually turning up the volume and building on your success.
First create demand for what you want. Then hold decision makers accountable to that demand. Finally, take delivery.
Engaging in a confrontational campaign is probably what most people think of when they imagine effective change, but it is not always necessary or successful. Confrontation can be difficult to maintain, tax resources, and result in a negative perception of your group. Nevertheless, if no one will meet with you, if meetings are unsuccessfully, or if the issue needs to be broadcast to a larger audience, confrontation may be necessary.
Before developing a set of tactics, be sure you have defined your goals, strategy, and campaign communication plan. This foundation will help you determine the right tactics for accomplishing your goals.
Communicating a compelling message, explaining how individuals can become engaged in working toward a solution, and providing an easy vehicle for their engagement are all aspects of creating demand for what you want to change. Put another way, it’s about asking, thanking, informing, and involving the community and then doing it over and over and over again.
Some ways to create demand include:
- Informing as many people as possible what is at stake and how your proposal will improve the situation. Appeal to their emotions.
- Involving people in the issue—they can learn how to trap, visit the shelters, volunteer in a clinic, or gain exposure to the issue first-hand in some other way.
- Engaging people initially by asking them to take the simplest, easiest possible action and then thanking them for their participation. Help them feel important.
- Connecting them with other people, help them feel empowered and a part of something larger.
- Creating media coverage which will encourage discussion.
- Continuing to ask people to help, thanking them when they do, and involving them to solidify that connection and bring them closer to holding the decision maker accountable.
So your decision maker has agreed to help you reach your intended goal. But how will you let the world know about your success? Take the time to think about how you want to make the announcement. A press conference where you can be partnered and visually aligned with the decision maker gives a different image than a court’s decision about your issue. No matter where or how you decide to let others know about the changes you have helped make happen, be sure you thank the decision makers who came through for you and will hopefully align with you in the future. Take the time to thank everyone who helped in the effort—it never hurts to bask in the sun for a moment to celebrate.
Next Step: Specific Tactics and How to Implement Them
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