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7) Specific Tactics and How to Implement Them

  1. Action Alerts
    Sending messages—usually via email—to your advocates that educates them about the issue and directs them to a specific action is a great way to not only make an impact, but also engage your group’s supporters.
    • Why? Action alerts increase enthusiasm among supporters by allowing individuals to have an active role in achieving your organization’s goals, overwhelm an individual or office with mail or phone calls, and demonstrate to officials that there are a large number of people supporting your goal(s).
    • Write positively and persuasively. Write in a positive way about the cats and give only the big, important details about the campaign.
    • Keep it simple by directing to more information. If there is an article or a place your supporters can get more information, give them a link or instructions regarding how they can learn more. Send your alert to those you think are most likely to take action and be sure that the information you send to them is accurate.
    • Be specific. Request a specific action (i.e., telephone calls, letters, local meeting attendance), and be sure to give all the details about where to call or write, the person to direct the call or letter to, or the address of where the meeting will be held and when.
    • Help your advocates get started. Include a few talking points to get people started or even include a sample letter they can edit and send.
  2. Demonstrations
    Gathering supporters in one place for a rally can be an excellent visual tactic that can help your group achieve your goal and bring awareness to your issue through media attention.
    • Why? Demonstrations bring advocates out into the public eye where they can help get attention for the issue and also meet each other—a great way to encourage networking. Demonstrations are also excellent morale boosters for volunteers.
    • Find a creative location. Not every rally to convince your city council has to be before their meetings or even staged at city hall or your town’s square. Think about upcoming events in your community and where crowds of people might be anyway.
    • Make it official. Be sure to check on permit requirements and obtain them if necessary.
    • Make it newsworthy. Consider holding a press conference during your demonstration, where you can make an announcement or host a speaker who will talk to the masses at your rally.
    • Create visuals. Design and create eye-catching posters and signs with your message that advocates can use. Make sure they are readable from a distance; use colors which draw attention to the signs and show up easily on television. Dark lettering on a light colored background works best. Include your logo. Other tactics that create compelling images include advocates dressing in a specific color or wearing a specific pin or ribbon. Strong visuals help get your event on the press’ radar screen.
    • Prepare leaflets. Have factsheets or brochures available for advocates to pass out.
    • Don’t argue with counter-protesters and expect some negative responses. Remain professional and remind advocates you are working with to do the same. Your group’s image is on the line. Never act rudely toward opponents or the general public.
    • Identify your spokespeople. It is important that the public and your opponents get the message you want them to get. Have one predetermined spokesperson. Instruct your group to point reporters to that one person. This person should be articulate and familiar with the campaign and the most important points to get across. He or she should practice the points, and respond to any question with predetermined “answers.” Statements should be brief and to the point. Having them written down and on hand often helps.
  3. Disruptive Tactics
    There are a wide array of tactics which fall into this category: flooding phone lines with calls, attempting to crash servers with mass emails, organizing boycotts or sit-ins, and even demonstrating without a permit.
    • Why? Disrupting business as usual and forcing people to meet your demands in order to stop their pending action draws attention to your issue and can help move you closer to achieving your goal(s).
    • Critical masses are necessary. In order to sustain the disruption as long as necessary, it’s important that you involve as many people as possible.
    • Maintain your reputation. Disruptive tactics can lead to negative attention to your issue. They should be used as last resorts to reaching your goals. Make sure you are completely prepared for the potential fallouts—think about what they might be and how they might impact your organization in the short- and long-term.
  4. Door-to-Door Canvassing
    Speaking with your neighbors and fellow residents is a great, personal approach to direct contact.
    • Enlist volunteers to canvas targeted areas. Identify a neighborhood to target by thinking about where you might be able to enlist the most support. Do they have outdoor cats in their community? Are there animal lovers living there?
    • Prepare volunteers with a script and materials. Volunteers should have a script and feel comfortable interacting in a conversation with residents. The script should be no longer than a minute and should conversationally tell the story of your campaign and end with an “ask.”
    • Make your “ask” clear. People do not have a lot of time and their attention spans are short. Clearly state what you are asking them to do—sign a petition, donate, come to a workshop, etc.
    • Make it easy – Do a “lit drop.” Not enough volunteers or time to canvas your neighborhood? Consider doing a lit drop where volunteers do not ring doorbells, but rather leave literature at each designated house within the targeted area.
  5. Letters to the Editor
    Writing a letter to the editor of your local paper can help get the word out to even more people in your community.  Read sample letters to the editor and learn how to write a letter to the editor.
    • Keep it short and focused. Check with the local paper for their guidelines, including word count, deadlines, and where to send it—and follow them. Focus on the issues that really matter and the compelling information that might change minds.
    • Stay positive and not overly emotional. A short letter is meant to give basic information and generate interest in the issue.
  6. Letters from Your Group to Key Decision Makers
    Generally, before you initiate tactics that will broaden the base of advocates chiming in on the issue, it is important to send a letter to the decision maker from your organization. Only when that letter does not get you in the door or get you to your goal should you implement most of the other available tactics. Think of this as the first step before escalating the campaign to the next level.
    • Provide factual information. This letter is usually your first inquiry about the issue for which you are seeking change. This is your chance to tell the story and lay out the facts, as well as establish credibility with the decision maker.
    • Keep it short and focused. Present compelling information that will change their minds, but keep it brief.
    • Include an “ask.” Be sure you include a request in your first paragraph so that the decision maker knows why you are writing. The request could be as simple as asking for a meeting with them or a moratorium on the offending action (like trapping). Include a deadline for response and a promise to follow-up (and be sure to do so).
    • Track your letter’s journey. Send your letter through any of the mail carrying services that offer return receipt, registered mail, or some other tracking service so that you can be certain your letter arrived.
  7. Letter Writing Campaign
    If the letter your organization sent to the decision maker goes unanswered and your deadline has passed, often the next logical step is to ask your advocates to send their own letters, emails, or faxes.
    • Demonstrate that people are paying attention. When many people send letters about the same issue, officials usually take notice. This is a great way for advocates to take action and share their personal experiences.
    • Target the advocates who you want to take action. If the decision maker is an elected official, residents in his or her district or municipality will have the most swaying power. Targeting the action towards specific groups of advocates will help make your action even more powerful.
    • Offer themes and main points. Sample letters might be repeated by supporters and might be disregarded. Consider writing a few main points to help advocates draft unique letters and encourage individual stories.
  8. Meetings or Workshops
    In the height of social action in the United States, these events were known as “teach-ins.” Meetings and workshops present a way to educate and rally supporters.
    • Choose a convenient location. Schedule the meeting at a place that is handicap-accessible and centrally located if possible. Choose a time when you think the most people can come (evenings, weekends). Consider having child care available if possible. If you plan to show a video or will need the internet, make sure you confirm that the facility offers the necessary equipment before you schedule the event.
    • Educate your supporters. Create and stick to an agenda. Choose speakers who are compelling and comfortable with public speaking. Use this opportunity to get the facts out to supporters and put an end to any potential rumors or myths (about the situation or the cats in general) before they begin.
    • Empower the attendees. Have a plan for next steps beyond your meeting. These plans will take advantage and harness the energy generated by a meeting or rally. Empower attendees to take on various roles in the next steps of the campaign.
    • Spread the word! Consider asking attendees to talk to at least two people about what they learned and spread the word.
    • Ask attendees to sign in. Tracking supporters will not only help grow your supporter list, but also help identify leaders of the pack. If you have a supporter who regularly comes to meetings and events but doesn’t speak up to help, take the time to ask them personally. Not everyone is comfortable in a crowd and many need the personal touch of being asked in order to get further engaged.
  9. Petition Drives
    Signing a petition is a great way to grow your list of supporters with very little effort. While a supporter writing a letter or making a phone call is a more powerful gesture of support, this is a great way to quickly show a decision maker how many people support your goals. View a sample Alley Cat Allies' petition. 
    • Keep it short and focused. Write important details first. Fact check your information before you include it in the petition.  Use a catchy headline to draw people into the text that follows.
    • Prepare a brochure with more detailed information. Since your petition will be short and not overly detailed, it is helpful to offer supporters a brochure or factsheet which can help them learn more about the issue and your organization. Remember, you will likely be obtaining signatures from passersby who may be in a rush.
    • Consider using an online petition website. There are several online petition websites which offer advocates the ability to sign petitions electronically and allow organizers the ability to download the list of supporters so it can be presented to decision makers.
    • Collect contact information. Signatures are great, but asking supporters to give not just their full name but also mailing and email addresses will make their signature more powerful. Public officials like to see that the people signing a petition are local residents and real people. Further, by collecting this information you will be building your organization’s supporters, which can mean increased fundraising and participation.
  10. Press Releases
    Writing a press release alerts the media to the presence of your campaign and may lead to newspaper, television, radio, or other media stories. Saving this tactic for when you have an event or major announcement will help better your chances of success. Depending on the size of your city or town, even small demonstrations can make front page news. Learn more about how to write a press release. 
    • Keep it short and focused. Write important details first. Fact check your information before you include it.  Use a catchy headline to draw people into the text that follows.
    • Who, What, Where, When, Why. Make sure to include the basic information. Create a template description about your organization (i.e., boilerplate) and insert the text into the press release. Make sure to include a contact person who is well-spoken and can articulate the issue well.
    • Don’t bombard the media. Reporters receive tens, if not hundreds, of press releases a day. Make sure yours is newsworthy and stands out, but do not send the same announcement over and over again.
  11. Press Conference
    Generating events for the media to experience is a great way to not only get into your local paper, but also create supporters.
    • Choose your time and location wisely. Be mindful of reporters’ deadlines. Consider holding your press conference in the mid- to late-morning when they can attend the event and still have time to make an afternoon deadline. Pick a convenient location that has easy parking or is walkable from major media offices. Consider a location that is associated with the issue.
    • Gather impressive speakers. Invite local celebrities or issue experts who can speak passionately, but briefly, about the issue.
    • Alert the media one week in advance. Give reporters at least a week notice so that they can add it to their calendars. A reminder the day before is also a good idea.
  12. Public Hearings
    If your local government is holding a hearing or other sort of meeting where your issue is expected to arise, it’s best to be there, ready to speak up. With a little bit of planning, you can even have a group of advocates there showing support.
    • Present a united image. Make or purchase pins or T-shirts that all of your advocates can wear at public meetings or other gatherings. Uniting the group shows that you are all together and will help decision makers get a visual of how many people support the campaign. Signs, buttons, ribbons, etc. can all display your central message.
    • Speak with conviction in a positive, passionate way. Stay focused on the facts if you choose to speak. Prepare your notes ahead of time, and while it is helpful to add personal antidotes, keep them short and make sure they have a germane point. Most public hearings give speakers time limits.
    • Arrive well-prepared. Dress professionally. Representing your organization at public hearings will help you gain credibility with government officials. Remain calm when responding to questions and try not to get emotional.
    • Anticipate the opposition. Prepare statements to diffuse their arguments, but only address them if they arise.
  13. Special Events
    Hosting vigils, walks, educational meetings, and other similar events are creative ways to gather supporters and generate attention to your issues.
    • Be mindful of resources. Before deciding to host a special event, determine if you can afford it. Consider financial costs as well as the amount of human resources necessary to create a quality event.
    • Think big. Think about large events you have been to or heard of for inspiration. You can always scale ideas back or make the event your own.
    • Work backwards. Think about the event you have in mind and be sure that it is a step that truly will help you reach your goals. Further, when planning your event, work backwards to create a calendar of to-dos starting from the date the event is planned.
  14. Yard Signs
    Visual notes around town about your campaign will keep people talking and wanting to know more.
    • Keep it simple. Signs should have no more than 7-10 words and use a font that is bold and easily readable from a distance of at least 10 feet. Use pleasant colors which catch the eye but do not distract from your message.
    • Show personal commitment. Yard signs communicate to people throughout the neighborhood that someone they know is committed enough to publicize his or her support.

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