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Developing and implementing a successful communication campaign in the age of social media and ever-growing competition for people’s attention requires a combination of the basic principles of constructing public messages with out of the box thinking and a full use of all the possibilities offered by social media nowadays.
Whether you are an established NGO with a long track record of campaigning or an individual who wants to make his voice heard in the ever-growing competition and information overload on the Internet there are certain rules to be followed. The process from the initial idea to running a successful campaign is composed of three stages:
- Developing campaign strategy (main message, target audience, narratives, funding)
- Planning campaign (one off or sustained, communication channels, timing, messengers)
- Running campaign (kick off, media mix, interaction with audience, feedback, evaluation)
There are many ways how to structure this process, but the easiest one is to answer these four fundamental questions:
What is your aim, what do you want to achieve, what is your main message, what are your objectives.
Unless you can answer these questions in one or two sentences, you must work harder to get there. Imagine that you are going to explain your communication goals to a 5-year-old. Event complex issues and complex should be explained in simple words. If you cannot do it, try harder. Objectives of your campaign should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely).
If you want to engage your audience, tell them a story.
In a world inundated by information, it is the compelling stories, not the issues, that will stand out and be remembered.
Why should people care about your issue? Why is it important, why it affects them?
This is the second most important question. Why does it matter, why should other people care about your message? This is often a make or break part of every campaign. You must make a connection between your cause and average person on the street. Why does this affect me?
Equally important is to answer the question of your own motivation – why do YOU do it. If you are not motivated yourself, how can you expect to convince others. SO even before starting to draft answers to all these questions, answer this one yourself: why do I care?
Who are you talking to? Who is your audience? Who could be interested in your message? Who are your friends and adversaries?
Knowing who are you talking to is a first step towards having a chance at persuading your target audience and focusing your limited resources at the right people. However, before that you must do your homework: Do you know whom do you want to reach? Do you know who they are (age, gender, education, locality, political preferences, issues they care about, media they follow etc.) Some of the data could be difficult to get, but you can also use targeting described below to reach only those who are your main audience.
Important element of the WHO question is also to know their media consumption habits. Are they mostly present on Facebook? WhatsApp? Instagram? Twitter? Who are the authorities and credible voices they trust?
In order to know your audience, do your homework and search for data, opinion polls, analyses.
How do you want to reach them? How do you involve them? How can your audience interact with you?
The answer to HOW question is a follow up to the WHO question. Only by knowing your target audience you can identify the best communication channels, but also the narratives that would work best with your target group.
Talking to your audience in their natural environment is a first step. Second, even more crucial is to find a narrative, a story that would work and reach your communication goal (see the first question).
Third step is to engage your audience and involve them in the campaign activities. Ideally, they can become messengers and disseminators of your message.
WHAT HAS CHANGED?
Social media have transformed every aspect of our societies, changing ways people interact, access information and communicate with one another. Every campaign aiming to achieve any meaningful impact must be visible and engaging on social media.\
The five golden rules for the social media campaigns:
- Video is the king
- Be Mobile-friendly
- Use the right messengers
- Online Mobilisation
- Video is the king. If you aim to have impact, your communication strategy should include vide content in one way or another. Videos on Facebook or Instagram easily outperform any other content. It does not have to look professional, authenticity is what counts.
- Be mobile friendly. Evidence shows, that 80% of Facebook users access this social network by their mobile phones. All your campaign design should be developed with this in mind.
- Use the right messengers. Social media contributed to deterioration of trust to traditional authorities (traditional celebrities, politicians, businessmen, NGOs). Running a campaign as an NGO is an uphill battle, since many people would blame you of all sorts of ills, be ready for such backlash. Therefore, it is crucial to identify, convince and recruit the right messengers who would spread your message to a particular audience much more effectively. The messengers differ according to platform and target group, but can be a deciding factor of a successful campaign.
- Use online mobilisation for your benefit. Use social media not only to spread your message but to create communities of interest, link and connect your supporters. However, be ready to face a well organised opposition composed of ideologically motivated adversaries, trolls, automated bots and their combination.
- Virality. The holy grail of all online campaigns – natural exponential mass sharing and spreading of a particular content. What makes a content viral? Read more here.