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Mile End Institute

Three Essentials to Campaigning – Matthew Lloyd

I am often asked by new activists how to start new campaigns to bring about change and I recently sat on a panel at the University of Birmingham addressing this question. 


Photo by Oleg Laptev on Unsplash.

By trade, I am a political campaign manager and strategist when I am not completing my PhD. My background is in Labour Party politics and I have managed several campaigns for members of Parliament, local Labour Parties and Regional Labour Party headquarters. I have also been a campaign manager on a number of cross-party campaigns such as the ‘People’s Vote Campaign’ for a second EU membership referendum and the ‘Lost My Marbles’ campaign to return the Parthenon sculptures, otherwise known as Elgin marbles, to Athens.  

To ensure your campaign is a success, firstly you need a clear message that defines the campaign. The message needs to be one that resonates with your audience’s everyday experience therefore the message cannot be too technical or broad. Remember that the best messaging is always the truth – it is very hard for the vested interests against your campaign to effectively campaign against you if you are campaigning based on the truth. Your audience has limited time to read your leaflet, infographic, social media post, advert, petition etc. Assume that your leaflet will only be read for thirty seconds as a person picks up the leaflet, scans the content and puts it in the recycling bin. You need to ensure that in that short window your target audience has seen the key titles, keywords, and images. 

Secondly, a good campaign requires a campaign machine to help channel and coordinate your volunteers. The key part of the campaign machine will be the campaign headquarters. If you are just starting your campaign, then your campaign base will probably be someone’s living room (even if it is just for virtual purposes during the pandemic). From your campaign base, you will coordinate your campaigners, your poster painting, your leaflet sorting, your campaign plotting and your team dinners or socials. Your campaign machine needs to ensure that it is easy for volunteers to join your campaign so make sure there are as few barriers to participation as possible. In addition, ensure that there are several different roles or ways that volunteers can help your campaign in order to match their time commitments, skills and interests. Some people will be able to speak to their neighbours, others will be good with social media and others will be willing to sort leaflets or sort your data admin. 

Lastly, a good campaign requires a group of people who share your values and passion for the issue who come together in order to form a social movement around your campaign. You should begin to build up a ‘political campaign family’ as your campaign begins. These are the people who are willing to go campaigning in the rain with you or dress up and protest outside a building for a ‘message moment’ or ‘stunt’ to generate material for your social media channels and the press. You should build a sense of comradery with your fellow campaigners who will define the strength of your campaign. 

If you establish these three strategic pillars, then you will be well on the way to creating an effective campaign.

Matthew Lloyd is studying a PhD in Corbynomics and Brexit at Queen Mary University London.


Note:  This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of the Mile End Institute or Queen Mary University of London.




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