Developing a Campaign Strategy
Setting Campaign Objectives
Campaigns tackle very large and complicated issues. With them we try to improve journalists’ working conditions, bring governments to respect and promote freedom of expression, or stop the killing of journalists in conflict situations. None of these issues are going to be resolved from one day to the next. But, before we achieve our ultimate goals a number of steps need to happen within a campaign's particular time frame. These steps are our campaign objectives
while the larger issue is our campaign goal
To effectively outline a campaign strategy and determine what the change being sought by a campaign will look like, it’s necessary to set campaign objectives. Campaign objectives help in the planning and design of activities that will achieve tangible outcomes. They are also essential in monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of campaigning work (see Monitoring and Evaluation)
Objectives have to be in line not only with the overall goal of the campaign, but also with an organisation’s resources and capacities. Campaign objectives need to be S
elevant and T
ime-bound: they need to be SMART
Question: How SMART do campaign objectives need to be?
Answer: As SMART as possible.
Establishing a SMART Objective involves stating what will be achieved within the campaign’s timeline and what steps will take place in order to make this happen. For example, it is not enough to set as an objective: “To improve journalists’ working conditions”. However, that could be the broader goal of the campaign, which is supported by several strategic SMART objectives.
Analysis of the campaign issue might indicate some of the steps necessary to achieving the broader goal. For example, with a goal of improving journalists’ working conditions it might be necessary to attain the recognition of journalists’ unions by the government; the establishment of compulsory work contracts between journalists and editors; and the setting of national minimum wages and working hours. A SMART objective will define the progress one aims to achieve on each of these more specific fronts.
Thus, for the first campaign objective - the recognition of journalists’ unions - it is necessary to find out if there is legislation on the matter that needs to be approved by parliament, or if there are any other relevant legal procedures underway or requiring initiation, according to specific time-lines. The campaign team needs to be specific as to what outcomes will be achieved that are both relevant and realistic during the life of the campaign. A new bill may not get passed within the timeframe of a one-year campaign. But perhaps a declaration of support from members of parliament, or, a draft bill passed by the relevant parliamentary committee would be possible, as the first steps to getting new legislation on the issue.
Thus, the specific
objective would be: “To get a draft bill approved by the labour rights parliamentary committee, allowing journalists, including freelance journalists, to constitute unions”.
Having specific, concrete objectives allows the campaign team to have greater focus and to identify areas where capacity-building might be needed – for example, around strengthening lobbying expertise – in order to achieve the objectives. Specific objectives also make it easier to convene relevant allies, such us other freedom of expression organisations or sympathetic members of parliament and labour organisations, around a defined aim.
Furthermore, a set of specific objectives provides the benchmarks to measure
whether the campaign team is achieving its aims. Specific objectives contain within them milestones that will indicate if things are on track. It will be easy to check if the parliamentary committee has or has not approved the bill but it is also relevant to know why this has not happened or why it may have happened earlier than expected in the campaign. By measuring the progress of a campaign according to specific objectives, campaigners can better analyse the reasons behind success or failure and make adjustments to the overall strategy along the way.
Vague but necessary objectives such as “raising awareness” need to be reformulated into measurable ones. This can be done, for example, by setting out to receive coverage of your issue through a targeted number of newspaper articles and TV or radio interviews at specific media outlets. Thus, campaigners can infer that through the readership and audience of these newspapers and broadcasters, the public´s awareness of the campaign issue has been raised. This and the reaction of the target audiences will tell you if you’re on the right track to reach this particular objective.
Similar specific objectives can be set for other public outreach and awareness raising elements of a campaign, such as aiming for specific numbers of subscribers reached by a newsletter, new members signed up in a drive, or attendees at a speaking event or street theatre performance.
Even if a campaign is ambitious and it’s uncertain whether it can be accomplished, the team needs to make sure it has established achievable
objectives – you don’t want to set yourself up for impossible tasks.
To assess your chances of achieving a campaign objective, you’ll need to analyse internal and external factors.
are those related to your organisation and your campaign team, such as in-house skills, human and financial resources and relationships with key stakeholders. These factors can make parliamentary lobbying or forming a coalition, easy tasks or monumental ones. It’s important to assess if your team is able to achieve its objectives with the resources it currently has or with those it can reasonably procure.
are those outside your organisation or team, such as economic or political conditions. Maybe it’s not the right political moment to introduce a draft bill because attention is focused on another issue, or perhaps an election is near and the topic of protecting media workers under a legal framework could become politicised in the campaign in a way that could benefit the cause.
Campaign objectives also need to be relevant
to the broader campaign goal. The best way to assess the relevance of a campaign objective is to check with those who will benefit from the campaign´s success - in this case, the journalists. It’s also necessary to consider your options from a strategic and long-term perspective to evaluate whether a certain direction will deliver what you’re seeking to achieve.
Sometimes opportunities may present themselves in the course of the campaign that appear to be a gain although their outcomes may be different than initially imagined. It’s thus necessary to assess whether that apparent opportunity is actually relevant to the campaign goal itself. For example, in seeking recognition for a journalists’ union you may receive assurances that journalists could be brought into the general workers union. Despite this being easier to achieve, it would not ensure journalists the power they need to negotiate better working conditions, which was the original goal.
If the campaign objectives are established and understood in the first place it will be much easier to determine whether a potential opportunity that arises is relevant to your campaign goal.
Like campaign plans, the campaign objectives need to be time-bound
, meaning a target date must be set by when specific objectives will be achieved.
If campaign plans and resources run from January 2014 to December 2015, you’ll need to be specific as to when the objectives will be accomplished within this period. This is important because it will help in scheduling the campaign implementation plans. As well, by monitoring and evaluating the external and internal factors that occur during the campaign, it will also be possible to determine whether you’re achieving success within the imagined timeframe.
Making campaign objectives SMART
at the very outset of the campaign strategy-building process will enable you to set targets that are possible to realize. They will focus your campaign team around recognised and understood goals and empower you in the process to stay on target, meet deadlines, and come together to evaluate and reassess progress along the way. They can also help your organisation use human and financial resources efficiently and most importantly, to create effective and lasting social change.
So, what does a SMART objective look like?
“By the end of the parliamentary calendar year 2015, the Labour Rights Parliament Committee will have discussed and approved a draft bill granting union rights to all journalists, including freelance journalists”.
By Rafael Barca - expert consultant on campaigning and organisational strategic development