Winning the Internet

Strategic campaign planning: A how-to guide

After a great run, the Winning the Internet blog has been retired. However, you can still keep in touch with New Media Mentors here.

mazeLast week I described a simple exercise you can use to start working more strategically. Today I want to go a step further with strategic thinking and talk about planning advocacy campaigns.

It seems like every organization uses the word “campaign” differently. When I talk about campaign planning, I mean planning some sort of specific action or focused effort that takes place over a defined period of time—usually weeks or months. For example, Pesticide Action Network recently launched a microsite focused on collecting pledges to protect honey bees, and created a campaign around the launch.

There’s no better time to practice strategic planning than right before a campaign launch. This will help you check that your tactics have sound reasoning behind them and make sure you’re on the path to success.

Below is the general format and process for developing a campaign plan. If your organization is interested in strategic planning, but doesn’t do advocacy, you may want to tweak this process to meet your needs or develop a marketing plan instead (the process is similar).

Start by developing your theory of change and thinking about what kind of action your campaign is going to focus on.

Theory of change
This is a concrete theory of how taking the action could lead to a desired result. To develop a theory of change, you need to answer two questions: 1) what is the end goal and 2) how do I achieve that? A good theory of change is plausible, doable, testable and meaningful.

There are several resources on this subject—NOI’s is one of the best.

From there, note the goal of the campaign and develop a measurable objective.

What are you trying to achieve at a high level?

Measurable objective
The objective is the measurable outcome you are hoping for, over a specific period of time.

Next, spell out your strategy. This is one of the hardest parts of the campaign plan, but it’s also the most important part. Make sure to resist the temptation to put tactics in this section. If you find yourself writing Facebook, Twitter or the name of any other new media tool, you need to stop and take a step back.

At a high level, how will you achieve your objectives?

Once you’ve got your strategy, take a moment to define your target and audience.

Who is your target for this campaign? The target refers to who the action is pointed to (ex: an elected official).

Describe who you’re planning to communicate with during the campaign. This could be all or a segment of your own supporters (ex: part of your email list), and others (ex: readers of a certain blog).

Once you’ve reached this point, the hard part of the planning is done. Now on to the tactics! How exactly are you going to execute the campaign? Which tools will you use? You can use the following list of tools for inspiration, but don’t let it limit you.

Also, don’t feel like you need to use all of these tools every time. Just use the ones that make sense for this particular campaign. Be sure to note how and when you’re planning to use each tool.

Website (homepage, sub-pages and action pages)
Paid advertising

Finally, decide how you will measure the success of the campaign.

Define how you will measure the overall success of the campaign, as well as success by tactic. This should connect back to your objective.

If you want to streamline this process for your team, create a campaign planning form that you use every time. Be sure to edit the list of tools/tactics and include the ones you use most frequently.

About Melissa Foley

Melissa is the Director of Training and Mentoring for Netroots Foundation and New Media Mentors. She aims to use her MBA + nonprofit background to teach organizations to use new media tools strategically.

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