I am a member of more campaigning organisations than is probably good for my health.
One trend that I have noticed, which is really welcome, is an improvement in communications between these organisations and their campaigners. From small to large organisations, there has been real investment made in developing communications with their supporters, who are prepared to take campaigning actions. So I now receive a steady stream of newsletters and updates – all tailored around campaigning. Excellent.
Yet there is another trend that I have noticed which is not quite so welcome – the irrepressible campaigning postcard. While it has been great to see more voluntary organisations embrace campaigning as one of their key activities, sometimes this enthusiasm for campaigning seems to manifest itself in a campaigning postcard.
I just cannot believe that the world needs as many campaigning postcards as I seem to receive month in month out. For some organisations the regular newsletter or update just has to be accompanied by a campaigning postcard. You know the type – a pre-printed postcard, where you sign your name, add your address and send to the chosen campaign target.
For me campaigning is all about having a burning desire to achieve a particular change. You work out the problem and develop a clear solution. You then assess the political environment, analyse who has the power to implement your change and consider the different influences on your target. You then develop a campaign plan and use the most appropriate methods – media, lobbying, allies, or supporter action – to develop momentum on your campaign.
I find it hard to believe that, having undertaken the above exercise, that the answer is always a campaign postcard. There may well be stages on a campaign where a mass generated postcard may have some impact. Yet one would need to be clear on the reasons for such a postcard, and not say a personal letter or other activity.
I am not against campaigning postcards per se – I just see them as one campaigning tool. And just because you have a quarterly newsletter it does not mean that you have to have a quarterly action. Campaigning is about timely action – not regular action to meet printing schedules. It is ok to send a campaigning update without an action – if there is not a need at that time for an action, and if you explain your thinking to your supporters.
So here is a challenge to campaigning organisations – keep up the great communications with your supporters, but let’s see fewer campaign postcards.
Let’s ensure that our campaigns are sensitive to their political environment, that we explain our campaign strategy to our supporters, and that we ask them to take action when it is right for the campaign in a manner that is helpful. And if we did that, I reckon we might see less postcards!