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Using Opposition (part 3)

In my last blog I described a technique to utilise the opposition arguments against your campaign.

Let’s take an example of this method being used in practice. I used to campaign against the scandal of empty homes at the Empty Homes Agency. And a few years ago we were campaigning for new powers to tackle empty homes.

The key arguments against such new powers on empty homes were that owners should be free to do what-ever they wanted with their property, that these powers would undermine this freedom and that there was not a problem with homes being empty.

Historically our key campaign message had been around tackling empty homes as a solution to tackling homelessness. That was the campaign message that motivated me. But it didn’t resonate with the owners of empty homes who we were trying to get on board.

So we used the opposition matrix technique described in my last blog. And we began to change our campaign message having reflected on the opposition to our campaign. We began to address the concerns by talking about the impact that empty homes can have on neighbouring occupied property. A survey from Hometrack (June 2003) found that empty homes can devalue neighbouring property by as much as 18%.

We also talked about empty homes attracting crime and vandalism in an area; the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) had referred to empty homes as being ‘honey pots for crime’. These were reasons to support our campaign on empty homes and specifically to address the concerns against our campaign. We found that these new messages resonated much more with our target audience and helped to us to attract new media coverage.

This method was useful for us to think about our opponents’ concerns and use public messages that would address those concerns, as opposed to using our normal messages about the need to bring these homes back into use to help homeless people.

I had learned a useful campaign lesson – it is often more important to use the campaign messages that resonate with your target audience than the messages that motivate you. This was hard for my ego but good for the campaign.