Lecture 4. Lobbying, influencing and getting your voice heard
Now it’s the time to think about selecting the right tools to achieve our goals: such as how to influence our targets, mobilize supporters and at the same time neutralize our opponents.

Let’s ask ourselves what makes people change their minds? The answer to this crucial question doesn't have to be a matter of opinion. Although we are far from a complete answer, some research is being done in cognitive science that can help us understand better what kinds of actions are likely to be effective.

When we are faced with information that contradicts beliefs we hold, we tend to reject the information or interpret it in a way that allows us to maintain our beliefs. Cognitive mechanisms for belief perseveration are so powerful that it may not be a realistic goal for us to convince people who are strongly or even moderately opposed to our views, but we should rather “inform those who share our views about need for action and to influence those who are truly undecided”.

In short, for quick and mass supporter recruitment we need to perform the following actions:

  • Reach out with awareness activities to undecided individuals

  • Inform people that most probably share our views 

  • Initially avoid reaching out to individuals who are actively opposed to our arguments (or at least be careful about what we say to them) because it may be that any arguments presented to them will intensify their opposition, no matter how valid and well-presented they are 

  • Reach out to individuals who are socially valued and are central figures in social networks 

  • Have a trusted, known person present the argument (since there may be valid and ancient reasons to distrust information received from strangers) – perhaps this is what we are doing when we get celebrities to spread the message 

Take a note that all of the above actions are built on the basis of communication. Effective communication is a key to change perceptions and achieve any social change. Let’s talk about advocacy communication and see what it is that makes it so important.

Communication for advocacy is not the same as, for example, more general communication, such as newsletters or fundraising materials, or general information about your work. What defines advocacy communication is that it focuses closely on influencing specific audiences and using specific messages in order to deliver change in policy or practice. In general, successful advocacy communication requires clear objectives, knowledge of the intended audience, language appropriate for that audience and content that is short, specific and to the point.

For example, we may prepare:

  • A single page of bullet points for attracting the attention of busy decision-makers

  • A light-hearted, color, A5 leaflet with bullet points and pictures for younger stakeholders

  • A three-page executive summary or policy brief with more details for interested stakeholders and senior officials

  • A twenty-page policy report capturing your key research findings, analysis and policy recommendations for officials, administrators, practitioners and sister organizations

  • A one-page press release on an issue-significant day to attract the attention of news media

We will touch the communication issues in details later in our other course, but for now let me list the components of an effective campaigning communication toolkit, which contains the most useful means to reach out to a wide audiences and to mobilize them for action. A communication toolkit usually contains:

  • Leaflets and other materials for public distribution

  • Posters or advertisements

  • Public meetings

  • Media work: newspapers, radio or TV

  • Flash mobs or other events to attract media attention

  • Using celebrities to support your cause

  • Letter writing campaigns

  • Petitions

  • Competitions

  • An active website and social media accounts

Now let’s briefly touch upon another influence tool called “lobbying.”

The term “lobbying” describes direct attempts to influence policy makers, public officials or other decision makers through personal interviews and persuasion. A lobby is a group, organization or association engaged in trying to influence legislators or other public officials in favor of a specific cause. When you begin work on a new advocacy initiative, there is always a moment when you need to arrange a lobby meeting with a person or institution that you don’t know. Call them or their administrator/secretary and briefly say who you are, what your organization does and why you would like to arrange a meeting with the decision-maker. If you are given the appointment straight way, congratulate yourself and prepare for the meeting. When conducting negotiations and presenting your view, be clear, know what you want and research the views of the people to be lobbied.

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