Effective communication is at the heart of all successful advocacy; analyzing the problem and its resolution correctly, consulting widely and then framing goals in ways that are persuasive, and in language that can easily be understood.
For such communication to connect with those we wish to influence, it is vital to be humble before your audiences. To know who they are, to understand and above all, respect what they think. To have belief in those that will support you – in their intelligence, their capacity, and in their ability to change the world.
It is extraordinary how many organizations and individuals ignore their stakeholders; patronize, or talk right over the heads of a key audience, and often fail to notice that people are not listening and instead are shifting restlessly in their (metaphorical) chairs. Connecting with stakeholders or an audience is an active and dynamic conversation, for both the communicator and the audience. Never let it become one-way.
Journalists and decision-makers will only take you seriously if you are perceived to be part of, and represent a sizable constituency of public opinion: the bigger the constituency the greater the credibility of your campaign. So the first priority in communicating with bigger audiences is to target and mobilize your base – the already converted, those most committed, and most likely to support your goals. Identify these first, share your ambitions and goals, and invite their participation and support. They will in turn act as your informal agents, and will talk to, and persuade others – constantly widening the circle of campaigners and supporters.
To be encouraged to act volunteer supporters, who often give up more money and time than they can afford, need to be inspired, acknowledged, listened to, and motivated. Periodically they will need clear advice or instructions on what to do next to translate their ambitions into impact on decision-makers and so bring about the change sought. If they are to make sacrifices and go that extra mile for the campaign, then you must reach, listen, involve, inspire and move them. Above all, the campaign must empower them – give them ownership not just of the campaign’s strategy and activities, but also information and knowledge that will deepen their capacity, build their confidence and enable them to act independently and on their own account.
So, inspire listen to, motivate, and empower your stakeholders. Above all treat them with the greatest respect. They are the shoulders on which you stand when addressing new and perhaps more hostile audiences: opinion-formers and decision-makers.