Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Strategic Communication Campaigns: Part 1

Strategic communication campaigns go beyond framing an issue and designing an effective message. It involves designing frames and messages for multiple audiences, using multiple tactics and trying to achieve a specific and measurable goal. Below Robert Cox, an experienced campaigner for the Sierra Club explains best practice in advocacy and strategic communication campaigning.

Cox makes the point that critical rhetoric and advocacy campaigns are fundamentally different and play different roles in the environmental movement. He explains that “[c]ritical rhetoric can be defined as the questioning or denunciation of a behavior, policy, societal value, or ideology; such rhetoric may also include the articulation of an alternate policy, vision, or ideology…[c]ritical rhetorics frequently serve to expand the range of social choices and visions that are eclipsed in the day-to-day struggles of a campaign…Although campaigns, to, may take sweeping social changes as their ultimate goal, they differ from critical rhetorics in their approach and are organized instead around concrete, strategic actions that move us closer to those goals…[t]he difference between a campaign and critical rhetoric, then, is not simply the concreteness of the objective but the strategic course of action by which a campaign pursues such objectives”(Cox, 2006, p. 248-249).

Rogers and Story (1987) identify four features of communication campaigns (from Cox p. 250):
1. A campaign is purposeful
2. A campaign is aimed at a large audience
3. A campaign has a more or less specifically defined time limit
4. A campaign involves an organized set of communication activities

Specifically, environmental campaigns differ from other public health and issue campaigns in that “Environmental advocacy campaigns…are usually waged by noninstitutional sources-concerned individuals, environmental organizations, or small community action groups [and]…[most environmental advocacy campaigns, on the other hand, seek to change either certain external conditions—for example, the cleanup of an abandoned toxic waste site—or the policy or practice of a governmental or corporate body. And although some environmental campaigns may seek to influence individual behaviors…such attempts are often seen as steps toward systemic change in society’s treatment of the environment…”(Cox, 2006, p. 251).

Cox describes the three fundamental questions in an advocacy campaign (Cox, p. 253):

1. What exactly do you want to accomplish?
2. Which decision makers have the ability to respond, and what constituencies can hold these decision makers accountable?
3. What will persuade these decision makers to act on your objectives?

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