Everyone must be aware of everything

It’s common still to see campaigns that set objectives and goals around ‘raising awareness’. Here are two reasons I wish this wasn’t such a big part of the campaigning lexicon: 1/ Raising ‘Raising’ is the least problematic part of it. But it’s still not great. For a start, it suggests that awareness is a thing you either have enough of or don’t. And it tends to assume that you have the right amount of awareness whilst other people have defective amounts. It’s true that in many campaigns, something you think is important may be going unobserved or unrecognised, or at least...

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Closing the strong and stable door after the horse has bolted

Well we’ve been here before I think. Not exactly here, but there’s a pattern. Pretty much everyone was wrong about what would happen before this election – as they were before the 2015 election, the Brexit referendum, Trump. Then afterwards, (often the same) people start offering explanations for why things turned out the way they did. And we hold onto those explanations until the next time we’re all wrong. I don’t want to be too critical. I rely on much of this analysis to try and get my bearings. And analyse wrongly all the time too. But I can’t help thinking that if...

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We like to think we’re Stevie Wonder; we plan like we’re the Jesus & Mary Chain; but we’re not even the band in Rick’s Bar in Casablanca

In the way we plan, think about and evaluate campaigning, it’s too easy to put ourselves at the centre of everything: It’s your campaign, you’re the change maker. You’re Stevie Wonder. You’re recording ‘Superstition’. You’ve written it. You’ve arranged it. You produce it. You play almost all the instruments on it. You’re in complete control of all aspects of it. Or perhaps it’s not just you, there are some others supporting you. You’re Brian Wilson. You’re recording ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’. It’s not just you, but you are in charge of how it’s going to...

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Much SMARTer

Fifteen years ago I was a big proponent of campaigns having SMART objectives; these days very much less so. It’s good to inject some discipline into campaign planning processes, and to build from a good sense of the likely change dynamics, and to make sure your ambitions are not woefully misplaced. But SMARTifying campaigns can be a great way to crush aspiration. It makes it easy for any kind of transformational change to get dismissed as fanciful. Anything difficult to get thrown out. Clear objectives are important for accountability. But SMART campaign objectives encourage a false sense...

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Everything we know about everyone being wrong about everything is wrong, and other lessons from the Referendum

Some thoughts on possible lessons for campaigners from Brexit:   Facts aren’t the terrain on which to base communications campaigns Efforts by the Remain camp to rebut the nefarious ‘£350m per week to Brussels’ claim fell on particularly stony ground. The thing about £350m is that it encapsulated a wider sentiment, illuminating an existing concern. The fact that it wasn’t true wasn’t really the issue. It was the concern that was the thing. (And saying in response ‘it’s a big number but just not as much as that’ didn’t alleviate or even address that concern.) Numbers...

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How far to the horizon?

There are, as usual, a whole load of useful insights in Tom Baker’s latest blogpost. But I was particularly struck by the first two lessons he offers about campaigning around aid, essentially that: Things can move very quickly, with key shifts happening from moment to moment Meaningful change tends to happen over the long term (in the campaign cited, 30 years plus) This reminded me a little bit of an argument I’ve made over the years, that campaign planning tends to focus on exactly the wrong timescales. Plans typically focus on the medium term (something like 6 months-2 years), but...

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