The tenth and final campaign trick is that it is always important to think of the visual impact. When David Nicholl wanted to highlight forcefeeding of detainees at Guantanamo he himself allowed himself to be restrained and forcefed for a media photocall. This then got picked up in The Times amongst other media (see http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article582884.ece – unfortunately no photo). The lesson to be learnt is that if you can do something that stands out, that relates to the issue being campaigned on and that it provides a good photo then the media are more likely to report your action.
When Dr David Nicholl took on Birmingham firm Hiatts over evidence that they produced the shackles at Guantanamo he had a lot to be worried about. He coordinated an action with music, hippies, lawyers, a stand-up comedian, a large truck and a lot of orange. He was nervous about what his patients would think, worried that he might get an ASBO, felt the pressure of maintaining Amnesty’s reputation, concerned about what his wife might say and anxious about how it might be viewed in light of July 7th terrorist attacks. However, David knew what he was doing was standing up for truth, justice and human rights. He stuck to his guns and the action got great coverage. His courage sets a great example that other campaigners could learn from.
David Nicholl’s eighth trick is to have a sense of humour. When he ran the London Marathon for Amnesty in an orange jumpsuit to raise awareness of Guantanamo he met a few surprised fellow runners. To realise how others see you and use humour to relax them and you can be important in order to get on a level with others. If you want to persuade others to your cause you often need to make a human connection before your arguments can make an impact and humour can help with this. To consider the effectiveness of humour in campaigning see how David Nicholl used the London Gorilla race to raise awareness of Guantanamo by running as ‘George the Guantanmo Guerilla’ at http://www.thestirrer.co.uk/george-the-guantanamo-gorilla-1706081.html
Whatever the situation it always pays to be polite to the police. Whenever, i’ve organised an action for Amnesty in the city centre the police are always helpful with the planning. They make comments like ‘its Amnesty and they are always well-organised actions’ and ‘we’ve had no problems with you in the past’. And they sometimes suggest better routes that might get us a better profile for marches. Then on the day they provide an escort and help us cross busy junctions. Our activists have always been polite to police in my experience and they return the experience. I can’t imagine they would be so supportive if we were rude and uncooperative to police officers. So please be polite to the police because it will benefit your actions. Any comments appreciated as usual.
This might seem obvious but you need to use your heart and your brain in campaigning. You need your brain to plan and to think about how your ‘opponents’ will react. If you can do this you’ll be better prepared to respond to any questions raised in an interview or in newspaper articles or letters pages. It is important to use your heart to make it ‘personal’ and connect with family members of an imprisoned person if you can. If you can’t connect with them it is highly unlikely you’ll have any chance of relating to others.
When you are undertaking a campaign its important to keep your message clear and concise. Any press release should be a maximum of one side of A4. It is worth showing the press release to someone who doesn’t know the subject as they will be in the same position as the average person. Remember with press releases that local media want a local message so find an appropriate local hook. If your press release leads to an interview then you need to be able to say in one sentence what your campaign is about.
If you have experience of this then why not leave a comment and share with others.
When campaigning it can help to get press coverage if you use celebrity endorsement. David Nicholl in his campaigning on Guantanamo Bay met Terry Waite (famous for being held hostage in Lebanon from 1987-91) and used the photo to help get additional media coverage. You don’t necessarily have to involve a national celebrity, a local one can achieve coverage in your local paper.
It is important for successful campaigning to use your imagination. David Nicholl, in order to highlight the abuses at Guantanamo Bay ran the London Marathon in 2005 in an orange jumpsuit with a ball and chain attached. This was high profile and several weeks before the general election that year. His feat raised cash and awareness which was a double whammy.
It is important in campaigning not to ignore the simple things. A letter to your MP and others can make a difference. It is though important not to be fobbed off by a lousy reply and where necessary to write back to them. If you allow anger to turn to apathy you haven’t a chance. Amnesty activists have seen prisoners released and policies changed because they chose to write a letter so it can work.
Please feel free to add your comments and thoughts on these campaign tricks.