Planning your campaign

You’ve identified an issue you want to fight for

What are the next steps?

Campaigning can make a difference, and with the right planning, good timing, strong messaging and a little bit of luck your campaign can lift off.

There are some key points to think about when you’re planning a campaign, and it's worth putting in some time before you launch your campaign to plan things out and set your goals.

1. Decide on your goals

A key to building a successful campaign is defining what you want to achieve early – you can always re-assess this further down the line if you need to.

Keep your aims focused

Define your main goals in just a sentence or two – keeping things simple early on will make sure your campaign asks are:

  • Compelling
  • Easy to understand
  • Easy to get behind

Clear, focused aims can stop your campaign drifting off course. Make a note of them and refer back to them – it can help to motivate your team to stick to the task as the campaign grows.

Think about the short-term and long-term

Your campaign might be very simple with one defined goal, or it might need several stages to reach the best solution for local people.

Think about what you want to achieve in the next month, 6 months, and then expand that to take in longer stretches.

For example, the short-term objective in a campaign to save a local rheumatology department might be to prevent the department from closing. The longer-term objective might be to work with local decision-makers to make sure that an alternative is found and that patients aren't forced to travel longer distances if the service does move.

Be ambitious

Don't be afraid to aim high or think up new solutions. Some of the best solutions come from people who know what’s happening on the ground, who know the daily experience of using a service or encountering the problem everyday.

Act, evaluate, learn

Remember to keep checking your progress against your original goals. The best way to improve a campaign is to learn from what goes right and what goes wrong. Big questions to ask yourself and your team:

  • What went right/wrong? Why did it go this way? How can we repeat/not repeat this?
  • What kind of response did your get from your MP, or other decision-makers, and the public in general? Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from people you’ve been targeting.
  • How many people have got in touch about the campaign? Why did they get in touch?
  • Did your messages get picked up by press /on social media? Are there things you could have done better?

2. Timing is everything

Timing really matters for campaigning. Thinking early on about the key dates can help you shape your campaign and give you a good guide for planning your activities.

For example, if you're campaigning to keep a service open in your local community, think about the key dates for this:

  • When will the proposals for the changes be published?
  • Are the decision-makers holding a consultation? This might be a good opportunity to raise awareness and get people on your side.
  • Are there public meetings about the decision? For example, you could hand in your petition at a public meeting that decision-makers have already organised, or hand out leaflets on the door to drum up support.
  • When is the final decision on the service going to be taken?
  • If the final decision is to close the service, when will service close, and will anything replace it?

Top tips on timing it right

  • Find out when key meetings and events will take place.
  • Identify other possible opportunities to get your message across.
  • Count back from key dates to plan your campaign actions.
  • Plot a timeline for your campaign based on these events, and where your activities can fit in to maximise your campaign’s impact.

3. Find out more

One of the first steps once you have an issue to campaign on is to find out more. Fact-checking and gathering evidence is vital to making your campaign a success – when your campaign lifts off and starts gaining coverage and momentum, you'll need a solid basis of fact.

Think about:

Expert opinion – a supportive quote or the backing of healthcare professionals or someone involved in the process you’re trying to change (e.g. the council) can be a huge boost to your campaign, and provide more legitimacy for your cause. A word of caution to make sure you get permission from your expert before you use their quote or endorsement.

Statistics – numbers can be hard to ignore if you find the right statistics to back up your arguments.

We have some statistics on the impact of arthritis, and its prevalence both nationally and at local levels. Check out our Musculoskeletal Calculator or contact us on and we’ll try to help.

It’s also worth checking the Office of National Statistics for useful statistics that could help your campaign.

Numbers on cost implications and the effect an issue has on the community can be really great tools to help sway public opinion and decision-makers.

What if the data I need doesn’t exist?

If the data you want doesn’t exist, think about creating a petition or survey. These can both be done at little cost, either online at places like or, or offline using the templates provided, or ideally both!

Other ways to find out more:

Real stories. Talk to people! Finding people directly affected by the issue you’re campaigning on is a great way to find out more, and emphasise to decision-makers the impact the issue has on people in your community. First-person accounts, or ‘voxpops’, are a great way to tell the story of your campaign, particularly as part of press coverage.

Potential solutions. Research other potential solutions for your issue by looking at what other areas/councils/countries might have done to solve the problem. Providing potential solutions that have worked elsewhere is a good way to strengthen your main campaign asks.

4. Create your messaging

Now you have your issue, your goals and research, you need to decide what you want to say about your campaign. Then you need to say it a lot and be consistent! Deliver your campaign on message, in volume, and over time.

Here are some top tips for messaging your campaign:

Use key messages

Writing down a few key messages to get across in all campaigning you do can be really useful. Often, with so many campaigns and adverts all competing for publicity, the campaigns that stay ‘on message’ and find new ways to get messages across are the most successful.

When you’re talking to the press, making a video, writing a blog, or even doing a TV interview, messaging is vital when it comes to spreading the word about your campaign.

Keep the message simple

This may sound obvious, but don’t spend all your time shaping and rewriting the messages you will use – the most important thing is pick your messages and then get them out. You can have the most thought-provoking, catchy message in the world, but if no one sees it your campaign won't move forward.

Be disciplined

It’s always difficult to stay ‘on message’, especially as your campaign grows, your campaign team gets bigger, and there’s more interest in your campaign from press and decision-makers.

Remember – while you might have heard your messages thousands of times, most people won’t have, so persevere.

It’s important to be able to adapt to events, and sometimes messages have to be updated, but try to make sure everything coming out of your campaign is consistent. This will give your campaign credibility and increase the chance of it gaining publicity.

Anticipate what others might say

Think about what you want to say, and about what decision-makers are saying, and might say in response to your campaign. Anticipating the reaction of decision-makers, the public and the press is a good exercise to do before you launch a campaign and means you'll be better prepared to take on any unexpected challenges.

Be emotive

Don’t be afraid to use strong vibrant words and images. While there’s always a danger that you can go over the top, using emotive, short and sharp language is more effective at grabbing people’s attention. See our example.

Keep it local

Think about the local angle to your issue: are their local residents affected by the issue that might be willing to tell their story to help spread the word about your campaign? Telling the local story will resonate with people. When it is happening on your street, in your town or village, it can often mean more.

Keep your campaign non-party political

While some politicians might be more helpful than others on your issue, remember you want to appeal to as wide a section of support in the community as possible. Keeping political affiliations out of the campaign will mean you can get the maximum level of support and coverage.

5. Target your campaign

Now you’ve worked out your goals and key messages, who are you going to target?

Decision-makers: who are they?

The person or group(s) that are key to achieving change and making your campaign a success are the ‘decision-makers’. These could be:

  • Local councillors, council leader or council cabinet member, or council employees
  • Healthcare professionals and administrators
  • An MP or Government Minister.

They are the people who have the power to make the change you want to see. Working out who you should be aiming to influence will give your campaign clear focus and make it easier to plan.

Remember, even if some politicians aren't your campaign's target decision-makers, they might still be useful to have on your side. For example, MPs often have lots of local connections and influence, and can be a useful ally for your campaign in raising the profile of the issue you are trying to get action on.

Check out our guide on involving your local politicians for more on this.