Spreading the word

The next step is to tell people about your campaign!

There are lots of ways to get the message out there. Here are some top tips on building up your campaign, from traditional press and media, to using social media, to running events.

Don’t forget local campaigns still rely heavily on word of mouth. Ask your friends and family to help you spread the word about your campaign.

Press and media

Local press is a good way to kick off your campaign, and can help make sure your next MP is fighting for people with arthritis and everyday freedom from the pain it causes.

Making a story from each stage of your campaign is a good way to maximise your coverage.

For example, think about doing a press release before you meet your MP summarising the problem or issue, and then another one about your MPs' response, and any further campaign milestones or developments.

Here's our template press release (Word doc 110KB) example to get you started. Think about including:

  • supporting quotes from your MP (for example if they agree to become an Arthritis Champion or back your campaign)
  • a photo of you and your MP
  • your own experiences.

So what actions do you need to take first to prepare for doing press as part of your campaigning?

Do the ground-work

Before you send out your first press release it’s a good idea to do some preparation.

Check out what local media there is in your area and create a simple press list with their contact details. This could be local papers, regional TV, radio stations, or even local news blogs. See if issues or themes similar to your campaign crop up – this is often a good guide for getting coverage.

Get local journalists's attention. Once you’ve got the lay of the land, pick up the phone and start contacting your local media contacts. When talking to journalists about your campaign:

  • Be polite, if the journalist isn’t available to talk, ask if there would be a better time to call.
  • Sum up your issue quickly and simply, within the first sentence.
  • Include personal stories that back up your story.
  • Tell them about any support you may already have (e.g. other campaigners/residents/politicians/experts).
  • Make the story locally relevant – make sure the journalist understands the local significance of the problem.
  • Make notes on what the journalist says – is there a particular campaign or type of story that the newspaper is running that might fit your campaign? What sort of stories appeal to them?
  • Get their direct contact details and how they prefer to be sent press releases (e.g. direct to the news-desk, or to their own inbox).
  • Remember to say thank you for their time, and for any coverage that you get.

Writing press releases and letters

Now you’ve laid the ground-work, the next place to start is with a press release. We’ve included a template press release (Word doc 110KB) here as a guide, but here are some basic do’s and don’t’s:

      • DO use a catchy headline title that will grab attention and tell the reader immediately what your campaign’s about.
      • DO keep it short and sweet. Try to get your campaign across in the first sentence, give some background in the second and third paragraph, and include quotes from major people involved (e.g. your MP or councillor, you as a campaigner, other local people involved or affected by the issue). Try to keep your sentences short and snappy.
      • DO consider what will grab the reader’s attention – is it a quote from your MP, or an expert’s opinion, or a personal story to tell?
      • DO make it visual. Always try to include photos with your stories. Often a good photo can tell the story of a campaign without the need for too many words. Better photos often mean more coverage .
      • DON’T forget to have a ‘Call To Action’ for the reader. What do you want the reader to do once they’ve read the story? Add their name to a campaign petition? Offer help, or join your team?
      • DO include notes to editor – this is where you include any links or extra info on your evidence, background information on the campaign, and your campaign’s contact details, and where people can find out more.
      • DON’T ignore events. The best press coverage can often come when you least expect it. Look out for stories that are being covered and think about if your campaign can link in with the news agenda.
      • DON’T make it hard for journalists. Invite your local media (local newspapers, regional TV news, radio stations) to events and meetings, but remember to give them as much notice as you can, and always take photos of your own as back-up in case no photographers turn up. Local press are often under-resourced so don’t be disappointed if photographers don’t turn up – just keep trying!
      • DON’T stop at one press release. It’s vital to keep getting your message out there – it may not get picked up first-time round so doing things in volume can help get cut-through.
      • DO learn from your mistakes. Sometimes your press release won’t get the coverage you were aiming for. Don’t worry, this happens – the crucial thing is that you learn from it. Try calling your local press contacts to politely remind them about the press release, and ask them for feedback on why it’s not being covered. Campaigns are a learning process, and you may not get it right first-time.

DON’T forget we are here to help. Contact our campaigns team via action@versusarthritis.org if you'd like advice on your campaign.

Social media

Press and traditional media can be really helpful, but these days at lot of campaigns start online.

The Internet is a brilliant resource for campaigning - it’s a more immediate way to communicate and raise awareness, your message can travel further faster, you can reach different groups of people to more traditional media, and you can make it as easy as possible for people to get involved and interact with your campaign.

Here are some social media channels to think about trying:

Facebook

Can be a really helpful tool for getting a campaign off the ground. You can create a page or a group for your campaign, publicise events, allow people to become ‘friends’ with or like your campaign, and keep your supporters up-to-date. Posting photos and updates about the campaign is a good way to build a relationship with your supporters, and online support can lead to offline volunteers. It can also act as a forum for your supporters and interested members of the public.

Twitter

Can reach a wide audience and raise the profile of your campaign. Twitter can also be a good way to interact directly with decision-makers, especially your MP or Councillors. Either use a personal account, or set-up your own campaign Twitter account to get going.

An arthritis champion hashtag #arthritischampion is already out there, let us know about what you’re campaigning on locally by using it! You can also find us on Twitter via @ArthritisRUK

Online petition

Think about running a petition for your campaign, and try an online version at website like www.change.org

Petitions are a great way to demonstrate your level of support in the community, in order to influence your MP and other decision-makers.

YouTube and Instagram

Sometimes words aren’t enough! Photos can tell the story of your campaign really powerfully. Trying video blogs and photos at events creates a sense of momentum and you can see the campaign grow as you build a team. You can then share your videos and photos on Facebook and Twitter!

Reminder – Remember to get permission of the people who are in your photos and videos before you use them. For anyone under 18, you'll need permission from their parents.

Here are some top tips on social media:

Experiment

The great thing about the internet is that it’s an arena for new ways of campaigning, and people are constantly innovating. Over the last 5 years we’ve seen a huge change in how people use the internet, especially social media. Try things out, and don’t worry if it doesn’t work first time around.

Use it or you lose it

If you set up a Facebook page, or Twitter profile, make sure you update it regularly. If you don’t update your campaign channels enough you will lose supporters. Don’t tweet or post for the sake of it, but try to strike a balance so there’s regular and relevant content for supporters and interested people to follow.

Tip – As your team grows, think about letting other team-members take on roles, including social media. Campaigning is hard work, and as you build it up don’t be afraid to let other people help and share the load.

Advertise offline

Make sure your online and offline campaigning are linked. Don’t use different key campaign messages, and make sure you tell people about your online activity, like Facebook/Twitter/your blog address.

Say hello to us!

We’re here to help – get in touch with us via email and social media, we can retweet your activities and give you advice or support if you need it.

Don’t forget the offline world

Online campaigning is full of opportunities but don’t forget about your campaign basics. Nothing beats picking up the phone, or meeting people in person. Try to do a mix of both worlds!

Example tweets:

  • I’m campaigning to XX. Sign our petition LINK #arthritischampion
  • Today we’re meeting with @LOCALMP about CAMPAIGN. Follow our campaign for the latest > BLOG LINK.
  • Great meeting with @LOCALMP on ISSUE. He’s joined campaign to push back limits of #arthritis #arthritischampion – PHOTO with tweet.
  • 3 out 4 of our councillors are backing our campaign! Join our campaign for XX > LINK
  • The latest on our campaign in @LOCALPAPER LINK/PHOTO. To get involved get in touch!

Other ways to spread the word

Established networks

Look around your local community for groups you think could be sympathetic to your cause. For example, is there an Arthritis Research UK shop or branch nearby? Or is there a local arthritis patients or interest group, or even individuals or groups who have campaigned on similar issues? Get in touch with interested parties and see if they can help.

Word of mouth

Local campaigns still rely heavily on word of mouth. Ask your friends and family to help you spread the word about the campaign.

This could be as simple as putting up leaflets or posters about your campaign in local shops and public buildings (community centres, libraries), or even distributing leaflets about your campaign at events or through people’s door. Think about your local area’s events – are there public events like fayres/carnivals where you can publicise your campaign?

Publicity stunt

Once you’ve met with your MP or councillors, or started a petition, you might want to try publicity stunts. To make these work for your campaign you need to be clear about what messages you want to get across, think creatively about what form of stunt you want to take, be visual so you get can get good photos out of the stunt, and make sure you attract enough people to be part of the stunt.

For more information, or advice about doing a publicity event, contact our campaign team via action@versusarthritis.org.