What’s Wrong With The Brexit Campaigns ?

Readers outside the little islands of the UK may be only dimly aware that the British have been enduring months of wall to wall media coverage of two very uninspiring and increasingly fractious campaigns, to ‘leave’ or ‘remain’ in the European Union (decision day is 23 June).  As well as generating a lot of popular boredom, this has much excited the political classes (perhaps about 2 – 3% of the population) and recently, stimulated a lot of less public discussion amongst professional NGO campaigners, most of whom are ‘remain’ supporters deeply frustrated with the way the campaign has gone to date.

Like most campaigns and especially political campaigns, the ‘debate’ is a tangled mixture of communications designed to work by Kahneman’s System 2 (the hard, analytical weighing of facts and so on) and the easy, dominant System 1, the intuitive, also known by less admiring terms such as emotional, knee-jerk, dog-whistle, prejudice and animal instinct.  In other less contested areas of life it’s also known as marketing and advertising.

That’s’ just the design of communications.  In the tumult of a long running campaign made up of two sides united only by increasing dislike of one another but each composed of an alphabet soup of supporters, it is very likely that most of the communication just happens and very little is that well controlled.

What About The Facts ?

A recent UK newspaper headline read ‘EU referendum: British public wrong about nearly everything, survey shows’.  The ‘everything’ in question included numbers of immigrants, the economic costs and benefits of being in the EU and a lot of urban-myths about EU regulations concerning things like the shape of fruit.

The problem is that you could produce a list like this about most political issues at most elections.  People in general are not terribly well informed on a lot of issues:  a famous Winston Churchill quote is: ““The best argument against Democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter”.   Famous perhaps but it seems he never said it.  One thing he did say was:

“At the bottom of all the tributes paid to democracy is the little man, walking into the little booth, with a little pencil, making a little cross on a little bit of paper—no amount of rhetoric or voluminous discussion can possibly diminish the overwhelming importance of that point”.

As any pollster knows, if people are confused or facing the challenge of processing a lot of hard to verify or difficult-to-understand information, and you then ask them if they’d like ‘more facts’ or if they feel ‘well-informed’, they are likely to say no they are not well informed and yes they would like more ‘facts’.  This is what Kahneman calls substitution: replacing the hard System 1 analysis with the easy System 2.   ‘More facts’ becomes ‘better facts’ and that invariably means fewer but more satisfying facts.   So it’s not really a desire for more information they are expressing, rather a desire for an easier way to make a decision.

The dilemma is that the decades long EU-UK relationship is similar in complexity to that between a husband and wife or the UK and the rest of the world.   More information about that makes it harder to decide, not easier, unless that information aids the Substitution process by reinforcing a heuristic decision that can be made with System 1, for instance “who is in favour and who against ?” or “how do I feel about it ?” (affected by values, experience, behaviour and so on).

Knowing that viewers, readers and listeners are switching off when they see yet another sample of politicians shouting factoids and soundbites at one another, most UK news channels have by now resorted to debates of carefully selected audiences and a lot of ‘provision of facts’ as the basis of their coverage.   Arguably they have little choice but providing ‘facts’ is also the safe ground, avoiding such cans of worms as why values explain so much of the pro and anti EU divide, or the insights of psychologists like Kahneman into what’s really happening when the ‘little man walks into the little booth’.

The Plotters ?

By concentrating on being facilitators of informed and ill-informed debate and throwing in dollops of ‘information’, the media also avoids getting drawn into awkward questions such as the behind-the-scenes influence of Euro-sceptic funders who are intimately connected with Climate-sceptic groups.  A remarkable new study (June 13) by www.desmog.uk shows the network of links between anti-environmental, climate-sceptic bloggers and institutes, and the pro-Brexit leave campaign.

desmog study 13 6 16

De Smog comments:

‘The overlap stems from a common neoliberal ideology that fears top-down state interventions and regulations which are perceived as threatening values of individual freedom, economic (market) freedom, or the sovereignty of national governments. Under this logic, we must reject both the European Union and most climate policy. 

It begs the question: If Britain leaves the EU, what will then happen to the country’s climate change policy?’

Not a hard question to answer, and one reason why environment professionals and the UK’s larger environmental NGOs such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the Wildlife Trusts all came out in favour of staying in the EU, and after some weeks of equivocation, were finally joined by WWF and RSPB (see my updated blog on green groups and Brexit here).

What About The Campaigns Then ?

I’m in favour of Remain and in a previous blog on the Brexit Values Battle I suggested that the Remain campaign would do well to try and attract more active support from the Prospectors and in particular, the Now People.

In short the Remain campaign has been somewhat dull and lacking in any sort of fun, positivity, or convincing optimism.  Now People are hugely influential but seek success and having a good time.  Any brief to engage them with the rather passive idea of ‘remain’ (which sounds a lot like stay where you are, not a very Now Person idea) has to be about having a better time being in Europe, than if we go out.

I suggested it might be things like:

The benefits of Euro-railing, enjoyment of foreign holidays, making friends and having a good time doing business with Europe, and the endorsement of celebrities for the same, are likely to have more effect on this than any amount of ‘economic argument’.

The same could be said of shopping.  Think of all those EU brands and retail experiences: however hard it tries, almost any British city will struggle to compete with a weekend in Barcelona (travel visa free in the EU), or Milan.  (For some good Now People campaign engagement look at the Greenpeace Detox campaign discussed in this blog).

Plus although Now People are motivated to work hard and to be optimistic about the future, as that’s where they are going to really succeed, you need to talk to them about life outside work.  Earning money is after all about being able to play hard too.  Hearing again and again why the Leave campaign is wrong about this or that on economic policy or immigration (which the Now People are far less bothered about than the Golden Dreamer Prospectors or the Settlers), is all pretty drab grey fare and not exactly conducive to a good night out.

Now People are more likely to see a good time as being a festival or club than in a pub with Nigel Farrage but being seen downing a pint or two on a regular basis and being a smoker will give a lot of Settlers the impression that he like them would be happy to wind back time.  Farrage plays the Settler even if he isn’t one, and does so convincingly.  The Remain camp has had no such Now Person spokesperson walking the walk.    Probably the best effort is http://weareeurope.org.uk/ which has a much more positive tone.

infor campaign

We Are In For …

The Now People want to wind time forwards – ‘Remain’ despite its name, needs to show that’s what being in the EU will be all about.  Modernity and opportunity and a better chance of success, at work and play.   Taking the Eurostar to Paris rather than the A12 to Clacton.

The Remain camp leadership has made no noticeable attempt to communicate anything about what makes it enjoyable to be in Europe, to remind people why they like it (by people I mean those leaning towards staying in but who are undecided or may not vote) or to equip their followers with arguments and evidence about what is good about the EU in personal, family and human experience terms rather than macro-economics.

On top of that as others have pointed out, they spend much of their time trying to rebut claims of the Leave camp which are designed, dog-whistle-style, to whip up fears over immigration or ‘control from Brussels’.  These are Settler-Golden Dreamer Fear-Uncertainty-and-Doubt arguments which were indeed the competitive battleground between the Tories and UKIP at the last election but they are not the greatest concerns of the rest of the population.  Huge areas of governance in which the EU plays a crucial role – of which environment is but one – have been simply left off the agenda of Remain.   It could be a crucial piece of mis-targeting.

A Pox Infecting Both Houses

I really have no idea who or what is running either campaign but my guess is that the underlying reason both fail to really connect with most of the British public is that their origins are deeply and narrowly political.  The pro and anti EU arguments have been rehearsed many times in the halls and backrooms of Westminster but with very little exposure to the public.  As such they are fine tuned in UK political terms but largely untried on most of the public except for the rightwing of the Conservative Party and UKIP.

Now they have been dusted down and brought into the summer sunshine, turned into campaign propositions, amplified, exaggerated and repeated over and over but without becoming any more salient to most people’s lives and experiences.   Both teams seem just to have transferred their House-of-Commons-shouting-match pantomime debates out into the real world, where they baffle and irritate the public, like neighbours forced to watch a bitter but obscure family spat which has spilled out into the street.

Few of the arguments put to the public relate to individual realities.  Few generate self-validating propositions which people can see or hear and test against their everyday experiences by thinking “was it like that for me ?” or “is that what I see or encounter ?” and coming up with a yes or no.  So they have to rely on proxies to ‘explain’ what the arguments are really about and they are then faced with a forest of spinners.

For many in the Leave camp, the EU Referendum is the political equivalent of ‘rapture’, for which they have waited for decades: ‘the end of the world ultimate grudge match’.   The true believers now stagger about enthusiastically blinking in the sunshine, like zombies granted an unexpected early release from the grave.

In contrast the Remain camp gives more the impression of directors from a firm of well-padded accountants, annoyingly interrupted in the middle of a rather good lunch by a shareholder revolt.  Surprised that inertia has not entirely worked, they now reluctantly take to the stage and try to calm the waters by spraying anodyne reassurances almost entirely based on numbers but with very little zeal or enthusiasm.

In truth the British public is now being told again and again that it is all important they take an active interest in an issue which for a generation has been largely ignored except for those at some thinly attended political fringe meetings.  It’s a strange way to run a country.





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Seven Values Strategies

This blog is a follow-up to 48 Campaign Strategies and Management Parameters for Campaign Direction.

There is no hard and fast distinction between ‘values strategies’ and other campaign or communication strategies.  Just understanding values, how they apply at a personal or group level and what makes for a good campaign strategy, is not an alternative to other tools and ideas.  On the other hand there are some insights that you simply don’t get without values.

  1. x3 Values Matching

The default use of values insight for many campaigns.  This is a ‘Something for Everyone’ strategy, suitable for instances where it is necessary to try and engage a whole population or group.   Any campaign which purports to address a wide ‘public’ is ostensibly trying to reach all three main Maslow Groups (Settler, Prospector, Pioneer), whether the campaigners are aware of them or not.

Here’s an example on engaging the public in marine environments, based on detailed audience research*, another on designing pubs, and a heuristic for ‘narratives’.

The simplest process of applying this involves deciding on a specific behaviour that needs to happen in the course of the campaign, and then creating three versions of it, in terms of activity, channel, messenger, context and benefits.  It is much easier and more effective to create three bespoke opportunities than one.

[* In more detail at pp 303-10 in How to Win Campaigns: Communications for Change].

  1. x1 LCD Cross Values Appeal

This applies if for some reason the brief is to have one activity or opportunity that has to ‘work for everyone’, which in practice means as many different sorts of people as possible.  (If you don’t actually need broad values support you can make do with a much narrower engagement, typically people-like-you but many campaigns by cause groups are limited by only really engaging Pioneers).

So in this case there is only one ‘proposition’, based on the ‘Lowest Common Denominator’: one that is at least accepted if not enthusiastically embraced, by all the three Maslow Groups.

The marine example cited in #1 shows what would have worked best for the three values groups separately but also the chosen solution which worked best for all three.

If you lack any basis for deciding this (ie research giving you insight or a lot of experience with values and audiences in your country) the default should be to make it a proposition that works for Settlers, as Prospectors and Pioneers have previously both been Settlers.

If you have commissioned or can access national values surveys, you can also identify things that are not very values segmented.  For example in the UK it would include the appeal of animal charities and being a parent.  So by default, making propositions about animals, or children, or even better animals and children, is going to reach across values groups (= ‘mainstream’).

  1. The Mexican Wave

This utilises the basic cultural or social dynamics of change across values groups (which is why CDSM, the values company whose model I use, is called Cultural Dynamics Strategy and Marketing).

Real social change involving doing or creating something genuinely new and different (as opposed to a new project that does something ‘tried and tested’ elsewhere) always starts with the Pioneers.  This arises by default because the Pioneers are not as concerned as the Prospectors about taking social risks and being seen to fail, and, because they are not change-averse like the Settlers.

Not all new Pioneer experiments spread: most die out and don’t even attract much Pioneer support but those which look ‘successful’ and approved of, will be noticed by Prospectors.  So long as they become available to them in ways that do not carry a lot of Pioneer values-baggage that requires Prospectors to ‘become a different person’ (“not me”), they may be taken up by Prospectors.  This invariably happens between the Transcender Pioneer Values Mode and the Prospector Now People, and works by emulation.

The Now People act as the behaviour or idea gateway to the rest of the Prospectors, who want to be like Now People (the most confident Prospectors and the definers of what is ‘fashionable’), and they are much better ‘messengers’ for other Prospectors than the Pioneers.  So the change-baton can get passed on, often by the behaviour being endorsed by a ‘mainstream’ brand.

If Pioneers plus Prospectors together constitute a majority (which in almost every country studied in recent years now is the case), any widespread behaviour they espouse, starts to look ‘normal’.  At that point is converted into a social norm and Settlers adopt it (norming), as they have a great desire to be ‘normal’.  Premature attempts to get Settlers to adopt a change however will fail unless enforced by authority through rules.

This also means that Settlers are the last to change and that both they and Prospectors will adopt behaviours they previously rejected and argued against.  You do not need to try and change the people’s values (impractical for large groups in terms of creating life experiences to do that by meeting unmet needs and otherwise an attempt at brainwashing), only to make the behaviour attractive in values terms.

So by a process of emulation and norming, change can spread around the values map from Pioneers to Prospectors to Settlers.  Good examples seen in many countries are the spread of environmental behaviours such as use of renewable energy, and recycling.

Because this happens without people changing values, it is like a Mexican Wave in a stadium which spreads without people leaving their seats.

  1. The Locomotive

This appears similar to the previous strategy but is crucially different because it relies on the power of a leadership group rather than attempting to enlist the rest of society.

The locomotive in question is normally the Pioneers or a subset of them, as the people most willing to ‘stand up for’ or promote something seen as unusual, weird, baffling, controversial or otherwise ‘difficult’ but for reasons the proponents usually see as altruistic: ‘good for society’.    So it’s a Pioneer-led, Pioneer-dominated x1 Group campaign strategy, even if the proponents think it is ‘open to all’.

In many societies there are enough Pioneers to create a big enough recruitment pool to create and sustain large campaigns of this sort but it has self-evident limitations.   For instance if it does not also engage or spread to Prospectors and Settlers, in most democracies politicians will see it as a subset of ‘the usual suspects’.  Unlike a campaign group, politicians cannot usually ignore the majority or large parts of society, as the majority also have votes.

This strategy is unconsciously adopted by many campaigns which act a vanguards or pressure groups for social reform and innovation (eg new sexually defined rights).   The default organising principle for this strategy is to identify the group most likely to run with your issue, build it and then devote energies to that and work your way out to other groups, using affinities.

Those which become politically-correct in ways which mean insisting on others adopting their reasons (values) as the price of admission (‘true belief’, ‘real reasons’), are unlikely to do more than persist.   Those which define their chosen issue or proposition in terms which polarise against the values of others, are likely to fail if they antagonize other groups and cannot over-power, out-manoeuvre or outweigh them.

  1. Reframing for Values Uplift

Values and frames are often confused but are two different things.   Values in the sense used here result from unmet psychological needs and manifest themselves as deeply and unconsciously held beliefs.  Frames are mental metaphors unconsciously used to recognize, categorize and process new information.  Nobody yet knows what the underlying brain processes really are or how they intersect but for practical purposes of campaign design, the first is about ‘rewards’ and the second about ‘understanding’ in the sense of recognition.

Reframing a proposition so that it better resonates with attitudes and beliefs driven by a particular values group can be an effective way of gaining wider support (as in #1).  But this has to be based on values insights from research, not guesswork in which people with one set of values try to second-guess what works for others.

For example:


  • Conducting formative qualitative research with people from different values groups to identify which frames work best for them


  • Building alliances with other groups which research shows have a strong appeal to different values groups, for example (see UK charity appeal values here). In this case the other charities or other affinity groups are likely to ‘bring their people with them’ in a way which will never be achieved by an organisation which stands for values at the other end of a values antagonism.  This may not involve a formal reframing process but groups will automatically frame any issue /action they support in ways that ‘work for them’, so long as you let them do so.

In short this involves doing the same thing (behaviour) for different reasons.

values antagonisms diagram

Some values antagonisms

  1. Unblock a Logjam

This application of values simply uses values insights to achieve ‘triangulation’, made famous by Dick Morris’s use of triangulation away from a left-right polarisation in Bill Clinton’s 1996 US Presidential campaign.    It is relevant when there is a values-driven stand-off that is going nowhere, and preventing or slowing change.

An environmental example is triangulating away from the power v Universalism axis on climate change issues.  Rather than to conduct a Pioneer (especially Concerned Ethical) [Universalism espousers] values battle with Golden Dreamers and Brave New World Settlers [Power espousers],  enlist the support of Now People Prospectors to rebalance opposition to action on climate from Golden Dreamer Prospectors.  This could for example involve making climate action about success and modernization, or simply fun, rather than an overt exercise in ethics.

Logjams can also arise when many sections of society do support the idea of ‘doing something’ about a problem but they violently disagree about why to do so because of different values.   In this situation, allowing or fostering more debate leads not to consensus finding but to disagreement and inaction.  The answer then is to find ways of removing such debate from the decision processes that enable change to take place.  Of course NGOs, politicians or others who are deeply committed to values such as self-expression, may find this inimical.

  1. VBCOP

VBCOP is a strategy formula based on observation of processes that do happen in societies but which are not usually organized deliberately.   It is a way of achieving change outcomes by generating opinions that can be applied (for instance) to politics, by first generating behaviours.

Politicians tend to give some weight to ‘public opinion’ and in many cases opinions are driven by what people do.  For example if most householders use gas to heat their homes or to cook with they are more likely to have a pro-gas opinion (“we couldn’t live without it” etc) than if they do not use gas.   This is based on the ‘consistency’ effect.

The behaviours which generate the opinions are very often driven by values, in other words many important behaviour differences are driven by unconscious values.  So in this case a strategy is planned in which relevant behaviours (B) are generated by matching offers or asks to values (V), and then because of (C) the consistency effect, the opinion is generated (O) which then needs capturing (eg with media evidence or polling) in order to apply it to polling (P).

For example, although I’ve not seen any such polling or use of it, it would be willing to bet that British people who do one or more of the following:  try various European foods, holiday in Europe, spend time with European friends, do business in Europe, are more likely than those who do less or none of these, to be ‘pro-European’ when it comes to voting the ‘remain’ in the Referendum.  Likewise people who vote regularly will be more likely than those who don’t, to agree that it is a way to make a difference, a good use of their time and effort and overall a good thing.

Time spent doing something of your own free will is an investment of behaviour.  It has much the same effect as economic investments: we tend to act to defend them.  The latter, campaigners easily recognize as a ‘vested interest’ but so too are behavioural investments.  It applies as much to things that appear intangible such as investing thousands of hours in helping defend human rights, as it does to earning money to buy a family refrigerator which has a utility function, a resale value and in some cases, is an object of esteem.  After all, if that wasn’t true then so many campaigns would just have been a waste of time wouldn’t they ?

More …

Is it easy applying values to strategy ?  Once you get used to it, ‘values’ is as easy as anything else.  The thing many campaign groups find hardest is converting their plan to influence an ‘issue’ into specific actionable offers or asks which involve behaviours that you can apply values to.   If you are interested in doing any training or working on applying values to a project, you can contact me at chris@campaignstrategy.co.uk

For more background on values see my book What Makes People Tick: The Three Hidden Worlds of Settlers, Prospectors and Pioneers (available at this blog as well as Amazon etc), and this website for a short introduction and more on Settler, Prospector and Pioneer Values Modes.




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TTIP and Concorde


Concorde photo: Copyright © copyright-free-photos.org.uk

What do Concorde and TTIP have in common ?  Older readers may find this easy.

  1. They were both designed as Trans-Atlantic
  2. They both seemed a good idea to governments at the time
  3. Critics pointed out many problems at the time but were ignored
  4. They were/are both claimed to bring massive economic benefits but the supposed users are not convinced
  5. The underlying problem for both was design obsolescence: both were supposedly ‘modern’ but in fact represented out-dated models

Concorde is now well-known not just as a technological dead end and commercial failure but most of all for the “Concorde Effect”: an example of sunk cost fallacy and the commitment bias, namely the tendency to go on pouring money and effort into something despite mounting evidence that it is a bad idea.

The latest evidence that TTIP is a troubled project comes not from Germany where it has long been socially and politically unpopular but from the UK where most business associations are at least nominally in favour of it and the Government has been a strong proponent.  A YouGov poll published on 1 June shows that only 14% of UK SMEs – Small and Medium sized Enterprises – think TTIP is a good idea for them.  Seeing as being good for business is a major plank of the political case for TTIP and 99% of UK businesses are SMEs, you’d think this might give the UK Government pause for thought but maybe not.  Remember Concorde.  As Wikipedia puts it:

The sunk cost fallacy is in game theory sometimes known as the “Concorde Fallacy”, referring to the fact that the British and French governments continued to fund the joint development of Concorde even after it became apparent that there was no longer an economic case for the aircraft. The project was regarded privately by the British government as a “commercial disaster” which should never have been started and was almost cancelled, but political and legal issues had ultimately made it impossible for either government to pull out.

Campaigners against TTIP, who either want it stopped altogether or radically revised, have undoubtedly been making headway but that doesn’t mean it will be abandoned.  At least probably not by governments suddenly having a ‘change of mind’.  Too much political face is at stake for most of them to admit that.

In such circumstances, campaigners need to keep up the general pressure but focus efforts on steps which can actually stop the project.  “Winning the argument” may be one of the tactics least likely to succeed, as, in most countries, will be massive public opposition: TTIP is simply too abstract for most people to want to make opposing TTIP a daily activity.

Much more likely to succeed is some sort of technicality which sidelines or trips up the project, or simply puts it ‘on ice’ or ‘in the long grass’.   Ninder Johal, the Chair of the Business Growth Foundation, which commissioned the YouGov poll, has called for TTIP negotiations to be frozen.  Not a bad idea.  It is also more than possible that once current US President Obama is no longer in office, the American political enthusiasm for TTIP will evaporate.  The main problem is momentum, for example because TTIP has become a whole industry of hundreds of well-paid negotiators but then they are mainly on contract and can simply be laid off.

Politicians in some governments, such as the French, have already started openly talking about walking away from TTIP but while it is stricken, the project is far from dead.

Meanwhile here are some indicators of the state of political commitment that TTIP watchers might bear in mind if and when politicians start manoeuvring to allow TTIP to quietly slip from their to-do list.

  • Confidence (good story for our country) [green light, full speed ahead]
  • Doubt (mixed evidence/ views) [green and amber, slowing down]
  • Regret [amber, coming to a halt and sharing misgivings]
  • Shame [red, looking for reverse and someone to blame]
  • Disownment [red, we’ve found someone or something to blame]
  • Disengagement [green but heading in a different direction, leaving it behind]
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Management Parameters for Campaign Direction

Many different types of organization try to campaign and there many designs of campaign but campaign design at an organizational level, and management of campaigns, are subjects that get relatively little attention.  Here are a few ideas that may help.

How We Think About It

Internal conflicts and dysfunction can arise because campaigners don’t know much about management but ‘rise through the ranks’ and find themselves as Campaign Directors or similar, where they encounter other managers or boards of governance (etc) with little or no understanding of how to actually campaign in practice but who may bring with them management assumptions or theories with little application to campaigns.

In addition, although people in campaign groups have often at least heard of things like ‘framing’ (eg George Lakoff’s work) and may use such terms all the time, they often do not realise that assumptions about which is the right way to make a decision or to organise something, are themselves framed by unconsciously imported assumptions.  Mostly these were embedded long ago in some academic course, management school or simply picked up through serendipity.  This even applies to competing frames for campaigning itself.

Individual campaigners may have no any overt management role but this is still relevant to them, as the plausible options to design any individual campaign are determined as much by what sort of organisation is doing the campaign, as by the external task and circumstances.  Spending a lot of time developing campaign options for which an organisation lacks the will, assets, skills or resources, is a waste of time.

In How to Win Campaigns: Communications for Change  I discuss how at the level of organizational strategy or ‘the brand’, campaign groups need to determine what their primary role is or way of doing campaigns.


book org campaigns

For instance a campaign group might be primarily a convenor, a witness, an investigator or many other things.  It should design strategy around using a ‘best tactic’: the ‘Strategy of Tactical positioning’ proposed long ago by Sun Tzu.

Hunters and Farmers

A common divergence is between groups who think about planning and making choices over which campaigns to run in terms of targets to change, and those who think in terms of ‘issues’ or areas to ‘work on’, more like territories to be in.  This can also apply to individuals within campaigns.

I think of first category as ‘hunters’ and the second as ‘farmers’.  For the hunters, the ‘world is their oyster’: they can select a target, try to change it to make a difference and then move on.   The ‘farmers’ err towards wanting to tend and cultivate change in a set area.  To use a military analogy, the first are more like raiders, the second want to hold and defend ground.

In reality of course both encounter limits imposed by resources and opportunities but in very different ways.  That affects the assumptions they make before they even embark on considering campaign options.  The ‘hunters’ see a universe or landscape of potential targets.  Picking one rather than another does not necessarily imply a trade-off except because you can’t be in lots of places at once.  In the ‘farmer’ case, allocation of resources is ‘zero sum’ and any change implies shrinking effort somewhere else, so campaign planning becomes negotiated more like a budget than a journey.

hunter farmer

Managers may accidentally build in such frames of thinking by the way they organise campaign teams, ‘department’s, planning processes and resourcing.

Repeat Business or Venture Capital ?

At the level of governance and senior management a fairly common problem comes about when managers, trustees or funders demand that campaigns meet the same sorts of performance targets or predictability that you can ask of ‘repeat business’.

The problem is that although the skills and techniques used in composing campaigns can be optimised within any organisation (ie you get good at it), each new campaign tends to be a bespoke operation, a voyage into the unknown, a venture into new territory.  Hence it is an inherently high risk business, more like venture capital than a service function or other repeat business.  Decision-makers used to service-delivery with established metrics for say economy and efficiency, or probability of outcomes, may expect to apply them to campaigns.   Service-delivery charities that ‘take up campaigning’ are especially vulnerable to this, and if this also comes with a failure to set campaign change objectives at a realistic level (more about that another time), it creates a whole cascade of problems.


There’s no single best way to organize or plan a campaign any more than there is a single right way to build a building but here are some parameters that might be worth thinking about next time you are involved with campaign design or planning.   Or indeed in trying to answer questions like “how good is this organization at campaigning ?”


How embedded are you in society: how connected and established or accepted ?  Being highly embedded requires the use of a lot of time or other resources and brings great benefits but sometimes also constraints.

  1. Efficiency

How efficiently are things done within a campaign, and across campaigns ?  And how efficient in terms of delivering results, is campaigning for your organization, as opposed to other means of delivery.  By and large, campaigning should be a last resort as most other options are likely to be lower risk.

  1. Economy

How cheap is it ?  Many other things tend to be cheaper, and campaigning is replete with opportunities for false economies, such as not bothering to do research into what might work, before planning to ‘roll out’ campaigns.

  1. Effectiveness

Are the campaigns, or is this one, effective ?  A huge amount of frequently futile effort is put into ‘campaign evaluation’: futile because although what people usually want to know is ‘did it work ?’, if there is no well-defined critical path of detectable objectives, ‘evaluations’ end up measuring proxies for change instead of actual change.   In terms of relative priorities, campaigning usually merits prioritizing effectiveness over economy or efficiency.  Which is another reason why it’s better to only campaign when absolutely necessary, and other avenues have been exhausted.

  1. Agility

Campaign groups are almost by definition likely to be up against a more powerful opponent.  Greater agility ought to be one of their few ‘natural’ advantages but some organisations design it out by looking to prioritize factors such as consistency or satisficing of stakeholders.  Genuine agility within a campaign is usually about capacity for tactical redeployment, re-assignment of effort or otherwise ‘getting inside the loop’ of an opponent (see OODA).

  1. Infectious Energy

A not-bad rule of thumb in campaign planning sessions that if a concept does not excite people inside the organisation, it should not be turned into a campaign.  The idea everyone cannot stop talking about, even if it is controversial or poses a dilemma, is more likely to work than one everyone agrees it is important and ought to be done but which is very low energy.  Many campaigns require contagion, a term often applied to the spread of an idea or behaviour but which just as important, can be the spread of a common focus of attention.  This is one way things start ‘trending’ and issues are organically ‘promoted’.

  1. Responsiveness

It’s easy to see that a campaign group which automatically aligns itself to every ripple in the zeitgeist, every twist in ‘fashion’, may be led far from its carefully charted critical path which leads to the ultimate objective.  On the other hand, being seen as responsive to the public mood and concerns tends to make an organisation liked and trusted, and NGOs are in competition with politicians to achieve this.  The real challenge is develop the critical faculty to spot, and the skills to exploit, opportunities to harness the public mood in ways that move a step along a strategic pathway.

  1. Competence

It is strange how little systematic attention many campaign groups seem to give to simply being good at what they set out to do.  Being good at campaigning requires skills that cannot just be gained through reading books, attending courses or ‘sharing’ expertise.  How much application leads to competence in campaigns is unknown but I at least would always favour hiring campaigners with a track record of delivery or overcoming identifiable obstacles through their own efforts, as opposed to those with a long string of more theoretical qualifications.  Then for organisations to become good at campaigns requires management to build a machine of people that works.

  1. Intelligencing

An intelligencer is an old word for someone or some group that acquires and passes on ‘secret’ information in a way that makes a difference.  Surprisingly few campaign groups are good at this, or to put it another way, many are much less well informed than they could be, about what might make a difference in their chosen field of operation.   Many simply react to information that others have already put into circulation, for instance in the media or social media.  ‘Secret’ in this context may mean information that is deliberately kept from public view but is more likely to be information that is simply not widely known or scrutinized but with some effort, could be discovered and used.

  1. Followership

A campaign may leave the development of a ‘following’ to chance or there may be a deliberate choice to invest time and effort in it.  It’s not hard to see that the size and relationship-quality of a following then affects the ability of a campaign to ‘deliver’.  Nowhere is this more true than when Real Life human activity is required, as in political canvassing and other forms of political ‘organising’, in ‘community’ work where committed messengers are needed, in organic human outreach to new audiences and in demonstrations.  This may lead to requirements for permeability and accessibility, ie the opportunities to join in.

  1. Iconography

The campaign organisation which has a kit-bag of visual iconography to deploy in constructing its communications is at an enormous advantage over those that do not.  These are not ideas or arguments but the means of visual communication, and if the organisation ‘owns’ them, they promote its brand at the same time as doing the day-job of making change.  Most of these stem from moments that become stored as memories.  Any campaign group which lacks them should consider investing in activities that create such moments but the moments need to be real, and to flow from campaigning as they will not arise from ‘stunts’ or the use of borrowed imagery.

  1. Discipline

Effective execution of campaigns requires discipline, such as when to forgo opportunities to become involved in topical public debates because doing so would feed the media but not further the campaign or your longer term ability to campaign.

  1. Hunter or Farmer

As discussed above, a campaign group may take either approach but the question really is, which do you set out to become good at, and how effective are you in using it ?

  1. Instrumentalism

In campaigning this means using campaign techniques to produce a practical result in terms of change: following through to the end result, or putting in motion such forces that the end result is inevitable (whether you are seen to do so by others or not).   If for instance you use the sequence awareness> alignment> engagement> action, it means following through to action.

  1. Advocacy

Advocacy in itself is not (in my book) campaigning, although sometimes people use the words inter-changeably.  Advocacy is about making and presenting a case, which is usually a part of campaigning but it’s not about making instrumental changes to the contexts, the messengers, the actions that others take and a host of other things that may be needed to bring campaign outcomes about.

  1. Charm and Empathy

Making change can often involve upsetting someone along the way.  If you can charm and disarm the unpersuaded or the opposed, rather than have conflict, so much the better.  The ability to do so is often the difference between success and failure.  Obviously angry groups are rarely attractive.  A lot of campaign groups have a surfeit of people with drive and cause motivation but a lack of ability to empathise with others and to ‘put themselves in the shoes’ of others.  Understanding values and other psychological metrics can help overcome this but it’s not enough in itself.   In MBTI terms this can mean recruiting some high Feeling and Sensing people not just Thinking and Intuitive ones.

  1. Durability

No campaign has to last forever but any campaign entity has to last long enough to see the thing through.  This is why most effective campaigns are run by organisations which have a funding and institutional base.

  1. Scalability

How scalable is a particular campaign or step in a campaign, if a bigger impact is subsequently needed ?  A great campaign which has no subsequent impact or for some reason cannot be taken to scale, is generally a poorer investment than one which is an easily replicable model (or better, self-replicating).

  1. Transparency

By transparency I don’t mean revealing the internal workings of the campaign or any sort of formal social accountability but transparency of meaning.  A campaign which communicates the essence of why you are doing it as well as the particularities of the situation is higher value than one which does not, particularly in building and sustaining a brand.  Put it another way, if it expresses your ‘brand values’, it is more likely to help sustain your long term campaign capacity.  (See Glass Onion model pp 262-4 in How to Win Campaigns)

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A Case Study in Campaign Directness

Quite often the constant pressure to refine ‘messages’ leads campaigners to get too clever for their own good.

Sometimes, especially when in doubt, it’s best to say it straight, and simply to do the obvious.  When the people trying to do the communication see their case as obvious and are doing it locally, they are much less likely to over-complicate things or try too hard to be ‘sophisticated’.  Even more so when it’s direct, that is not via third party medium like the newspapers or even a social media channel.  Here’s an example.

defra sucks 1

A few years ago a fisherman friend of mine used his van to send a message to the government about his displeasure with their policies.  DEFRA is the English Government’s Department of Food, Environmenat and Rural Affairs.  ‘Fishermen’s Friends’ are a famously fierce throat lozenge long promoted as something allegedly sucked on  by deep sea fishermen.  This iconic British brand has been sold worldwide.  The tin below (image from Wikipedia) is a version from Taiwan.


On the rear of his van he simply wrote this:

wot no quota message

The point being that he’s one of Britain’s many ‘small fishermen’ who have repeatedly lost out to the ‘big fishermen’ in allocation of quotas.  (Following campaigns by small fishermen and environmental NGOs the last ‘reform’ of the EU Common Fisheries Policy was designed to give more quota to small fishers but as it did not lay down exactly how much, the English government effectively ignored it*.  Yet again the small operators lost out.)

My friend’s van is often parked on Wells Quay which in summer is populated by many thousands of visitors.  As a result it became quite well known, and gave some amusement to quite a few people in the fisheries policy community, which is usually a bit short of laughs to say the least.  A wider lesson for campaigns is that the capacity to do direct communications is often a limiting factor.  It’s worth asking yourself what assets and resources you have which might enable you to do this.  Vans on the street are obviously just one example.  And if you don’t have those, who might help your campaign, who does have them ?  Retailers for example, who often have shops and car parks as well as vans.

A year or so later his van had to be retired and he got a new one.  The message however remained the same, although now professionally sign-written:

defra sucks 2

A couple of years further on, and being an entrepreneurial sort of person, he and his partner opened their own restaurant (Wells Crab House Cafe), and he got another van, this time sign-written to advertise the cafe and with a nice picture of his boat, The Blucher (with which he supplied the cafe with locally caught crabs).   There’s no message about DEFRA on the side.

defra sucks 3

But there is on the back.

defar sucks 4

Hes’ now sold the business and gone back to sea.  But I don’t imagine his campaign has ended.

* EU fisheries reform fails to live up to green hopes ENDS Report 493, March 2016

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Brexit Puts A Cat Amongst the Green Pigeons

UPDATE 13 June 2016

On 1 June the RSPB and WWF announced that they had changed their position and would make it clear to their 1.7m members/ supporters that on the balance of evidence, it would be better for the UK to remain in the EU.  It seems that in the end, they decided to follow the ‘moral compass’ lead of the Wildlife Trusts (see blog below) and do what is right, even if it might upset some members.

Prime Minister David Cameron who supports staying in the EU, visited Rainham Marshes RSPB Reserve near London on 3 June.  Mike Clark RSPB CEO said “we will not be telling anyone how to vote in the referendum. However, when considering the implications solely for wildlife and the environment, we have concluded that the safer option for nature is for the UK to remain a part of the European Union.”

Cameron said: “EU membership underpins many crucial environmental protections in the UK, while amplifying our voice in the world on vital issues like cutting global emissions”.  WWF and RSPB emphasised that this means support for the EU Birds Directive and Habitats Directive. While Cameron’s words fall short of an outright endorsement of EU green protections they probably indicate some sort of deal with RSPB and WWF to at least change the political mood music on environmental protection, and are in stark contrast with Chancellor George Osborne’s attack on green protections going back to 2012 when he stated  “wildlife protection rules were “placing ridiculous costs on British businesses”.

The bad-mouthing of environmental protection by Cameron and Osborne has involved years of attacking rules as a burden to economic activity and ‘green crap‘ and is an evidence-free zone.  It has been purely political and doctrinaire, a combination of ideological commitment to less regulation such as the ‘Green Tape Challenge‘ which is  part of a ‘better’ (ie less) regulation initiative, and anti-green positioning designed to please right-wing potential UKIP supporters.   The government’s own evidence in fact showed social and economic net benefits of environmental regulation (£3 for each £1 invested) while it’s own case by case study of 26,500 land-use planning decisions found no economic obstacles to business in 99.5% of cases.  That review cited only one such example which was a wind farm refused planning permission on environmental grounds !

The RSPB-WWF announcement leaves the UK environmental movement united in endorsing the value of staying in the EU on conservation grounds, and if it helps a reorientation towards backing green regulations it will have given RSPB and WWF something to show for their efforts.   Presumably Cameron and Osborne did not anticipate that they might need the support of green groups to help swing the EU Referendum.  Whether this kiss-and-make-up comes too late to make much difference, remains to be seen.


My last blog ‘The Brexit Values Battle‘ showed how values differences are probably a very strong underlying driver of the UK debate over ‘Brexit’.  It now seems that this divide may be posing a dilemma for some the UK’s environmental NGOs, some of whom have a more values-mixed support base than others.

Broadly speaking, Pioneers and some (Now People) Prospectors will lean towards ‘Remain’ (stay in the EU) and the instinctive support for ‘Leave’ comes from the Settlers and ‘Golden Dreamer’ Prospectors, motivated mainly by a yearning to recover an old national identity.

Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have both come out strongly in favour of the UK remaining in Europe, because on balance, it seems highly likely that would be better for the environment in the UK and beyond.  Their support base is strongly Pioneer.  Sometimes this is a weakness in terms of gaining broad support (as Pioneers are only about 40% of the population) but it probably makes it much easier to declare a view.

Others such as the National Trust, RSPB, WWF and the Woodland Trust, have discovered that their members are split on the EU issue and some of them vehemently so.  Faced with what some fear could be a damaging divide, they have opted not just to stay out of the campaigning (which all these NGOs have) but not to express a view one way or the other.

This ostentatiously neutral position involves sitting somewhat uncomfortably on the fence because the overwhelming analytical evidence is that leaving the EU would be very high risk for the environment, on matters from nature protection to waste, climate and renewable energy, and pollution.

Of course the staff of these organisations are well aware of this.  There simply is no even half-serious case for thinking that the ‘leave’ option will be better for the environment. Many of its leading proponents are climate sceptic for example and some have shown a visceral dislike of all sorts of ‘greenery’.


soc env ends eu study

Last week the environmental professional’s intelligence magazine ENDS Report  (issue 495) published a hugely detailed poll (893 responses)  of its readers showing they were overwhelmingly (77%) in favour of ‘remain’.  It was commissioned with the Society for the Environment and can be downloaded here.  That poll shows that on measure after measure including non-environmental ones such as attitude to the honesty, efficiency and accountability of the EU, the professionals have a vastly more positive view than the wider public.  Values (a factor in intuitive decision making) will have played a part but direct experience, knowing what really happens through regular involvement, will be the main reason these environmental professionals are so pro-EU.

E4E logo

This is also why a bevy of ex-Chief Executives of environmental NGOs and other environmental luminaries came out as very pro-EU earlier this year in support of E4E, the non-charity campaign group ‘Environmentalists for the Europe’.  The Guardian reported:

Leaving the EU would be damaging for the UK’s environment and quality of life, a group of academics and former high-ranking government officials has said.

“The case is clear: we will be better able to protect the quality of Britain’s environment if we stay in Europe,” said the group, which includes past heads of the RSPB, the National Trust, the Environment Agency and Natural England, in a letter to the environment secretary, Liz Truss.

“Britain’s membership of the EU has had a hugely positive effect on the quality of Britain’s beaches, our water and rivers, our air and many of our rarest birds, plants and animals and their habitats,” the 13 experts wrote.

Of course this doesn’t much help those NGOs who face a dilemma.  Their supporters are vanishingly unlikely to read such material.  Instead they use values (how they feel) and ‘System 1’ heuristics or what Daniel Kahneman calls ‘a mechanism for jumping to conclusions’, to decide about Brexit.

This is why the green NGOs cannot be said to be ‘split’: none are in favour of a leave option.  The divide is between those who have weighed the evidence and shared their conclusions, and those who have the evidence but have chosen to remain silent about what they think.  This may be expedient but is it the right thing to do ?  It’s a dilemma NGOs can face on many different issues.

The Unexpected Case of the Badger That Spoke Out

WTrusts logo

Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth are campaign groups which are used to dealing with controversy on a daily basis but the same cannot be said of Britain’s Wildlife Trusts.  They are normally one of the quieter organisations with a much lower profile than say the RSPB or the National Trust.  Perhaps they had in mind Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows when they chose a badger for their logo, for that character says “No animal, according to the rules of animal-etiquette, is ever expected to do anything strenuous, or heroic, or even moderately active during the off-season of winter.”

Yet this spring the Wildlife Trusts spoke out very clearly on whether or not it was best for Britain’s environment if we were to stay in the EU:

In accordance with its charitable objects “to promote the conservation and study of nature” and in keeping with Charity Commission guidelines, the UK Council of The Wildlife Trusts has considered how the outcome of this Referendum may affect nature and decided to make its conclusions publicly available …

The Wildlife Trusts believe that our wildlife and habitats will be better off if they continue to benefit from EU environmental legislation and a cross-Europe framework for nature conservation. We have formed this view because of the positive impact they currently bring to the UK’s wildlife and the uncertainty of the alternatives

It hasn’t exactly been a silent spring on the topic for groups like the RSPB and WWF which have so far adopted the fence-sitting position but they have chosen not to reach a ‘view’ and instead to call for ‘more information’ from the Leave and Remain camps about what they would do for the environment.  To my mind, this is not really the issue.  Even if such information is as objective as independent studies, which seems unlikely, their followers and the wider public look to such NGOs as brand trusted to analyse the wealth of evidence that ordinary members of the public have neither the time nor capacity to do, and at least tell them whether they think that on the balance of evidence, it would be better to stay in or get out.

It’s one thing for groups like WWF and RSPB to say that they will not campaign on the EU question, or that it’s not their job to ‘tell people how to vote’ but to my mind it is their job to speak out on the evidence.  RSPB for instance has a pro-wind/ renewable energy policy although that was a divisive issue and UKIP for instance wants to bring back coal.

The strange thing is that the Wildlife Trusts, RSPB and WWF all quote extensively from the same study they jointly commissioned from the authoritative Institute for European Environmental Policy, as the basis of their current positions.  Anyone reading that very detailed report could be in no doubt as to what the evidence shows. For instance on p 48 it concludes:

Under Scenario 2 (entirely outside), most of environment legislation would no longer apply, and the UK would be free to relax and lower environmental standards, creating as a result a scenario with real and uncertain environmental and health risks

Several other expert analyses and Parliamentary studies reach similar conclusions.

The Known Knowns: Dirty Man of Europe

Donald Rumsfield was much pilloried for his inscrutable remarks about the ‘unknown unknowns’ in war scenarios (although he had a point) and nobody knows for sure what would actually happen to the environment in the event of Britain staying in or leaving, not least because that depends upon politicians.

What we do know for sure is Britain’s track record in the EU, which has all too often been one of trying to resist, stifle, ignore or opt out of progressive environmental policies, often while disingenously trying to hold the moral high ground by claiming to have a better idea.

This attitude and behaviour as much as it’s actual poor environmental performance was why in the 1980s it got the reputation as ‘The Dirty Man of Europe’.

dirty man of europe book

I wrote a book called The Dirty Man of Europe (Simon and Schuster), about it, published back in 1990. On page three it stated:

‘From entering the [European] Community in 1973 to the end of the 1980s, Britain was in increasingly frequent conflict with the European Commission and its European partners over the environment.  At the time of writing, for example, Britain faces the possibility of legal action by the European Court over the contamination of groundwater by pesticides and of drinking water by nitrates.

Without pressure from Europe, it is difficult to see how Britain would have made any environmental progress (possibly with the exception of curbing radioactive emissions) in the 1980s.  Britain had the legal and administrative machinery to require FGD on power stations but, before an EC Directive was drafted, showed no signs of using it; even small pilot schemes in the 1950s were shut down.  Left to its own devices, Britain would probably still be setting standards for fumes from diesel engines by running lorries past people sitting in deckchairs (the EC will instead require specific, measurable emission limits).’

[The deck chairs thing is not a joke].

The rest of the 320 pages explored the track record of the UK Government on the gamut of pollution issues in more exhaustive detail than I could be bothered with today.  It’s a ripping read and I thoroughly recommend it, especially the 34 pages of references.

All in all has anything really changed in the intervening decades ?  Not really.  On a long list of green issues from air pollution emissions to neonicotinoid pesticides, the UK has often been obstructive in the EU.

The basic problem is that Britain the nation has never been as ‘green’ as its NW European neighbours such as Germany and Denmark, and  to be so has been out of step with the mainstream in both the two main political parties, Labour and Conservative.  Of the two, the Tories have tended to be the worst but there’s little to chose between them.  Senior British politicians who really stand up for the environment have been the exception rather than the rule.

So the simple answer to the question, ‘would it be better or worse for our environment if Britain left the EU’, is easy to answer.   It would be worse because Britain would be left to its own devices.   Or rather England would, for both Scotland and Wales have started to become ‘more European’ in their attitudes to the environment, nature, pollution and so forth.  This is another big reason why sitting on the fence is on the issue not a very convincing position: to ignore the UK’s track record in Europe in the hope that Brexit would be accompanied by a Damscene conversion of green-haters into greenies also requires hiding your head in the sand at the same time.

The Cat Factor

So what’s kept some of the green pigeons sat on the fence ?  I fear it’s the cat factor.  All NGOs involved in seeking change have to triage opportunities and challenges when it comes to deciding whether to take risks or expend resources: things we don’t need to try and change, things we could change, things we couldn’t change if we tried.  Fair enough but sometimes you also have to do what is right, even if it looks very risky or hard to change.

Cats are an example.  Britain is known as a nation of pet lovers and many cat owners make little distinction between loving cats and loving other animals, eg birds.  This is may well be the reason why neither WWF and RSPB has to my knowledge ever done anything very proactive about the cat problem in the UK.

fat cat no bell

Domestic cats are non-native introduced species. Evidence from a Mammal Society study found:

‘the British population of approximately 9 million cats was estimated to have brought home in the order of 92 (85-100) million prey items in the period of this survey, including 57 (52-63) million mammals, 27 (25-29) million birds and 5 (4-6) million reptiles and amphibians’.  

Brought home dead of course.  By any standards that’s quite a lot.  And that’s without any they snacked on while away from home.  Plus they are also progressively wiping out the native Wildcat as a genetically distinct species by inter-breeding.

The obvious question for any NGO, is ‘what would our members think ?’ if we launched a campaign about cats.  The shortcut way to answer this is simply to ask ‘how many of our supporters have cats ?’ – answer quite enough not to want to go there.

This goes some way to explain why our woodland nature reseves are studded with high seats from which to cull introduced Muntjac deer, large sums are invested in anti-grey Squirrel campaigns in favour of native reds, extinction programmes are set up to eliminate introduced American crayfish from water catchments, and we have traps for Mink but cat flaps for cats.  The cat evidence is essentially ignored.

[The RSPB cites the above study and says there is no evidence that cats are causing declines in bird species that do not often come across cats.  The Society also argues that cats often take young birds (amongst which there is high mortality anyway) or sickly ones but that’s true of many predators.    It does sell cat deterrents for gardeners (‘what you can do to help’).  I find it unconvincing that so many cats killing so many birds and animals in effect, has no effect.  Lack of studies rather than lack of impact probably best supports such a conclusion.]

fat cat bell

Putting a bell on a cat is said to reduce bird kill per cat by about 30%.  Not having a cat cuts it by 100%

Setting aside my personal enthusiasm for a well-structured campaign to start reigning in cats, I think it would be entirely understandable if the green groups sitting on the fence are concerned that they might lose some support, maybe legacies and donations, if they were to inflame pro-Brexit members by going public with their analysis of the evidence on the Leave or Remain question.  But this is a much more important issue, with a huge amount evidence, than even the cat problem.  And in most such cases what feels like a torrent of complaints often turns out to be a trickle of desertions so long as your actions are based on your values and mission (see below).

In the Final Analysis

This is one of those questions where what you decide to do, depends on how you decide.  All ’cause’ organisations need two ways of deciding: by strategy (what’s effective) and by morals or ethics (what’s right).

chart graphic

What’s the best route to take ?

Making strategy is like making and using a map to chart the best route to your objective, preferably along a Critical Path.

Ideally what’s effective coincides with what’s right but sometimes, due to lack of certainty or information or extreme urgency or importance, you have to do what’s right, even if you don’t know it will be effective.  Then you need a compass, an ethical or moral guide that simply says ‘this is the right way to go’.

 compass graphic

Which is the right way to go ?

There is no doubt that the EU in/out question is an almighty mess and divisive, even in families (eg Boris Johnson, an outer, versus both his brother a pro-EU Minister and his dad Stanley who is an in-er and a founder of E4E).  And it’s ironic that the Remain camp of the Government now wants NGOs to speak out in favour of staying in but has frightened the life out of them by a campaign of vilification against charities (in order, it’s rumoured, to reduce any influence they have at the next election) and a lot of restrictive new rules.

But whatever the result of the Referendum, environmental NGOs are going to have to live with the politicians now taking sides.  All of them have had run in’s with government before: taking them to Judicial Review for example.  It’s also true there are a lot of instinctive pro and anti Europeans in the UK, and the latter are a lot crosser about the whole thing but there are also a lot of undecideds.   And although whatever green groups say is not in itself going to decide the issue one way or the other, if organisations which exist to pursue a cause and which want evidence based policy from governments, do not themselves weigh up the evidence and at least share the result, that is not a good thing.

WWF, the RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts have asked the Leave and Remain campaigns to say what they will do for the environment, so there is still time for them all to arrive at a considered view on whether the evidence shows in or out looks better, in the coming weeks.  I hope they do.

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The Brexit Values Battle


UK political classes and media are gripped by the ins and outs of the Brexit battle (a referendum of Britain’s continued membership of the European Union is due to be held on June 23rd).  Many other Europeans are baffled, not least because the politics are entangled with a very British Conservative Party leadership struggle, and because both Labour and Conservatives are split on the Brexit issue.  But values research from CDSM shows that values differences underly the polarised ‘leave’ or ‘remain’ positions in the UK, and, similar political-values antagonisms are at work in several other EU countries, including on immigration.

The UK party specifically associated with Brexit is UKIP.  Below is the UKIP vote from around the time of the last election, along with the core readerships of several national newspapers and the Liberal Democrats, longstanding supporters of EU membership.


UKIP’s core vote was concentrated in the Settlers (top and top right), overlapping with the base of the Daily Mail and The Sun. The Liberal Democrats and The Guardian mostly show the opposite pattern: their support being concentrated lower right in the Pioneers.   In between the two are the Prospectors, likely to be the swing voters in the Referendum (as a previous blog described, values surveys before and at the last election commissioned by John Crudass MP showed how the Labour Party lost much of the Prospector vote, and lost the election).

CDSM’s model is calibrated with the internationally verified values model of Shalom Schwartz.  The polar antagonism in values is shown in the red line below: “power” versus “universalism”.


Whoever manages to appeal to the values left of this line, such as achievement hedonism, stimulation and self direction, is likely to swing the decision.  In political parlance this means establishing a ‘narrative’ of optimism, the prospects of future success, enjoyment and looking good, whether as a country, a business or individually.  Further appealing to the ends of this polarity will only entrench it and may even turn off the bulk of Prospectors, leading them to stay away on referendum day.

A ‘key issue’ has been immigration.  UK Settlers overwhelmingly agree there are ‘too many foreigners’ in the UK.  This is a reflexive judgement caused by unmet needs for safety, security and identity, and fear of the unknown.


UKIP has successfully played on this concern.  Attacking it on universalist grounds and with ‘facts’ will not make any difference, except possibly to drive entrenched views deeper.

How The Remain Campaign Could Win

Only an optimistic success-oriented alternative is likely to make a difference.  A key group will be the Golden Dreamers (GDs above), who are in turn very influenced by the Now People (NPs above) Prospectors, who having achieved esteem of others, are role models for GDs.  The NPs are more fashionable, confident, optimistic and less disciplinarian.  The benefits of Euro-railing, enjoyment of foreign holidays, making friends and having a good time doing business with Europe, and the endorsement of celebrities for the same, are likely to have more effect on this than any amount of ‘economic argument’.

AfD in Germany

In a recent article Alternative for Germany – how far can it go ? at the CDSM research website shows that the recently successful AfD or Alternative for Deutschland party has a very similar values appeal to UKIP.  Such parties are usually called “right wing nationalistic” parties but in truth they are more Settler identity-seeking parties.  Below: core AfD base in December 2015.


The indexes mean support is above or below average (100 = average).  Dade also points out that AfD’s vote overlaps with wider German concern about ‘too many foreigners’ and this means it could:

‘significantly increase the size of its franchise in a very short period of time – taking it from a fringe party to one that could have significant part to play in a larger coalition with another party or parties. Perhaps more importantly, AfD is well placed to become the voice of these disenfranchised, alienated, angry and frightened people who may not have voted in the past but now feel that there is a party which understands them. If this is so, and they give AfD their vote, they will change the overall narrative within the whole German political system’.

In Britain this opportunity may come on June 23rd if the ‘remain campaign’ does not get its act together.  (For more on AfD read Pat Dade’s piece and for anyone who sees a similarity with Donald Trump’s approach in the US, have a look at his older analysis of the Tea Party).

EU Views and Values Differences

CDSM’s 2015 survey of five EU Member States (UK, Germany, Spain, Italy and France’ – data here) also tested agreement or disagreement (on a six point scale) with the statement ‘On Balance the EU is a Net Benefit’.

This is obviously relevant to Brexit and other possible ‘xits.  Pat Dade will be posting a proper analysis of this in the next week or so but he has let me have some slides to share here (please contact him directly for more).

Here are the pro European values maps – those who agree the EU is a net benefit.


Italy: the Pioneers and NP Now People Prospectors (to their left on the map) are most convinced.  There is also a pro EU skew amongst the C1s and ABs (socio economic group).  Overall support is 43.8%


France: 45.6% overall support and a similar pattern.  The Settlers and Golden Dreamer Prospectors are much less supportive than the Pioneers and Now People.


Germany: 61.6% agree overall but Settlers much less so.  Golden Dreamers are split over the question.  Now People and Pioneers agree most.


In Spain there is mass acceptance, it’s a mainstream view, although even higher amongst ABs.


Finally, back to the land of the Brexit debate: UK.

Support for the EU is almost the mirror image of those who most support UKIP and feel there are too many foreigners in the country.  The Now People (lower left) are significantly more pro European than the Golden Dreamers (upper left), showing why this is the key battleground that will probably determine whether Britain votes in or out.

Behind these ‘terrain maps’ is a lot more detail which Pat Dade will explore in his forthcoming analysis at www.cultdyn.co.uk, where you can also test your own values using their online questionnaire.

For more on how values shape many issues in our societies see my book (avialble at this page or from Amazon etc) What Makes People Tick: The Three Hidden Worlds of Settlers, Prospectors and Pioneers.


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Wells Harbour Helps Holidaymakers Avoid Plastic Pollution (updated)

UPDATE 26 March 16 – Easter Weekend

Good Friday was the first busy day for visitors in Wells this spring.  Gillying (crabbing) started in earnest and lots of people were out enjoying catching crabs from the Quay.



I went down to take some pictures and saw the first plastic bucket of the season floating off on the tide.  Fortunately Nick the ferryman from www.wellsharbourtours.com was working nearby and he managed to recover it before it got under a pontoon and headed out into the marshes or maybe to open sea.  Unfortunately most times nobody is on hand to pull them out and they become flotsam, floating about on the tide until they break down into small bits, and finally invisible but deadly plastic pollution.


Oops – some new plastic pollution in the making


fortunately Nick is working close by


he crawls under the steps on the pontoon and recovers the rogue bucket.  We also found a plastic creel used to hold line for crabbing, attached to seaweed under the pontoon



“We see them all over the marsh and along the creeks” says Nick, who takes visitors on tours of the Harbour.


Which is how shiny new plastic buckets can quickly end up as dangerous plastic pollution.

bucket decay process

wells harbour office and rescued crab bucket and creel

Ones that didn’t get away


Every year some 30,000 plastic buckets are thought to be purchased in Wells next the Sea (England) for ‘crabbing’ or ‘gillying’ as it is known locally. These flimsy buckets are often discarded, becoming plastic pollution.  This endangers wildlife and human health.

gillying rubbish_2discarded crabbing buckets and lines picked up from Wells Quay on one summer morning   

Now Wells Harbour has launched a ‘Healthy Harbour’ scheme to enable families intent on crabbing to use eco-friendly wooden creels for the lines and steel buckets.  The Harbour will hire these out with a deposit and recycle any income into public awareness work.

healthy harbour

Read more about the Healthy Harbour initiative here (or www.wellsharbour.co.uk)


Wells Harbour at high tide with sea lavender on the marsh.  Looks lovely but there’s plastic in the sea

plastic bucket debris wells_2

Plastic bucket found on marsh at Wells

plastic debris wells_2

Part of recreational flotation device found on marsh – more plastic

barnacles on plastic_2

Barnacles and mussels attached to an old plastic drum probably used as a fishing marker found on Wells marsh – eventually even this will break down into tiny plastic fragments.  These end up in fish and seafood.

razor blade in crabbing bucket left on the quay_2

Razorblades for cutting line found in discarded crabbing bucket at Wells

Picture 004_2

McDonalds Happy Meal promotional balloon found on Cromer beach a few miles away.  Happy for whom ?

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48 Campaign Strategies

Here’s a list of ‘campaign strategies’. I’m not saying they are the best or the most applicable but they might help in planning or rethinking a campaign.

Some or all can also be seen or used as tactics. Indeed the distinction between tactics and strategy is to some extent situational, as a tactic (a way of doing something or a how-to) used to strategic effect, becomes a strategy. Other times people distinguish them by scale, or may see strategy as about a series of moves to get a big result whereas tactics are more like tools and small moves that can be adopted responsively. I wouldn’t worry too much about defining the difference, although some people do love that sort of discussion.

There are many other lists of strategies, most notably on marketing, warfare and politics, not to mention ecological and evolutionary strategies. Some of these are relevant to civil society campaigns but the underlying predicates are rarely as clear cut or universally applicable. In business for instance the purpose is usually to make money. In war to overcome your opponent by use or threat of force, and gain or hold territory. In politics to get votes, gain or stay in power or be popular to help do that. Those make strategies and results easier to define. NGO or change campaigns are a lot more variable.

This list does not include more systematic attempts to rethink or create your campaign, for example to make an evidence-based Critical Path to change, or to use PSB or RASPB or CAMPCAT, audience research, organisational level campaign strategies, framing, stories, visual language and so on. For more on those see elsewhere at this website (eg planner here) and lots more in my book How to Win Campaigns: Communications for Change.   A future post will share some values strategies.

  1. The Brick in the Pond

This is the very simplest campaign strategy. Start doing something and see what happens: an iterative approach. The intention may be just to ‘put the cat amongst pigeons’ and stir things up a bit, and to learn from how the actors respond. Or to see where you make any progress. It’s often the de facto approach adopted by groups who do not have any ‘strategy’ informed by previous experience or skills but it may also be a justifiable choice for quite ‘sophisticated’ campaigners when the costs of situation analysis, R +D and all the other work that can go into planning a campaign with optimised chances of success, seem higher than the potential benefits. (The other obvious dimension to take into account is risks).

A support-building variant is to do this in a new place but using well proven tactics, just to see who shows up to support you. I’ve seen people do this in ‘new’ countries where it’s hard to locate allies.

  1. Drop a Dead Dog on the Table

Popularised by Australian political spin doctor Lynton Crosby. A ‘shock’ way to stop people talking about something, and so create the opportunity to get them to switch to talking about something else you’d rather they focused on.

  1. RTS

An old favourite of Greenpeace. ‘Return to Sender’. Send the problem back to its maker. For instance company A claims it’s effluent process water is as clean as the river intake it came from, so call them out on this by connecting their ‘out’ pipe to their ‘in’ pipe. Greenpeace once sent a whole train load of toxic waste destined to be dumped in Czechoslovakia, back to Germany. Friends of the Earth famously returned ‘non-returnable’ bottles to Cadbury-Schweppes, the makers.

  1. Diffuse to Acute

Machiavelli and a host of other political operators have noticed that something a lot of people are a bit worried about has nothing like the political potential of something that a smaller number of people are very concerned about. Converting an ‘issue’ from diffuse to acute is strategy to move it up the political agenda.

  1. Build a Majority

Few NGO campaigns actually need to do this, although outsiders often assume it is needed because they transpose assumptions from politics. Even fewer campaign groups have the potential to do it: hence it’s usually a case for alliances and coalitions where it is needed. But many campaigns do need majority support in key areas or at key steps on a pathway.

  1. Add Heuristics

This is a cheap, quick and, at least in theory, an easy way to tune up any campaign communications. Heuristics are ‘rules’ about things that work more than they don’t work, based on cognitive biases (eg social proof, consistency, loss aversion). The simplest is ‘liking’. Make people like you and they are more likely to agree with you or help you.   Lots online about this. See chapter on the more useful ones in How to Win Campaigns’, or Influence the Psychology of Persuasion or Thinking Fast and Slow.

  1. Boot-strapping

Build resources and assets by use of net positive strategies/ tactics. Start with nothing, or not much, and do your campaigning in a way that leaves you with more help, money or other assets and resources than you had before. Then do it again. Being net positive in this way usually requires being more ‘popular’.   Most non-campaign alternatives with the same effect require running a successful business (or illegality !). Some campaigners struggle with the being-popular bit.

  1. Create a Pool to Fish From

Need to find your potential constituency or build a followership or ‘movement’ ? Do something to attract people who see the subject as relevant to them, and then recruit the subset within that who can be aligned to your approach or objective. A get-them-to-come-to-you or to a thing you-have-caused or -created approach.

  1. Make a Halo Campaign

A halo-brand is one that ‘shines the light’ of its desirable properties onto other brands in the same family or ‘guild’. For example a car model which is a market leader, and which has properties that can then be emulated or echoed in other models which are made to look a bit similar. VW famously did this with the Golf (the Passat being a fat squashed Golf, the Polo a shrunken Golf etc, attracting buyers who’d really rather have a Golf but can’t as it’s too small, costly or whatever). Some campaign groups achieve this by accident and many fail to do it at all. It helps a lot because making any subsequent campaign look and feel a bit like a famous campaign that a lot of people liked, makes it easier to gain support, and more likely to be successful because success is expected.

  1. Credibility Jump

Change who you are in a campaign. Useful if your campaign group is doing way too much of the heavy lifting. For instance where governments or businesses are slowly and incrementally responding to your efforts but not actively helping. For example move from advocate to delivery and thereby get a new authority, power or influence. Only works if you are prepared to change roles and resource that.

  1. Put Something at Risk

Your supporters care about what you want to achieve but do the decision-makers ? For instance ask campaigners or supporters what ’s at risk and they are likely to say things like ‘human rights’ or ‘air quality’ or ‘human health’ but the decision maker may be more concerned about reputation, popularity, profits or market share.  Study them and learn what they do care about until you find a way to make your campaign somehow put that at risk.

  1. Invoke Proportional Response

In most democracies (and many non-democratic leaders assiduously try to do the same thing, fearing unpopularity),  there is a norm (social expectation) that if something is wanted enough, leaders should take note and respond proportionately. This is why politicians want to be seen to stay in step with public opinion (responsive, listening, caring): so they have to ’give something’.   It’s both a quantitative (numbers, how many want this ?) and qualitative (who wants it ?) game. This is what underlies the influence of groups like Avaaz and 38 Degrees: aggregators and manifesters of opinion.

  1. The Wedge Issue

A classic strategy in political circles where parties vie to maximise their vote share. By focussing debate on an issue that unites their team but divides the opposition, they aim to emerge as the largest bloc. Generally under-used by NGOs, who often attack a whole sector in their rhetoric when they would better approach it by dividing the opposition, and/or adopting ‘salami tactics’ and taking out one part of the problem at a time.

  1. The Fault Line

This may be used to ‘split the pack’ as in #13 but is more relevant when considering a single target. Assuming you have identified the best target to focus on to get change, learn about their interests and processes and look for a potential fault line or vulnerability. Few organisations are homogenous, most have differences of interest internally. Many balance business or political plays which are potentially in conflict. Examine how you can frame your campaign which plays on a weakness or fault-line which they will recognize.

  1. Trojan Horse

Does what it says on the box.  Get inside the opposition camp by being attractive and then open the door, physically or metaphorically.

  1. Triangulate

Classically used to reframe away from a bipolar issue standoff (eg where you are in a stalemate with a single opponent) by bringing a new actor or target into play. Defensively popular with politicians wanting to reduce your campaign momentum by getting you into conflict with a third party, eg business, the old, young, sick, poor, Father Christmas or cat owners. Useful to create political space for governments to concede to your demands where it is opposed by another important player. For instance conservationists want protection for marine areas and fishermen oppose it. So create a distinction between ‘good’ (less opposed) fishermen and ‘bad’ (opposed) fishermen, perhaps on small-fisher/ big-fisher lines.

  1. Catch People Doing Something Good

A marketer’s approach that can be applied to campaigns. Reach a new audience defined by already doing something (a behaviour) consistent with what you want people to do, or to support. Congratulate them, help them, get them to like you. Show them that people-like-them are for one or another reason also likely to do your thing, and then get them to do that. The second behaviour may be your end destination or a demonstration to others that it is popular. Behaviour repetition or extension rather than complete change.

  1. Stimulate Anticipation-Reaction

Simon Bryceson points out that many political decisions are not a reaction to events but an anticipation of an event happening, and the possible consequences (see his Political Checklist). If you can pull it off, this is often a lot cheaper and easier than trying to force a decision maker to act. They read the signs and make a calculation.  It also means they must understand, or think they understand, your strategy and what you are able to deliver. Campaigners often assume a target must already understand their strategy when that is not the case.

  1. Remind of/invoke Precedent (pattern match)

This can relate to #18 as in “remember the last time they did this ?” but it may not be about you. Nearly every institution or individual decision-maker will have a memory about good or bad past experiences, ‘lessons not to be forgotten’. Find out what these are and brainstorm about how your campaign can hit those nightmare buttons in a good way.  (Can also apply to reminding them of golden moments and pointing out that this is an equivalent opportunity.  If it is).

  1. The Bush Fire

This plays to the advantage of ‘insurgent’ players needing to build bottom- up support, especially across wide areas (geographically or socially).   Especially at the start of a campaign in which your opponents are embedded, established and strongest in a centralised position (eg in the ‘corridors of power’), creating a bushfire of disconnected, distant and hard-to-grasp campaign fronts can be a strategy which creates a dilemma for the other side. They can try to ignore you or they can ‘ride out’ and try to take the bushfires on one at a time but often they do not have the logistical capacity to do that. This needs constantly growing momentum to work (eg divestment), and a will to stay slightly beyond reach. Central co-option can starve the bushfires of oxygen.

  1. The Theft or Takeover

Take something away from your opponent.   Most applicable once a campaign is fairly mature and many options have been explored.   It could be an ally who is persuaded to switch sides, or an asset which is repurposed, as in ‘subvertising’ of ad posters or many of the works on the Yes Men in which they borrow identities or corporate venues.  It can also be a real thing which you use to good effect (and then give back – in English law at least, it’s not actually theft if you don’t intend to permanently deprive the owner of it).

  1. Make the Weather

Another political term with connotations of sorcerers ‘talking up the weather’, which means to create a public conversation or mood, an atmosphere which sets expectations and makes some things harder, others easier. This strategy may be needed to first affect the context so as to raise the chances of success for a more specific subsequent intervention to reach your intended change objective. An allied idea is winning the ‘air war’ or media conversation in a political fight (implying though that this may not win the ‘ground war’ of actual behaviours such as voting).

  1. Get the Door Opened for You

A great many campaigns are oppositional. See the hill, take the hill; batter down the door of the opponent. A more effective strategy may be to explore the possibilities for inducing someone to open the door for you. This usually requires inside knowledge, thoroughly understanding the interests and dynamics at work in the target organisation. Campaign groups which become dogmatic and ideologically opposed to a target they ‘love to hate’ rarely look into such possibilities.

  1. Tactical Positioning

Perhaps the most useful of the many ‘stratagems’ proposed by the much quoted and less-read ancient Chinese master strategist Sun Tzu, in his book The Art of War. This says simply to identify your best tactic, and then plan strategies which enable you to use it. Requires some discipline.

  1. Distraction

Like outflanking, ambushes and surprise, a ‘feint’ or attack designed to draw the enemies attention away from one place to another, is a pretty obvious tactic. That’s one type of distraction but distraction need not involve any sort of offensive move. J K Galbraith describes in the Age of Uncertainty how Karl Marx came to write his crucial document Address to the Working Classes. The ‘First International’ a meeting of the ‘stateless proletarians’ intended to form the Marxist ‘organisational weapon’ was held in 1864. An Address was to be written as the key propagandist tract. Galbraith says Marx was appalled at the ‘verbosity, illiteracy and general crudity’ of the draft. So exploiting his role as Secretary, and ‘knowing the subject to be irresistible’, he ‘got the members discussing rules’. With the members suitably distracted, Marx rewrote the seminal text himself. As any parent discovers, the best type of distraction is one the target enjoys.

  1. Surfing

Some of the most prominent campaigners I know are secret or brazen practitioners of issue surfing. Almost all will pay lip service to the importance of systematic ‘strategy’ but disliking the hard slog and tedium of analysis and planning, they instead become expert in deft exploitation of media trends and opportunities, and social debate. This gets attention but an obvious risk is that it really only feeds the needs of the media or social media, and it is no use in making headway ‘against the current’.   Sometimes it does ‘work’ in more instrumental terms and they manage to use frequent and high profile commentary to influence real outcomes in terms of change.

  1. Explaining

Some politicians and campaigners manage to develop a reputation for explaining events, for being meaning-givers.   It could be said that those ‘think tanks’ which are in effect campaign groups, also do this, as their most high profile and wide-cast interventions are usually to explain events which already have significant attention. This strategy avoids the need to create the events, although it is rarely as potent as one which allows a campaign group to create events ‘at will’. It usually requires a long history of reputation making.

  1. Create a ‘Killing Ground’

In military terms this is self-explanatory: it’s an area where the enemy can be targeted and killed, often by using a feature of topography to determine where to site your forces. The equivalent in campaigning, where the ‘killing’ is only metaphorical,  could be cases such as where an opponent which is generally outside public view or beyond the influence of public judgements (eg do or do not buy their products), can be held to account. This might be a stage in a process or cycle where they are unusually vulnerable, or it might be created by changing the context so that they are unusually exposed.

  1. Attrition

Possibly the dullest, least imaginative and often the crudest of all strategies; intended to wear down or wear away an opponent or obstacle. Got a bad name in World War 1 as generals sent waves of men ‘over the top’ from their trenches to be slaughtered in ‘no man’s land’. On the other hand, it suits organisations with a followership, often fairly closed, which actively enjoys the ‘long march’.  A dumb form involves constant effort but informed persistence, never quite stopping altogether and coming back with a bigger push at times of opportunity, is often vital for the long term success of a campaign. See Daphne Wysham’s almost lone 16 year campaign to get the World Bank to stop financing coal plants.

  1. Entryism

Much loved by the ‘old left’ Trotskyists in the UK, this involves infiltrating organisations (typically unions of political parties) and colonising them from within, before changing their policies.   A similar dynamic though can apply in any organisation open to membership of some sort, for example a company that can simply be bought into, or most political or social organisations. On the other hand in social groups (NGOs are no exception), culture is often harder to change than anything else so it’s often quicker and more effective to establish a new organisation, NGO, business or otherwise.

  1. Drain the Swamp

A strategy of force and often last resort but which even cause groups may find themselves faced by if they cannot for example induce regulators to enforce rules, or ‘rules’ for a sector are only voluntary (as in many certification schemes). A way to identify the last remaining sources of the problem or opponents.

  1. Know More About Your Opponent Than They Do

We’ve all seen those spy movies where the handler or interrogator tries to make the subject feel helpless by revealing something the subject thought was private. The idea is that the hapless subject then believes that “we know everything about you”.  Well it can work in real life.   If you do some good research into customers of companies or politicians voters it can give you some great ideas about how to get them on your side. As well as using it to try and activate support, you should at least consider sharing some of this in a pre-launch meeting with your target. It’s unsettling to discover that campaigners know more about you than you do yourself. What else do they know ?

  1. The Slingshot

A way of boosting momentum.

Wikipedia says:

‘In orbital mechanics and aerospace engineering, a gravitational slingshot, gravity assist maneuver, or swing-by is the use of the relative movement (e.g. orbit around the Sun) and gravity of a planet or other astronomical object to alter the path and speed of a spacecraft, typically in order to save propellant, time, and expense. Gravity assistance can be used to accelerate a spacecraft, that is, to increase or decrease its speed and/or redirect its path.

The “assist” is provided by the motion of the gravitating body as it pulls on the spacecraft.[1] It was used by interplanetary probes from Mariner 10 onwards, including the two Voyager probes’ notable flybys of Jupiter and Saturn’.

And there you go. Point being that by luck, your normally obscure topic of concern may suddenly become highly salient because some newsworthy event means a huge number of people are talking about or looking at it. Or could be made to do so because it is suddenly ‘relevant’. For a (typically very) short period you have an opportunity to dominate mindspace and attention at very little cost in time and effort. Timing is of the essence. An environmental (and rather predictable) example is the Olympics. It’s typically a much bigger ‘issue’ or national concern than the environment but for a short time, ‘the nation’ wants to be ‘the best’ in all things in the ‘eyes of the world’ and so it wants the Olympics to be the best in environmental terms too. Used well, this can have a lasting legacy in terms of greater velocity/ momentum for environmental matters in a country, even redirecting trends or pathways.

  1. Signal the Inevitable

Lets’ face it, in most cases your concern is not uppermost in the minds of mainstream decision makers, otherwise you would not need to be campaigning.   They mostly do not feel that they need to pay attention although they may humour you by the occasional invitation to talk. Unelected politicians are some of the worst, and media are no better: they are mostly ultra-short-term, interested only in how they perform on the day. Governments and some businesses (and investors) however, do plan for the future, at least a bit. This is where analytical evidence can play a role. If you can show that (your desired) change is eventually inevitable, the custodians of the ‘long view’ will start to mark-up your priorities. Back in the 1980s two of the earliest inside-track allies for ‘doing something’ about climate change were the NATO military who had long-trend secret measurements of thinning arctic ice (their preferred hiding place for nuclear missile submarines), and the re-insurance industry (whose existence was and is threatened by increasingly severe weather impacts).

But it’s not pure analytics which is in play here. Concepts like the ‘ratchet of history’ illustrated by lookalike technology change (the horse gave way to the combustion engine car, that will give way to …) are intuitive frames which politicians use to convince themselves and others that some change is inevitable.

  1. Be the Zeitgeist

Be most in step with the public mood. ‘The defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time: zeitgeist’. If you get known (get a track record) as a group which is one-step-ahead in terms of the developing or breaking public mood or concern, your views and concerns carry weight with those who think that sort of thing is important. And that includes some values groups (see subsequent post), and any company or politician which is playing to the ‘leading edge’ (currently for example, Apple).   Polling plays some role in this.

You don’t have to brilliant at it, only better than your opponent who has to suffer something by not being as good at it. How you do campaigning is important in achieving this.

  1. Shoot the Fox

This involves removing a key point of opposition’s strategy: it is often competitor related (in politics) but as it essentially about removing cause to be concerned or focus attention, it can affect any campaign. See here for a good example from Simon Wright of Save The Children. It can also work the other way round, ie to the advantage of the campaigners.

  1. Smoke Out Silent Beneficiaries

Very often campaign groups struggle away making change and other players benefit.   They may remain the ’silent majority’ but more important, they are silent beneficiaries. Force them to take a view, get them off the fence and you can increase the weight behind your campaign considerably but be careful, as being too belligerent may have the opposite result. Achieving your objective may be hugely important to you but only one of several options to make an advance for them. Often, enabling them to align with your cause without visibly joining it, will make it easier to shift them Natural justice is on your side in these cases because of the effort and exchange heuristics: it’s wrong to gain by others efforts without actually helping yourself. Make it just uncomfortable enough to stop them staying ‘neutral’ or silent. They have usually been lying low and hoping not to be noticed.

  1. Pin the Blame

This is a political favourite and the sort of thing that gets politicians a bad name but almost everybody does it.  Something bad happens: it’s an opportunity to attach the blame, which often has consequences. Don’t be too squeamish.

  1. Shift Dimensions

Effective campaigns usually need to be multi-dimensional and you may have ‘mined’ the potential of one (eg scientific, economic, technical) but not another (eg spiritual, emotional). So a strategy of re-casting the campaign in another dimension may enliven it and open up opportunities to make rapid progress. The main obstacles to this are usually internal.

  1. Change the Players

This is the sort of thing they teach about in business school because a classic example is competition dynamics where a ‘market entrant’ upsets the apple cart. For instance, renewable energy technologies were for decades dominated by enterprises owned by oil companies. Advantage to campaigners trying to get renewables taken seriously: government listened to oil companies. Disadvantage: they had a structural interest in keeping renewables as a ‘bet hedge’ while they mined value from fossil fuels. So levering new players with no such cross interests into the market (eg electronics companies) was a good second step strategy.

  1. Mainstreaming

Few campaigns being life ‘in the mainstream’. This is partly for reasons of values (to be covered by some strategies in a subsequent list) as well as because most campaigns are about trying to change established (mainstream) practices. Many however reach a point where they need more mainstream support to progress.   The best way to make a ‘message’ mainstream is often to use a mainstream messenger, which may mean starting with one or two ‘messengers’ that mainstream media is interested in or gives space or attention to, for other reasons. This usually means that campaign groups which are not themselves seen as mainstream, have to ‘let go’ of ‘the message’. Campaign groups which intentionally or by default spend most of their effort talking to their existing base, may never achieve this. It can need a deliberate effort and investment, including working with organisations with a broader reach than your own.

  1. Cut off the Means to Persist

A classic military strategy designed to sap the strength or ability of the enemy to continue. Not an attempt to persuade the opponent or to directly overcome them.  An example might be cutting supply lines or some other key factor such as the support of an ally. Campaign planners need to do force field and power analysis to study this, understanding and breaking down the requirements of the opponent’s operation to find one or another element that can be changed. For instance they might rely on the support or involvement of a particular group in society, which may not be aware of your case, so suggesting a new focus in a communications strategy.

  1. Make the Intangible Tangible

Campaigns conceived because of scientific or other ‘expert’ knowledge frequently fail to engage a wider audience because the impact of the problem remains intangible to most people. For example if they do not see evidence of it now, they may assume it only exists elsewhere or in the future or the past, even when they themselves are affected. Making something more visible, or more disruptive to everyday life, are two ways to change this, whether directly or by introducing proxy indicators such as signs of its presence.  Religions do it by having costumes, building temples, creating ceremonies and so on.

  1. Bear Witness

The founding principle of campaigning by the religious group The Quakers.  The Quakers believe that one should be truthful and honest and avoid statements that are technically correct but misleading. In campaigns it has come to mean that if you are present at a point where something wrong is happening you say so, and try to stop it in a non-violent way. If it cannot be stopped, it is at least exposed.   Anti-nuclear Quaker campaigns (which started with the voyage of the Golden Rule in 1958) played a key role in inspiring the formation of Greenpeace (in 1971), which adopted ‘bearing witness’ as a central element of its strategy of non-violent direct action.

  1. Make the ‘Impossible’ Happen

A classic error in campaign planning is to omit from the plan anything that seems impossible. This is where the truisms of politics (the art of the possible) do not transfer to campaigning, which is partly the art of the impossible. Making the ‘impossible’ happen can sometimes be hugely inspirational, even it is only temporary. That can then transform what is possible. There are many things people disapprove of, or would like to happen but which they do nothing about because change seems impossible (‘values expectancy’). Whether by stopping the problem if only momentarily, or implementing a solution, even if it cannot be sustained for an extended period of real time, showing that it can be done, is a powerful way to build a constituency for insisting that it be done.

  1. The Telescope

Campaigns using this strategy bring forwards the future consequences of not acting now and ‘actualise’ it in a compelling way. Or recover something better from the past to show that such a reality could be resurrected or retrieved.

  1. Change the Victim

Campaigns which show that a class of victims are suffering that decision-makers and the audiences they care about have a high empathy with, are more likely to succeed that those where the putative victims are people or things they do not much care about. (Campaigners who want to change who the decision makers or secondary audiences care about need to do that first: just telling them to care is unlikely to work.). A simple example is the baby heuristic.   Humans are hardwired to care about babies (the baby heuristic) and small children, more than they do about other humans, as illustrated by the famous ‘Edinburgh Wallet Experiment’.   So make your campaign about babies as victims and odds are that it will become more effective. [This can also include finding a victim where there appears to be none].

  1. Give Away the Credit

In this strategy you make someone else the beneficiary of you winning, thereby recruiting them into the effort.  Not taking the credit of course has its downsides as if you do it too often, your organisation does not appear to be effective, at least for audiences outside the cognoscenti. It may even involve campaigning to incentivise agreement by putting in work to advance the interests of the decision maker but at the very least, sensible campaigners will thank an organisation or individual which has done what they asked for, and preferably try to enlist them as allies for further change.


If you have something to add, please leave a comment !

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German Small and Medium Sized Businesses Come Out Against TTIP

A survey fielded by the research agency Prognos has found that a majority of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises in Germany are against the controversial US-EU trade deal TTIP.  The European Commission and Member States such as the UK have claimed it will be good for SMEs which form the backbone of European economies and account for most private sector jobs.

As a previous post reported, several thousands SMEs have joined campaigns against TTIP in Austria, Germany and the Netherlands but this survey was of 800 companies within the BVMW, a mainstream German business association. Leader of the BVMW, Mario Ohoven, declared “TTIP must benefit German SMEs – not just the interests of a select few conglomerates”.

Prognos commented: ‘62 percent of companies questioned expect the impact of the agreement to be either “rather negative” or “very negative”. Only 22 percent anticipate a positive impact. Furthermore, German SMEs are not particularly hopeful that the deal will benefit their own businesses. They currently believe that TTIP will mainly benefit large corporations’.

how my company might be affected Prognos

Most SMEs in the survey take a negative view of TTIP regarding their company.

general effect of ttip prognos

Most SMEs are not optimistic about the wider economic impact.


info wanted on ttip prognos

A majority don’t want to hear more from Brussels – they more want to hear from national politicians and business groups.

Results of the Prognos study are posted in detail at the MORE website (a project I work on): How satisfied are SMEs with current free trade policy ? .

Entrepreneur Hans Schöpflin of the Schöpflin Stiftung which part funded the survey said SMEs “fear unfair competition resulting from rules and regulations that exclusively favour large corporations. We cannot allow a situation to develop whereby TTIP and CETA – which only serve to maximise the profits of large corporations – put smaller companies across the whole of Europe under pressure.”

An increasing number of German and Austrian SMEs are campaigning against TTIP – eg see this report from from Deutsche Welle (see full story online here)

The SME dimension has opened up a new BoB or Business-on-Business front in the TTIP debate.   BVMW President Ohovens warns of an imbalance in transatlantic trade: “Unlike Brussels, the US government is not in a position to declare technical standards universally binding. We therefore run the risk of creating a one-­way street in trade which would effectively allow US companies to sell products in the EU that conform only to US standards but by contrast would not allow EU companies to sell their EU-­compliant products in the USA.”   Governments now face a choice.  Multinationals have lots of money but SMEs have lots of votes.  Whether they feel this is a dilemma remains to be seen.

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