modest suggestions for anyone trying to save the world

"How to Win Campaigns: 100 Steps to Success"

This is an extract from "How To Win Campaigns: 100 Steps To Success" by Chris Rose. To be published by Earthscan, March 2005, Paperback, 160 pages ISBN:1853839620 available from online discounted price £15.29. Copyright Chris Rose. You are free to make non-commercial use of this material if you credit the source.

Constructing Propositions

The proposition sums up what the campaign is about. A helpful starting point is the popular radio news format of PSB - Problem, Solution, Benefit1.

"Well good morning Mrs Campaigner for X, welcome to Wake Up With Borset. Now you're concerned about X and are holding a press conference later this morning - tell us, what's the problem?"

…first answer

"So what's the solution?"

… second answer

"Well that's all very well Mrs Campaigner but how will it benefit the people of Borsetshire?"

… third answer

"Well thanks for coming in… now here's Sophie with the traffic"

If your campaign proposition can meet this format, you're off to a head start. The proposition usually needs to include:
  • Responsible party (the enemy - who's to blame)
  • Action - the action you want people (who ?) to take
  • Solution
  • Problem
  • Benefit

For example:

Illegal loggers are felling valuable timber and wrecking this ancient forest (Problem)
Effective policing and certification of timber has stopped this elsewhere (Solution)
Wildlife and communities benefit from sustainable management (Benefit)
The government of X is to blame became it's not enforcing the law (Responsible party)
We want people to take is to call their MP/Senator to lobby the govt (Action)

A real campaign should be more excitingly worded !

So this is your 'government lobbying campaign to save ancient-forest from illegal-logging' or 'the campaign against illegal-logging to help communities in ancient-forest'.

You may be able to then reduce this proposition to a much simpler rallying-call.

The campaign 'proposition' contains the implicit promise that if you do certain things, then others will follow. Such as "sign the online petition to call on Pharmaceutical International to supply river blindness drugs at cost in Africa".

The 'proposition' isn't just about the cause or even the objective - it is also about how the campaign works, and what role the supporter has.

It normally helps to have the problem and the solution well up at the front of your communication and to be able to start either from the general or from the particular - with both the big picture and the specific example readily available. Some people will like to start from one place, others insist on another, depending on their communication 'preferences'. Relevant preferences for constructing propositions include2:

Away From-Towards

The towards person stays focused on his/her own goals and is motivated by achievement. The away person focuses on problems to be avoided rather than goals to be achieved.


The internal person has internal standards and decides for him/herself. The external person takes standards from outside and needs direction and instruction to come from others.

Small Chunk-BigChunk

BigChunk people are most comfortable dealing with large chunks of information. They do not pay attention to details. SmallChunk people pay attention to details and need small chunks to make sense of a larger picture.


People who match will mostly notice points of similarity in a comparison. People who mismatch will notice differences when making a comparison.

We all have these preferences to different degrees. Campaign planners need to ask themselves if they are simply designing a campaign that fits their preferences. This is a good reason to do research, and test out what works. To do that you need to know who you want to convince. A focus on 'problems to be avoided rather than goals to be achieved' (towards/ away - the half-full/half-empty axis) obviously has immediate relevance to campaigning on problems or solutions, or how those are spoken of.

What's unlikely to ring any bells with anyone, is a bland process description, as in "our campaign addresses legal and other issues around certain forests and the political measures needed to encourage conditions of sustainability".

Agency New Oceans3 says:

Remember the old argument in business, education and parenting: whether to use the carrot or the stick approach? In other words, is it better to offer people incentives or threats? The answer of course is: it all depends who you want to motivate. Towards people are energised by goals and rewards. Away people are motivated to avoid problems and punishment.

Knowing what motivates a target group or institution would be very useful. If you don't know that you can at least consciously hedge your bets.

Many 'campaigns of transition' utilise standard-setting as their intervention: WWF's Forest Stewardship Council, for example. The Internal - External filter describes where people find their standards. If people have an internal reference, say Oceans, they 'instinctively know if they have done a good job'. On the other hand, 'people with an external reference need someone else to tell them. Successful entrepreneurs are extremely internally referenced - they know when they have made a good or a bad decision. Many people in organisations are externally referenced and need a management structure to give them feedback on the standard of their work'.

So if you are campaigning to introduce a standard with an entrepreneur, you might want to start with his or her work as the benchmark but, for a large institution you might better use evidence of good practice by others.


1 I am indebted to media trainer Sara Jones for pointing this out
2 New Oceans say: "Perceptual Filters are patterns of behaviour, not types of people". You can try their sampler online 'personality profilers' for learning and sorting preferences (NLP), and the psychometric MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and right/left brain tools at the same website