» 12 basic guidelines: Communicate in pictures

image from the movie Ran

At every level, think out your campaign in steps, leading back from the objective you want to achieve.

If you want a politician to sign a decree, write that down or sketch it as if it was a newspaper front page photo. What actually has to be in that picture, or to have happened in the lead up to it, to make that happen?

Create a chronological story board - your critical path - and work out how you will make that happen. If you can't, then change your objective. But don't try to do the job of the press. Don't try to create 'cartoons'. When your issue gets turned into a political cartoon you know you have arrived - but let the press write the headlines and draw the cartoons. Don't try to achieve that by writing press releases in headlines you'd like to see. Make the real stuff happen. Follow the film-makers' rule 'show - don't tell'

Things that aren't real for example, are 'addressing the issue', 'working on ..... the subject', 'developing awareness' and 'reaching the public'. Things that are real could include: occupying a tree, releasing a dove, conducting a survey in a shopping mall, visiting your MP, writing a letter, sending an e mail, speaking to a crowd, or invading the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant.

Sketch out your story-board on the back of envelopes, in your diary, on beer mats or anything else that comes to hand naturally.

Then create events that actually generate those pictures - or lead them to occur. Then make sure you communicate in pictures, not just words.

photo test

If you find this difficult at first, try involving a local photographer. Take them through your campaign plan and get them to say whether they could tell the story in pictures. As a rule, if there's nothing to photograph, there's no actual activity, no objective to achieve, and no campaign to join in with, report or support. I call it the 'photo test'. If you can't take a picture, it's not real.

This newspaper picture is not just a 'protest' saying 'we don't like this'.

rooftop occupation at Claremont Road, the M11

It is an occupation designed to make it impossible to demolish the houses and build a road (a short motorway extension into central London, now built).

Greenpeace 'invaded' the BNFL Sellafield plant in April 1995 with the aim of shutting down production and movement of plutonium, which is taken from there to the UK bomb-making factory at Aldermaston in Berkshire. At the same time it blocked a discharge pipe at Aldermaston, and flew a control-wheel from that pipe to present it to a UK minister attending Non Proliferation Treaty arms talks in New York the next day.

The invasion involved several hundred people and was designed to catch the eye of picture editors by looking like the Japanese film 'Ran'.

The blockade and the invasion were timed to exert pressure on the UK government at a crucial step (a long term critical pathway) in Non-Proliferation talks.

Greenpeace's staff outing to Sellafield

Why pictures? Because pictures are far more powerful than words. Good ones tell the story and the best need no caption. And pictures cannot be interrogated or argued with. Your campaign can communicate emotions with pictures that will be filtered out of a written report. TV needs pictures even more than the print press. TV needs people doing things that tell the story, and preferably that do so in a few seconds.

Think of opera not theatre. Make you campaign speak in characters and symbols that are larger-than-life.

The only things stronger than images are face to face contact and direct engagement in doing the campaign.

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand. Confucius [To which one might add - I look at a newspaper and I probably don't even read the article].