Copyright © Christopher Parker
The purpose of this chapter is to:
1) Share and explain our new definition of a campaign
2) Explain and justify our approach to campaigning, including the purpose and philosophy of campaigning
3) Outline the attitudes of a campaigner
4) Introduce and provide an overview of our Campaign It! model
5) Lay the foundation for everything that is to follow.
In this chapter we:
Learning to become better
The Campaign It! model is the result of many years of work that led us both through two very distinct learning curves. The first was based on the fact that Alan (AB) was totally focussed on how to influence communities and societies and so create social and/or global change and that Chris (CP) was totally focussed on how to influence individuals and/or groups. Neither of us was fully aware of the skill sets of the other and, to be honest, neither of us had considered the value of these different skill sets to our own work.
Learning from each other required us both to embrace that most basic and challenging of all principles:
‘We can only get better if we learn the things we need to know that we currently don’t.’
Fortunately, we have had much fun learning from each other and we continue to do so.
The second learning curve was in the creation of the Campaign It! model itself. Being able to do something well is one thing. Being able to structure and provide it so that others can apply it successfully is something else altogether. There is a world of difference in being able to do something that helps others and being able to provide something that enables others to help themselves. We created the Campaign It! model to enable people to help themselves, their families, their businesses and/or their communities. It is the result of a process that began…
Well, to be honest, that depends to a certain extent on which one of us you ask. Here are our two answers to that same question:
CP: ‘It began in 1976 when I met a man, a Malaysian martial artist, who could use words to change people in ways I had never imagined. I both observed and experienced personally how powerfully he could influence others. At that time I was studying to be a schoolteacher and it seemed to me that knowing how to use words to create powerful and positive change was a most appropriate capability (even though, for some reason, it wasn’t part of the curriculum I was studying!). So I committed myself to learning from him. It was the start of a fascination with how to use words to enable our selves and others that has continued for over three decades.
‘In 2003, having worked as a schoolteacher and manager, an educational and corporate consultant and trainer, and a university lecturer, I asked Alan Barnard if I could model his approach to campaigning for a book I was writing about management skills and leadership. It was an insightful experience, interviewing and observing the work of a man who was used to operating at the highest levels to create social and national change.
‘Interestingly, like so many hugely talented individuals, Alan was not consciously aware of everything he did to achieve his outcomes. He demonstrated such a level of what Maslow termed ‘unconscious competence’ that often he was only able to discuss the complexity of his work in the most simple of terms. Much of what he did, he said, was ‘the bleedin’ obvious’. But only to him, it certainly wasn’t to me.
‘The result of our time together was the creation of a basic model, a chapter based on his work and the start of a dialogue that led to us sharing and combining our different interests and skills in communication.
‘I still believe that interpersonal communication, the words we use and the ways we interact with others, is crucial to enabling personal development and change. I understand now, though, that the approach that Alan uses to influence societies can also be applied and has enormous value when seeking to influence individuals, teams and groups. I also appreciate just how many of the principles and strategies that I apply in my work are also used by Alan in his.
‘For example, having a desired, clearly defined end outcome is as important to me when I am working with an individual client or a lecture theatre filled with students, as it is for Alan when planning a corporate, social or political campaign. We both place great importance on the way we sequence our communications, on how we combine emotional language with persuasive facts and figures, and on how we share messages not just information. We both know that influential communication is based on an understanding of those we are communicating with and that you always have to begin from their starting point, not your own. As a result of the work we have done together, I realise now that even a single communication in a corridor can incorporate all of the elements of the Campaign It! model: as long as that conversation is driven by a cause.’
AB: ‘I’ve always been a campaigner. It seems that throughout my life I have come across things that needed improving, and I’ve always seemed to have the desire to work to make those improvements happen. From my school days, through my degree and into work, I’ve always been trying to make changes happen and to influence others to give support and permission for those changes. I’d never wanted to write a book about it, though, until Chris got me thinking one day.
‘Chris was writing a book about leadership and aimed at the undergraduate market. He wanted to include some references to campaigning in it and needed an expert to interview. So he asked me.
‘I remember being very uncomfortable. I rarely talked about my work as a campaigner, preferring to operate behind the scenes, and after all, why on earth would I give my secrets away? I was also acutely aware that the media always were looking for process stories about my work for Labour and I wasn’t going to give them any opportunities. But we were talking generically, and Chris was modelling the approach for a book on theory, and wasn’t going to include anything about the specifics of what I do – this was for a different audience – and I wanted to help him out.
‘It took a few weeks, with many more conversations between us, but eventually Chris got back to me with the fruits of his labour. “How’s this for the ‘Barnard Campaign’ model?” he asked.
‘When I looked at it I realised that the model he had produced from what I thought was our sometimes rambling chats was really very clever. It was a little simplistic, in that each stage could have been explored in so much more detail: Chris had just produced the top line explanation for the section in his book, but that top line was spot on in its description of how I think about campaigning.
“Bloody hell,” I thought to myself. “I wonder if we can write a book in which we simplify and explain the complexity of campaigning, and how it can be used in all walks of life, to be written?”
‘Excitingly, at the same time, Chris introduced me to some of the ways in which he had been studying the power of words and how we all form the beliefs that govern our lives. That was the start of an exploration that is continuing. And it was the start of a new way for me to think about campaigning, incorporating the elements of micro-communications into my campaign thinking. It was the start of what became the Campaign It! model.’
Whenever the process actually began it has led us to:
A clear, working definition of a campaign of communications
An evolved, functional model of the key elements of campaigning
A clear understanding of the philosophy, attitudes, behaviours and attributes of a campaigner.
It is also true to say that no matter when the process began it is far from over. The more we apply the Campaign It! approach in different professional, personal and social contexts, the more we learn. Whilst individual campaigns operate within specific timeframes, opportunities to campaign communications are endless depending, of course, on your definition of a campaign. This is ours:
Our new definition and our approach to campaigning
We define a campaign as:
‘A planned sequence of communications that makes use of all appropriate channels to achieve defined outcomes in a specific timeframe by influencing the decision-makers who will allow success.’
A campaign is a planned series of communications because there is a defined outcome to be achieved that is too important to leave to chance. It is planned because others are often seeking to influence our audience too and we need to be heard above them and to be more persuasive than them. It is planned because there is usually a limited timeframe within which to operate and because as campaigners we care about our audience and our desired outcome.
The notion of caring, of having an emotional compulsion to achieve something, is central to our philosophy and approach campaigning communications. We believe that, to a great extent, the quality of our personal, social and professional lives is determined by the quality of our communications. Our ability to create change or defend an aspect of the status quo certainly is. Whilst, as we will discuss later, we influence others just through our very existence, in order to influence deliberately, positively and ethically we need an attitude, a skill set and a willingness to commit.
We live in an age in which it is easier than ever before to share your thoughts, ideas and stories with entire communities. Technology has enabled everyone with access to it to become a storyteller, a critic, a reviewer, an apparent online expert. We have the capability to change from using one form of media and watching one story to another in the blink of an eye. We can shift and share our attention from one thing to the next with incredible ease. In our modern world more individuals, groups, societies and organisations can be seen and heard and, therefore, influence, more easily than ever before.
It is because we live in a world of communication overload that we have to be able to back up our emotional desire to achieve a particular outcome with a comprehensive approach to communications if we are to improve our chances of success.
A campaign of communications incorporates a story, a structure and sequencing designed to create maximum influence. It provides a planned, deliberate sharing of messages that are supported by relevant information. It shares key themes, lines to take and is evocative, newsworthy and integrated fully. It combines big picture planning with absolute attention to detail and it is managed and measured throughout to ensure that it gains momentum as it builds towards the inevitable climax. Everything is based on an understanding of the current experiences, attitudes and starting knowledge of the target audiences and of their preferred communication styles and channels. The initial plan is mapped and developed before the campaign begins and can then be adapted in response to feedback.
In business a campaign of communications is far more than just marketing or public relations or organising a wonderful launch event to mark the start of a new initiative. All of these might well be a part of the overall campaign, however the emphasis on integration throughout the Campaign It! model means that a campaign is actually the totality of the organisation’s communications, joined up and working together to tell the chosen narrative in the most influential way. It is far more than just using a common slogan and logo, or having printed media that provides accurate information.
A fully integrated communications campaign requires analysis, creativity and commitment to sustain the level of work that is required to ensure congruency and consistency of message, approach and purpose across all audience touch points, and to remind and reinforce to the audience the benefits on offer.
In our social life running a campaign of communications is far more than organising one single fete or going on a march or just signing a petition. Whilst it is true that some campaigns are made up of just a handful of communications, which can be informal in nature, many are not. Our social world is also a part of the many complex and busy communication structures that influence us on every level. Therefore, if we truly care about any social issue the best way to communicate that is to campaign it by creating a fully integrated, time framed, sequence of communications.
The same is true for the challenges of managing and developing personal relationships and family life. We can campaign our love for another person or teach our children how to become great citizens or friends just as we can campaign everything else that really matter to us. And, in our personal lives as in other every other aspect of our lives, it is rare that one single communication will achieve the desired end outcome.
Purpose, philosophy, attitude and attributes
The purpose of a campaign is either to make change happen or to reinforce the value of some aspect of the status quo. This purpose is underpinned by a philosophy, an attitude, a skill set and, for us, the Campaign It! model.
Campaigns are driven by a cause. It is our commitment to the cause, whatever it may be, that fires our emotional compulsion to act. The cause creates a need, a powerful desire to campaign. Whilst we are always able to offer a rational and logical argument for supporting the cause, we will also feel that it is absolutely the right thing to do. The philosophy behind campaigning is to grow support for the cause in an ethical way whilst being true to your own beliefs and values. It is much harder to campaign for something you do not believe in. Indeed, without that, you do not have a cause to campaign.
Campaigning is also based on the clear understanding that we need to gain the permission of others and that ultimately emotional compulsion always beats rational argument. To grow support campaigners need to seize the initiative wherever possible, being on the front foot and taking a lead. The importance of being willing to go first, as with all of the other skills, attributes and essential processes, will be discussed more fully throughout the book.
Campaigns are fully integrated plans put into action and adapted if necessary in response to feedback. We recommend working from the desired end outcome backwards when creating the campaign plan. In our experience this increases the chances of identifying and incorporating all of the necessary steps and elements and also makes it easier to get the sequencing of the narrative and associated activities right. It also makes sure that we act in a timely manner and are ready for the end of the campaign.
 Which is not to say that we haven’t challenged each other along the way!
‘I have always been a campaigner and over the years
I have learnt to become better at it.’
‘Communication works for those who work at it.’
Understanding our Approach to Campaigns and Campaigning