Shifting The Balance

Ten Tips For Successful Consumer Campaigning

From Media for Social Change: A Resource Guide for Community Groups (Revised edition, 1986), published by the Community Forum on Shared Responsibility, Toronto.

1 Beware of Problems
Consumer problems include a huge range of issues and are identified in many ways. Sometimes a few individuals choose an issue ; sometimes citizens unite on a problem of local importance. To feel strongly about an issue people must feel it relates to their immediate lives.

2 Work Democratically
Start small and grow slowly. Reach out to make alliances with other like minded group locally and internationally, to build as broad a base as possible. Encourage people to work together, to take risks and get things done.

3 Develop Strategy
A strategy plan for getting where you want to go; tactics are the things you do to get there. Good strategy is developed cooperatively and is both flexible and realistic. Tactics should be creative, educational and - why not? - enjoyable. Letter writing, boycotts, street theatre and strikes are a few examples.

4 Encourage Responsibility
Keep well organized records and accounts. Make sure there is a clear administrative structure and an open line of communication between staff and members. Avoid dependence on one funding source. Tap professional skills of members and sympathizers.

5 Research Thoroughly
Success is based on thorough research which can vary from interviews with local citizens to reading company annual reports. Learn where and how to research - newspapers, libraries, government agencies, public archives are all good starting points.

6 Communicate With Supporters
Keep in touch with supporters with a newsletter or bulletin. When you lose contact you lose members. Remember international links; your work may be an inspiration to them and vice versa. More practically, your publication will educate casual readers, attract new members and record your accomplishments.

7 Publicize Your Work
Use the media rather than let it use you. Good media coverage can help you gain public support and attract new converts. Study how the media works: personal contacts have to be developed and nurtured; news releases should be timely and newsworthy.

8 Learn from Victories
Aim for small victories on the road to bigger ones and celebrate when you win. A consumer campaign should built its own momentum so small victories will lead to larger ones. Learn to extract partial successes from temporary set-backs. If ultimate victory is really in sight, think about where you will go afterwards.

9 Prepare For Attacks
Expect hostility and dirty tricks from your opponents. Your research, motives, methods, finances - even your sanity - may be questioned. Stay cool, try to anticipate criticism as much as possible and use the opportunity to underline your case.

10 Evaluate Your Campaign
Give people a chance to express their fears, frustrations and opinions. Review goals and methods periodically with as full participation as possible and modify your strategy as circumstances warrant. People need to participate in decision making for a campaign to have maximum impact.



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