Target practice

When planning any campaign, it is vital that the right targets of action are identified. As Chris Rose sets out, “the appropriate target is usually the one with the greatest direct culpability and capacity to act” [1].

The target will be different depending on the campaign aim, or the problem to be solved. For example, we might target:
– MPs if we want a Parliamentary vote to go a certain way;
– Heads of specific companies if their business is contributing to the problem;
– Consumers if their product choice is exacerbating an issue.

The NCVO’s Good Guide to Campaigning and Influencing suggests that in order to effectively influence your target, you need to know what “makes them tick” and plan your actions with this in mind. They may already be receptive (ideally), but if they’re not, framing the issue in a way that resonates with their beliefs and values can help win them over [2].


This was illustrated for me perfectly earlier this week when I attended a campaigns workshop organised by the World Development Movement and promoted by 38 Degrees about the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The event, which aimed to equip participants in campaigning against TTIP, featured MPs and an MEP from across the political spectrum, each giving tips on how to win over their fellow politicians.

For example, Conservative MPs are ideologically in tune with the notion of free trade, so it might be difficult to persuade them that TTIP could have negative effects. However, they are keen on preserving UK sovereignty, as shown in their rhetoric on Europe, so framing TTIP as an affront to national autonomy might be a good way in.

For other political parties, the best angle for encouraging opposition to TTIP might be to focus on workers’ rights, and how they may be decimated by the agreement, or the lack of transparency in the negotiations.

Flipping this round, we see this clearly in election campaigning, where we, the voters, are the target, the aim to make us vote. Political parties jostle to frame themselves as meeting our needs and views with their policies – for example, research repeatedly shows that people are concerned about the NHS, so this is becoming a key election issue over which May 2015 will be fought.


1. Rose, C. (2010), “How to Win Campaigns”, 2nd ed, Taylor and Francis, p207-8

2. Lamb, B. (2011), “Good Guide to Campaigning and Influencing”, NCVO, p84-5


One thought on “Target practice

  1. This is often an overlooked part of campaigning. I do think that if campaigners spend some time researching the demographic they would not only choose the correct target, they would be able to have an organized campaign with lasting effects.


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