Skip to content
On this page
🔥 Join our campaign to train 350 million activists!

Messaging audiences

Create effective protest messaging
Last update: Nov 16, 2022

In this article, you will learn how to formulate your message effectively by analysing your stakeholders and targets.

Having the greatest and most convincing campaign for stopping climate change isn't worth anything if there is nobody who is willing to listen to it. That's where the importance of identifying possible stakeholders comes into play. Just like in marketing a new product it is important to identify some sort of target audience you want your product, or in our case your campaign (or similar things) to reach. Campaigning with a clear audience in mind, makes topics way more specific and better received. But to be able to do this you not only have to identify or create your audience but also adjust your content based on the behaviour or interests of your stakeholders.

In this article, we discuss:

  1. How to identify your campaign’s key objectives and stakeholders
  2. How to address your audience in a proper way and match your content to the audience. (eg. Make it more or less specific, personal etc.)
  3. Past examples of campaigns with a targeted audience
  4. Different ways to identify the objectives+stakeholders that is good for your campaign

Identifying stakeholders

Based on the issue that has made you want to take action, there are several ways or steps in defining the objectives of your campaign and the best stakeholders to engage with. This should be reflected in your communications:

  • Take a broad look at the overall issue and ask yourself “where is my action best placed?” and “what concrete change do I want to encourage?”. Based on that, you might be able to identify the specific ambitions of your activism. This will help you narrow down your objectives to a select few.
  • Reach out to the local community and organise meetings to meet with the stakeholders, while being open to their ideas. In turn, this will help with recruitment involving those who are impacted directly.
  • Find out which stakeholder is best placed to make the change happen. If citizens are key to elevating the awareness of your campaign, your messaging should be targeted towards them. If decision-makers are needed to make a change at the political level, your campaign should target them. Are companies better placed? If so, you should keep them in mind. And so on.
  • For your activism campaign to be effective, you should focus on one stakeholder group. ‘Catch-all’ campaigns are generally ineffective.
  • Include marginalised people by looking at your campaign from an intersectional perspective that takes into account race, class, gender and disabilities.
  • Contact different entities that are involved in decisions (politicians, public departments, companies) and devise a plan on how to best put pressure on them. (Petitions, sit-in protests, suing them in courts, boycotts)

It might seem like these steps aren’t linked to communications directly, yet these steps are necessary in your message being correctly appreciated. If the objectives and key stakeholders of the campaign aren’t correctly identified and reflected in your campaign’s communications, your message will be poorly understood.

Improve this section and talk about:

Reaching your goal can have multiple paths

And its very important to reach out and cooperate with as many different institutions, organisations and groups that you can

And the limit to who you can cooperate with is only set by imagination

Every institution that specialises on a subject or field can help you in their way

And this is often overlooked because some connections arent immediately obvious

A perfect example would be Serbian organisation "ORSP" working to stop construction of mini hydroelectric power plants on certain rivers, that would destroy ecosystems and surrounding villages that get their water supply from those rivers.

They cooperated with Faculty for Architecture in Belgrade to revive those affected villages and bring more value to them, therefore making the projects that would destroy them, less likely to happen

You can also reach out to different stakeholders, that are maybe not directly affected by the issue and find a way to show them how your goal would help them gain or stop a loss in their field

A polluted river in one area of country will lead to local fishermen loosing bussines, while others will gain from exporting to that area

But what if disturbing that balance of each area having local product leads to some other issues, that no one is aware of

Such a connection can bring an ally to your goal, that would otherwise be indifferent or even against it.

Targeting your message

-"The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference."

-Elie Wiesel

You can bet that those who are not already fighting alongside you or against you are indifferent. And that has always been the reason activist movements struggle. If they dont stand to gain or loose from something, people, organisations, goverments and bussinesses Will Not Care.

It is up to you to make them care

To find a subject, a goal, an angle, that will give them a reason to be your supporter.

Recently in my workplace we have finally recieved recycling bins for cardboard and glass, of which there is a lot. And the motivator was simple, money. The city public utility offered to pay for all the material my workplace recycles, and even tho its a really small amount of money that they will recieve from it, it was enough of a push to change them from indifferent to recyclers and to provide both place and organisation around it.

Examples: types of messaging

  1. Examples of different kinds of messaging (we shouldn’t say whether one is good or bad, just give them as an example) - MARIA

  • demonstrate effective activism, so people feel inspired and can join voluntarily. Try to make the success of your activities visible. Potential activists are attracted by successful organizations. Do campaigns and events in your town and do protests for example. People will notice that you can make an impact and consider joining your movement. Nobody likes to think they can’t make a difference.
  • ask people to join (many people might not even know of your organization; spread the word and increase the outreach. tell your family, friends and other people from your circle who might share similar interests about your organization. maybe they will be inspired and tell others about it too.)
  • give support, be progressive yourself as an activist
  • support community organizations
  • approach the people based on their individual perceptions (some people are more likely to become activists because they have experienced or witnessed injustice and already feel the need to become active
  • spread flyers in your local area (with links to website)
  • advertise on your website
  • detailed and specific messaging, make the readers / listeners feel approached on a personal level, make them feel like they can have an impact in a certain field. Make them feel valuable
  • talk to the newly joined members, interact with them, so they feel included and want to stay with your movement
  • use social media channels like instagram or youtube to spread powerful messages, repost political statements of others, post important messages related to currently discussed topics
  • knowledge is power: inform other people. Being informed or informing others can also be a form of activism

External resources

We're building the Wikipedia for activists

And you can help us. Join our our international team, or start a local group of writers.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike logo
You can reuse this content!
Just make sure to give attribution to Activist Handbook and read our licence for the details. Want to use our logo? Read our design guide.
All our work is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence, unless otherwise noted.