How to build a successful communications strategy for advocacy projects

Written by Katie Northcott, AmplifyChange

How can your communication strategy be successful for your advocacy?

1) If available, review previous communication tools that your organisation has used or produced and analyse their outcomes to learn about what worked and what could be improved.

2) Set out clear objectives and outcomes for your communication strategy. Ensure they are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound (SMART) and respond to:

a.      what you want to achieve

b.      why you want to achieve it

c.       how you propose to achieve it, and

d.      what action you want audience to take

For example: if you are aiming to raise awareness about the consequences of child marriage through a communications campaign, a SMART communications strategy could be:

By the end of 6 months we want to have reached 500 school-aged girls and for them to be equipped with resources to report child marriage to authorities to increase their ability to advocate for their own rights to not be married. By distributing a guide on how to report violations via school trainings and social media, young women and girls will identify and report more cases of child marriage amongst their peers and advocate for their rights.

3) Conduct an audience analysis. Identify your audience(s) and learn as much about them as possible.

Learn the best way to present your cause to your audience and find out what motivates them to take action. For example, you might need to emphasise certain aspects of your cause, such as rights-based, public health, judicial, or socio-economic implications, depending on what is most relevant and important to your audience.

Make sure everything you communicate is appropriate to the situation and environment you are working in. Clear messaging is not always bold messaging – your words and images in your campaign should stay sensitive to the lives and beliefs of your audience.

What do we mean by different ways of presenting your cause?

For example:

FGM is a violation of women’s and girls’ right to health, life, and dignity, as the health consequences of FGM can be severe and long-lasting, including infertility, haemorrhaging, and death.

This message emphasises the public health consequences of FGM and how it connects to human rights.

4) Determine what the most effective communication channel will be to reach your target audience(s). For example, reaching youth through social media, reaching illiterate populations through radio, etc.

5) Choose the most effective messenger for your communications campaign. Analysing who your audience best responds to is crucial for ensuring your messages are well-received.

For example, if you find that decision-makers respond best to people who are well-educated and well-respected in their communities, perhaps a community leader or chief would be best placed to deliver the advocacy message.
Another example would be if you find that girls and young women look up to successful, university-aged women, find a strong advocate who is a university student to be your messenger.

6) Create compelling messages that connect with your audience(s). This can be strengthened by having your audience(s) participate in the creation of messaging or pre-testing the messages.

7) Get expert input and review when needed to boost your confidence.

8) Make the case for why action is needed now and integrate concrete actions into your messaging. This allows for people to engage with your issue more easily.

9) Ensure that you have budgeted enough for the type of communication campaign that you will be leading.

10) Identify risks associated with your topic and develop strategies to mitigate these risks.

11) Establish a monitoring and evaluation framework for your communication strategy, considering the resources and tools you will need to effectively evaluate. This should be reflective of the SMART outcomes you set up at the beginning of your planning.

12) Start with systematic planning. Be prepared for the 3 R’s – Review and Revise Regularly.

Before branding anything with the AmplifyChange logo and name, please confirm with your Grants Support point person and ensure you follow the requirements in the Communications Guidelines, which they can provide to you.

Your Grants Support point person is available to discuss any concerns, questions, or ideas you have regarding communications materials, so please feel free to reach out to them.

After following these steps, you should be in a good place to start your communications strategy or campaign! 

Katie Northcott, AmplifyChange

Katie is a Technical Performance Manager at AmplifyChange. At her previous work at Population Institute, she conducted analysis for a wide-scale report on demographic vulnerability, as well as managed the organisation’s social media channels.

As a Community Health Peace Corps volunteer in Burkina Faso, she implemented youth sexual health programs and supported maternal health and family planning outreach services. She worked with non-profit organisations in the U.S. advocating for women’s rights in the fields of abortion access, domestic violence, and HIV/AIDS.

Katie’s experience at these organisations included social media management, street campaigning, and crafting messaging for publications, as well as the development of advocacy and media toolkits. Katie has a MSc in Population and Development from London School of Economics and a BA in Economics, African Studies, and French from Northwestern University.