Find out why research is a crucial tool for both planning and running your campaign (with links to research advice to help you get the job done).
Somehow you just know the issue you’re campaigning against is damaging and wrong.
And you’re probably right.
But personal conviction is not a secure foundation on which to build a campaign.
You need to know the facts. And to uncover the facts you must do your research.
In this article you see that research is a crucial tool for both planning and running your campaign. You also see that campaigns that fail to do their research can end up in court facing massive legal fees and damages payments.
With that unsettling thought let’s see the 5 powerful benefits research brings to your campaign:
- Research makes your campaign plans effective
- Research improves your campaign communications
- Research helps you avoid legal action
- Research is a campaign tactic
- Research gives you credibility
- Bonus benefits!
Already convinced you need research and just want to know how to research? Jump to our Ultimate Guide to Environment Campaign Research.
1. Research makes your campaign plans effective
Campaigns with a plan are always more effective than campaigns with no plan.
But your plan must be based on the facts. Basing your plan on personal conviction risks wasting your time and your supporters’ goodwill. Two resources most campaigns have in short supply.
To uncover the facts you must do your research. Here is the research needed to write an effective campaign plan:
- Issue research – Investigate the problem you are campaigning to remedy
- Environment research – Learn about the environment you are campaigning to protect
- Stakeholder research – Learn about (and from) the people, groups and organisations affected by the issue and/or your campaign
- Solution research – Check potential solutions will be effective
- Target research (advocacy campaigns) – Identify vulnerable targets with the power to decide
- Audience research – Identify influential audiences that can make a difference
When you build you campaign on a solid foundation of research you move forward confident of making a difference.
Silent Reef’s Write Effective Campaign Plans online training course shows you how to research your campaign and turn your new knowledge into a highly effective plan for campaign success.
2. Research improves your campaign communications
Communicating with the public is a crucial campaign skill.
Environment campaigns do not achieve their goals because they have great financial or political power. Typically they have little of both. Environment campaigns achieve their goals because they have great people power.
Through your communication activities you take people from not caring to caring, from no involvement to active involvement, and from behaviour that damages the environment to behaviour that does no (or less) harm.
Notice something here?
The aim of campaign communications is not just to tell people about the issue and your campaign.
The aim of campaign communications is to cause people to act or change in ways that contribute to achieving your campaign goal and other campaign solutions.
Causing people to start taking supporter actions (e.g. sign petitions; attend marches) or change environmentally damaging behaviours (e.g. littering; collecting sea turtle eggs) is notoriously difficult, but research to understand the people you want to act or change is a crucial step.
And although the facts are a weak force for driving action or change (think global heating, an issue that many people deny despite it being supported by enough facts to go to the moon and back 5 times in your pyjamas) people do need some facts to be convinced of the need for action or change. To be able to tell people the facts, you must first do your research.
3. Research helps you avoid legal action
Disclaimer – Silent Reef is not a law firm and we do not provide legal advice. We recommend that you gain legal advice from a legal professional when planning and running your campaign.
Legal action is a real threat to environment campaigns.
Organisations that make money from damaging the environment will typically stop at nothing to silence a campaign that threatens their profits.
The only way to be totally safe from legal action is to not run your campaign. If that doesn’t suit, communicating only carefully researched facts reduces the risk. After all, an issue driver is unlikely to risk a court hearing that finds you are telling the truth and they are peddling “alternative facts”.
However, note that sticking to the facts only helps you avoid legal action; it is not a guarantee against legal action. As such, Silent Reef strongly recommends that you gain professional legal advice and have appropriate insurance.
Your opponents can huff and puff but it’s hard to blow your house down when you’re telling the truth.
4. Research is a campaign tactic
Tactics are the fun part of campaigning, the part where you get out and do stuff:
- Running petitions
- Delivering training workshops
- Organising marches and rallies
- Meeting community leaders and campaign targets
- Building business partnerships
- Managing volunteer conservation projects
- And many, many more
And here is another activity to add to the list – research. Yes, research is an important campaign tactic.
You see, effective advocacy campaigns don’t only pressure targets to decide in their favour. They also proactively open new fronts to force their opponents to defend themselves. In many cases these fronts are driven by research, such as research to understand the impacts to community health of a proposed development.
And effective behaviour change campaigns don’t just assume their efforts to change an environmentally damaging behaviour are working. They conduct research to make sure, such as a survey to measure changes in litter density.
So research is an important tool to use throughout your campaign, from writing your plan to achieving your objectives.
Too busy to do your own research? Then find time to read Silent Reef’s Calling In The Experts ebook – the environment campaigner’s guide to recruiting and working with technical advisors (free download).
5. Research gives you credibility
Credibility is a powerful tool for building active campaign support.
When the people you need supporting your campaign decide you are credible they are more likely to read your emails, take your actions, attend your events and more.
Credibility is built from two equally important components:
- Knowledge – You can demonstrate your knowledge of the issue and environment at risk from your first stakeholder meetings (provided you’ve done your issue research). You don’t need expert knowledge; you just need to show that you know what you’re talking about.
- Trust – Trust is built over time, however an important step to earning people’s trust is your readiness to learn their thoughts on the issue and your campaign (we call this stakeholder research and audience research).
So a major benefit of research is that it helps build your credibility, and credibility is a big factor in building the support you need to achieve your campaign goal.
6. Bonus benefits!
Here are some more ways research benefits your campaign:
- Provides information to convince targets to decide in your favour
- Enables you to ask the right questions and understand the answers
- Enables you to recognise misinformation and disprove false claims supporting the issue
- Provides facts and statistics for media stories
- Enables you to measure progress and know when a solution is complete
- Enables you to recognise when a solution isn’t working and it’s time to change direction
- And many more but I’ll stop here because if you’re not convinced by now you never will be!
In addition to all the good stuff your research may find information that goes against you, such as ways that the issue benefits people you need supporting your campaign. Our handy how-to guide shows you how to overcome issue benefits.
So now you know why you cannot skip research and just make stuff up. Your supporters will see through your empty words and your opponents will see you in court.
It’s not enough to know in your heart that you are right and the issue is wrong. You must do your research and prove it.
Knowledge is still power, even in this post-truth world.
Ultimate Guide to Environment Campaign Research
We know how it is – you’re keen to get your campaign moving and reluctant to pause for research.
But here’s the thing. You can run up the ladder to campaign success as fast as you like, but all your effort is wasted if your very first move is to lean the ladder against the wrong wall.
Silent Reef’s Write Effective Campaign Plans online training course helps you get your campaign right from the start by showing you:
- The three roles of research in environment campaigns and when to use them
- Basic research methods you can use even if you have no research experience
- How to conduct issue research, stakeholder research, solution research, campaign organisation research and more
You also gain access to our comprehensive campaign research prompts full of great research ideas for use both when planning and running your campaign.
And of course you learn how to turn your new knowledge into a highly effective plan for campaign success.
Whether you are new to research or born to research Write Effective Campaign Plans helps you master research skills to use throughout your campaign.
Give your campaign the best possible start by basing your campaign plan on research. Use research during your campaign to inform your communications, avoid legal action, launch new campaign fronts and build your credibility.