The Six Simple Stages to Successful Campaign Planning

Are you looking to win support for an issue, impact policy, or get a corporation or government body to change its policies? Follow this roadmap to put successful campaign strategies in place.

1. Define the Victory

In this early stage of planning, it’s important that your planning team is in agreement on the core goal or goals of the campaign. Getting buy-in and agreement at the earliest stages is particularly important when you are working with a group of people or organizations with different priorities. You also want to make sure the definition of your win is specific and actionable, such as convincing a manufacturer to stop using rainforest trees in its packaging, overturning the Defense of Marriage Act, or convincing a school district to serve local food in schools.

2. Evaluate the Campaign Climate

Now that you’ve defined your campaign win, take some time to evaluate the climate in which you’re working. As you assess the climate for your campaign, identify what’s working in your favor and what hurdles you may need to overcome. Is your issue hot on the agenda or stuck in limbo? What is the current conversation around your issue? Who is the opposition, and what is their agenda? Who else is working on this issue, and is the conversation too crowded for your message to stand out? What current events or opportunities can you use to your advantage? Planning for vulnerabilities and maximizing your strengths at the beginning of your campaign can help you avoid unexpected crises that could throw you off course.

3. Chart the Course

All campaigns should have a series of milestones that you must hit on your way to the win. These are the intermediate victories that build off each other and let you know you are gaining momentum. Starting with the first milestone, list up to 10 milestones you need to reach your campaign win. As you craft your milestones, frame them as outcomes so they represent what you ultimately want to achieve. For example, if your campaign is going to release a report to persuade a corporate leader to become a spokesperson for your effort, your milestone should not be that you release a report. Rather, it should be that the leader agrees to sign on as a spokesperson as a result of reading your report.

4. Choose Your Influence Strategy

For each milestone, you’ll need to make choices about who ultimately has the power to determine whether you’re successful or not – your decision makers. Then think about who has the greatest ability to encourage or pressure them to take action – your influencers. Avoid broad groups such as “the general public,” “voters,” or “women.” Instead, add as many adjectives as possible so you have a clear picture of the kind of person you need to reach to move your campaign forward.

5. Message for Impact

Every campaign needs a message platform that will provide you, your spokesperson, your allies or partners, and your organization’s leadership with an overarching positioning statement. A message platform does not need to be cast in stone or memorized, but the core concepts and language should serve as a guide for influencers and spokespeople as they communicate about your campaign. The message platform should include the following four points: explain the problem/need that currently exists or the situation that you are working to change; delineate what the campaign is working to accomplish; describe how you recommend addressing the need or problem, with specific actions or steps that your decision-makers need to take; and explain the result that a campaign victory will bring about and what it will do to solve the problem or fill the need you noted at the start.

6. Manage the Campaign

Once you have determined the main tactics to achieve success, it’s important to plan the day-to-day details to get it done. Ensure every assignment has a deadline/timeline, point person responsible, metrics including outputs and outcomes, and a budget. When it comes to metrics, it’s important to think of ones that lead to outcomes. And don’t forget that when your campaign is underway, it’s more than a collection of goals, milestones, and deadlines. It’s a living, breathing team of people united in their commitment to the cause. As a campaign leader, don’t pass up opportunities to recognize the small victories at every meeting to keep your team and your coalition motivated. Be on the lookout for occasions to celebrate, and get your team together for social events.

To learn more campaign planning tips or get started planning your next campaign, check out the free and interactive Planning to Win: The Just Enough Guide for Campaigners.

Michael Khoo
SVP and Director of Digital Strategies
Michael Khoo is SVP and Director of Digital Strategies at Spitfire Strategies. Michael brings in-depth experience in strategic communication for organizations focused on technology and democracy, women’s issues, health and the environment. He specializes in online marketing, campaign and communication strategy, and media relations.