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Three Easy Steps to Better Advocacy

 
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Guest blog by Caryn Ginsberg

Part 2 of 2

Blog series on effective advocacy by Caryn Ginsberg:

Part 1: Want to be a More Effective Advocate? Put the (Vegan) Shoe on the Other Foot

Part 2: Three Easy Steps to Better Advocacy

As advocates, we're often frustrated when people don't take action after we ask them to make changes that help animals. Last week's article, "Want to be a More Effective Advocate? Put the (Vegan) Shoe on the Other Foot," invited you to gain insight into your advocacy by being on the receiving end of a campaign outside the animal protection field. (If you haven't had a chance to complete that activity, you'll get even more out of this article if you try it first).

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I've used this approach at numerous conferences. Whether I ask people to shop exclusively at second-hand outlets, give up their cars, or eat 100% raw food, I rarely have more than a few takers. That's because these mini-campaigns don't go far enough to address three key steps that would make them more compelling.

While nothing can guarantee 100% success, these three steps will help you do more for animals.

1. Answer "what's in it for me?"

People change when they feel it's in their interest to do so. When you read the shopping example, you evaluated what's in it for me. If you weren't ready to give up shopping at large retailers, you didn't perceive the benefits of doing so as greater than the barriers. Even if you valued the environmental and social justice arguments, you may have had concerns about:

  • Where else to shop
  • Higher prices for organic, labor-friendly goods from specialty retailers
  • The quality and selection of second-hand clothing
  • The inconvenience of shopping at a thrift shop or consignment outlet

We can talk ourselves blue in the face, but unless we tip the scales for people to feel that taking action is in their benefit, they won't. Altruism can make people feel good about themselves, but it's one benefit among many and comes up against the barriers that people often see in making change.

2. Focus on more than message

Crafting effective messages, whether one-on-one or for campaigns, is critical to success. But effective advocacy requires more than education on the issues. It's about delivering the complete package to inspire change. For example, a campaign to persuade women who wear fur coats to choose alternatives should also provide information on fake furs, identify where to buy them, and explain how to donate a fur coat to an animal protection organization for a possible tax deduction. Businesses know that it takes the 4Ps of marketing: product (the faux coats), place (where to buy), and price (tax deduction) in addition to promotion (communication) to get results.

Much of the growth in the consumption of vegetarian and vegan foods has come from the increase in substitute products and grocers carrying them. Further advances to improve taste, lower cost, and increase availability can be as powerful or even more so than what we say and how we say it.

3. Find out what you don't know

The appeal asking you to avoid malls and major retailers wasn't based on any understanding of your situation. Suppose I'd first asked these questions:

  • Where do you shop now and why?
  • What would you think of buying some or all of your clothing second-hand?
  • What benefits would you see in buying second-hand clothing?

Maybe you weren't that convinced of the environmental impact, but liked the idea of saving money. Maybe you weren't aware of a nicer thrift shop that had just opened in your area. By finding out what was on your mind, I could have engaged you with ideas, and resources that were much more compelling.

When we talk with people one-on-one, we get better results by listening as much as talking. Rather than "speechifying," asking questions and genuinely considering the responses give us useful information and can build a better relationship.

When we're planning campaigns, research is our tool to listen to large numbers of people. In focus groups, participants share detail and nuance on how they feel about animal issues. Surveys reach large numbers of people to provide quantified results that can predict how others will generally respond. Research studies at www.HumaneSpot.org or customized research projects can help you learn more about the people you're trying to reach and what will work best in approaching them.

Insight and action

To put these ideas to work for you and for animals, think about each of these key points in planning your advocacy.

  • Answer what's in it for me? Consider ways you help people perceive additional benefits and fewer barriers to animal-friendly behavior.
  • Focus on more than the message. Make it easier for people to adopt animal-friendly behaviors, such as by maintaining a listing of animal-free circuses visiting the area. If alternatives are inferior, costly, or hard to find, explore ways to change the situation.
  • Find out what you don't know. Determine how you will listen to people one-on-one, using www.HumaneSpot.org or via research studies.

I hope this two-part series has given you some fresh ideas on how to make your outreach even more effective. Please share your comments on how you'll put these tips to work to get better results for animals.

(Please don't forget, you will need to log in to comment.)

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Have you used these steps or related social marketing approaches successfully in the past? Please contact Caryn Ginsberg to share your stories for possible inclusion in her forthcoming book on effective animal advocacy.

For additional articles on effective animal advocacy, please visit http://www.Priority-Ventures-Group.com/Resources

Caryn Ginsberg has more than ten years of experience helping individuals and organizations get better results for animals. Her clients include ASPCA, The Humane Society of the United States, PetSmart Charities, Farm Sanctuary, and United Animal Nations. She serves on the board of advisors for Humane Research Council and Institute for Humane Education and has spoken at numerous animal protection conferences.

Good ideas

I thought this article was helpful. Talking to people who do not share the same view or understanding about an ethical issue is difficult at best. As for Tristan's comment, when even vegans are attacking each other over specifics that the majority of non-vegans are likely to care little about, it divides us and makes us look flaky to those we are trying to reach. We don't have to agree on everything, but respecting that we are each doing our best would be beneficial to all. Vegan Outreach has an excellent article on this, http://www.veganoutreach.org/howvegan.html If someone is supporting something that is doing more harm than good, a private, respectful email would be a more appropriate way to inform them of the issue. I think we need to take the resources that are imperfect now, such some of the organizations listed, and work to improve them.

Thank you, Tristan, for

Thank you, Tristan, for taking the time to share your thoughts. One of the challenges we face in animal protection is that although we share a love of animals, we differ, often dramatically, on the effectiveness of different strategies and tactics. I hope, regardless of how you feel about of my work or the work of organizations I have assisted, that you may still benefit from applying ideas from this article to your own activism. I would welcome hearing whether you found some of the points helpful or how they could have been more useful to you. While we do not agree in all areas, I wish you every success in our common goal of ending animal suffering. Best, Caryn

I notice that your "clients"

I notice that your "clients" include the ASPCA, how exactly is it that you have gotten "better results for animals" when the ASPCA murdered Oreo and other dogs deemed unadoptable even though rescue organizations were ready to adopt them.http://www.nathanwinograd.com/?cat=8&paged=2 How is your other "client" Petsmart helping animals by selling them?http://www.petsmartcruelty.com/ and not evern taking care of those that are sick? How exactly is HSUS helping animals when they wanted to kill Michael Vick's victims?http://humanewatch.org/index.php/site/post/michael_vicks_dogs_are_still_breathing_no_thanks_to_hsus/ How is the HSUS helping animals by allowing their murderer to now speak to kids?http://www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=1789 Were this victims human would you still be helping these organizations?

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