ASK MURIEL: Staying motivated in advocacy

24 August 2022

In this edition of Action Matters, we answer the question: 

“How do you stay motivated as an advocate, even when you are not making headway”?

Campaigns and advocacy projects can be a mixed bag. Some can last days or weeks, and others can drag on for years. Some are professional campaigning groups with substantial human resources involving unions, political parties or groups like GetUp! And others might just be a handful of members working towards a common goal, lobbying local decision makers and building a media profile over time.  A federal election campaign will often take months of high-intensity activity for example, and longer still if the seat you are campaigning in is ultra-marginal.

Campaigning and advocacy can be physically and mentally challenging. The hours can be long, the creativity needed to stay ahead of your competition or keep your followers engaged can be demanding. Staying motivated can be a real challenge, and if you are losing motivation, it is likely your volunteers and followers are too, and it will show in your work. Monitoring your motivation, exhaustion levels and the appetite among your followers for engagement as well as being prepared to take time out is fundamental to any high intensity campaign.

You cannot be all things to your campaign or your advocacy project at all times. Setting boundaries such as day’s off, restricting hours spent online or ‘banning’ shop talk and being able to simply recognize what you can control and what needs to be parked for another day or another campaign are all parts of healthy campaign behaviours. And it is ok if your campaign resorts to low-effort social pre-schedule posts, sharing of content or recycling earlier content during periods of limited newsworthy updates.

If you feel like your campaign is really stuck in a rut and no one is listening and nothing is changing, there is no shame in taking the time to reflect on your campaign strategy or goals to date. Use this period to broaden your circle and get fresh advice and new perspectives and maybe consider altering course. Being prepared to disrupt what you have to date had in your campaign toolbox is a sign of campaigning maturity.

As you find time to reflect on your campaign, here are some mapping activities that might help you find your motivation again:

  • Is your goal achievable and is your messaging unambiguous?
  • Are you targeting the right decision makers?
  • Is your spokesperson effective?
  • Is your/are your social media profile/s being used effectively?
  • Who else can you include in your supporter network to amplify your message?
  • Is your branding looking tired?

If you want to read more about what is taken into account in a major campaign to drive behavioural change, there’s a reflection here on the Australian Government’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

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