Make campaigns work with user first strategy.

If your campaigns aren't landing, it's because there’s a mismatch between the content and the audience. 

Campaigns fall into 2 categories.

1. Growing support

Reaching out to people who don't care yet and persuading them your issue is worth caring about.

2. Energizing the base

Energizing the people who already care so they will amplify your message and you can use that energy to push through change.
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Digital media tech changed everything

Most campaigning falls into second category – energizing the base. For decades it's been the go-to strategy of political parties, NGOs and businesses. The theory goes that it's so much easier to keep milking those who are already with you than it is to convert 'cold leads'. That's why when you give to a charity, you keep getting calls asking you to give more.
But! New media tech has fundamentally transformed the way that energizing the base / amplifying your message actually influences society. Now, algorithmic distribution means people only get served content on issues they're already interested in. So if you're not interested in human rights or environmental issues already, you're not going to see that stuff, no matter how loudly it's being yelled.

Shout louder. Get heard less

This is key to understand: Now, new media tech has made it so that, often, the louder we shout, the less we're heard. “Extreme” ideas don't work for the milder middle, so they just don't get exposed to them by the algorithms. Now, most of the political energy is concentrated at the extremes among the people who care most passionately (and loudly) about the issues.
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Effective campaigning inthe new digital reality

There is a huge untapped segment of persuadable people in the middle. All the data shows that a global majority still agrees on most pro-rights, pro-climate issues. But the content they're getting served on those issues isn’t working for them. Either they're not interested enough to click or it just doesn't connect with them.
An example: During Covid, the World Health Organization launched a global campaign to tackle vaccine hesitancy, releasing hundreds of videos from doctors reassuring the public that vaccines are safe. But out of all that content, the average number of organic engagements was only around 5 per post. That’s shocking considering that 90% of people in Europe are still pro-vax. The problem is partly that the platforms are getting more and more tightfisted with the reach they give away for free, but it’s also that the content that WHO produced just wasn't working for the audiences that they needed to reach. If it did work, the platforms would exploit it to keep their users online longer (that’s what organic reach is, and it’s still possible).

Make it about them (not about you)

The answer is in audience first strategy. That means making the issues you care about relevant to your target audience’s lives. It's about showing them why your issue makes sense for them by connecting it to the values they already hold, or to other things they already care about. Make it about them (not about you) in other words.
It begins by mapping out who you have a chance of reaching (and who you don't) and figuring out the shared values or interests that you can connect with. For more on targeting to reverse polarization, check out the innovation links below.
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A thought experiment: Selling the green transition to Republicans.

American Republicans aren't known for their environmentalism. And a lot of that is probably about the polarization that's looms so large in modern American politics. "Whatever the other side does, I do the opposite." But if we want to sell the green transition more broadly (and we have to do that if we're serious about making change), we need to open our arms to the people who aren’t already with us.

Connect with their values.

Don't sell green tech on the environmentalism. Don't sell it on cost efficiency (which could be a negative, because apparently “the more you burn, the more you earn.”)
With AI now, we can mock up anything in minutes, spend a couple of hundred bucks to see how it lands with our targeting audience, and iterate based on the data we get back.
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Connect with the great American legend. Connect with the audience’s values of self sufficiency and independence.


Connect with their love of the land and their love for their families. 


Connect with the strong value of security and protection.
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These mockups are just to bring some life to this thought experiment. We’re not actually planning on running them.
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Would you rather be right or happy?

Framing a message to connect with an audience’s values is not a new idea. All the data from decades of research shows that on every issue, from LGBTQ+ rights to healthcare, audience first strategy works. How else would it have been possiblefor us to come so far on LGBTQ rights in Western Europe? And how else would it bepossible to persuade millions of low income Americans that free healthcare is not in their best interest?
For many organizations now though, the polarizing effect of new media tech and the easy likes we get from our support base is making is decreasing our overall social impact and, with it, our funding viability. Not only that, it’s entrenching the polarization that’s tearing our societies apart and threatening the future of democracy.

Need to grow your impact?

Learn how RNW Media can help your organization boost impact and funding viability. Write us at

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