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What makes a great campaign? Authenticity, indefatigability and a touch of the devil certainly help

27 February 2015

Unless you have had your head in a hole for the past few months, you’ll be aware that election season is in full swing, bringing with it a huge number of campaigns. It was very timely, then, for the Sheila McKechnie Foundation to hold its 10th Anniversary Awards at the House of Lords on Monday, set up to honour the memory of Sheila McKechnie, an inspiring campaigner during her career with Shelter and The Consumers’ Association who described herself as a “fully paid-up member of the awkward squad”.

As an agency, we spend a lot of time on the process of creating successful campaigns – understanding the audience, the influencers, levers and channels to reach them, the journey we need to take them on.

Whilst these things are important, it is worth considering the four ingredients that can make a campaign really take flight.

Have a vision – truly successful campaigns are underpinned by real vision, as illustrated by ‘Justice for the 96’, set up by the families of those who died at Hillsborough in 1989, ultimately leading to the inquest that will take place this year.

Be authentic – the success of 38 Degrees since the last election and its people-powered campaigning approach illustrates the power of true representation.

Never take no for an answer – indefatigability is a key quality alongside adaptability and entrepreneurialism. Maya Foa, winner of the Women Demanding Justice Campaigner at the SMK Awards, had to have the award collected on her behalf. This was because at the moment of the award she was on her mobile haranguing the last European pharmaceutical company still supplying lethal injection drugs to US states that still have the death penalty.

Push the boundaries – like the villagers of Chideock who campaigned against traffic through the simple expedient of continually pressing the button on the pedestrian crossing to bring it to a standstill.

What can agencies take away from this?

Perhaps that all the clever strategy in the world can’t match the impact of genuine grassroots involvement and authenticity.

You cannot fake this authenticity, but social media provide the platform securing it for your campaign.

That generally comes at a cost and that cost is normally control.

This election year, agencies and their clients could do worse than loosening their grip on that control and letting the people take the lead.

See an extended version of this blog post on PR Week here.