Want to launch an effective online petition to gain support for your cause? The keys to your success will be dependent on just how much promotion you invest in your campaign. Promotion for online petitions is absolutely necessary if you want signatures, as support is not easily given no matter how important your cause is. Imagine the thought of advocating for a campaign that pushed for unjust criminalization of underage visible minorities, the resignation of a disdainful leader following controversial comments, or holding a politician accountable for an upcoming election following claims of fraud. Now imagine only getting a few hundred signatures for your cause with no signs of an increase. Your campaign wouldn’t be off to a good start.
You may not have a big budget. You may even be lacking in human resources. But it is possible to promote your cause without draining your individual or organization’s finances. Here are some recommendations you can apply to increase your chances of having a successful campaign.
Establish A Plan For Reaching Your Goals
Ask yourself this question: “Exactly how many signatures do I need for my online petition?” Whether it’s 5,000 or 500,000, acquiring a high volume of support requires a thorough strategy, as obtaining signatures in the thousands for petitions can sometimes take months to accomplish. With this goal in mind, establish a plan for how you will reach those signatures.
Decide how many signatures you need in total, then break those numbers down by week. Once the numbers have been established, you can try different approaches for obtaining new signatures weekly. If your goal was to reach 3,000 signatures and you only achieved 1,500, then review and identify what channels did or did not work. Experiment with a variety of promotional tactics to increase your numbers and, based on your assessment, repeat what works best. This could include going to the media for more exposure.
Get Media Coverage
Journalists and other members of the media are busy individuals with tight deadlines, which makes getting their attention a challenge. Obtaining media coverage for your online petition is not a guarantee, but it’s worth a try to draw attention to your cause. A good place to start is with a well-written press release.
Your press release should be compact and newsworthy with an attention-grabbing headline. It should have a hard-hitting lead inclusive of the who, what, when, where and why of your online petition. Include the name of your cause, its primary purpose and a sense of urgency to encourage members of the media to contact you. And be prepared for when they do actually call you. If you don’t enjoy the media spotlight, find a savvy spokesperson who doesn’t mind answering provocative questions.
Media exposure doesn’t need to be restricted to journalists writing about your online petition. You can always try writing a letter to the editor for your local or nationwide publications. The more media coverage, the better the exposure. And while newspaper, television and radio are fantastic ways to generate public attention, let’s not forget about social media.
Harness The Power Of Social Media
Social media is a fantastic tool for communicating ideas and forming strategic collaborations. Having your own Facebook page or Twitter account is a basic step for connecting with an audience, but social media is much more powerful than you realize, especially when it comes to the use of hashtags.
Canadian Rights In Quebec (CRITIQ) (a group whose social media communication I helped manage earlier this year) created their own hashtags for their campaign pushing special status for the city of Montreal. Montreal has the highest rate of bilingualism in Canada. Therefore, it was only natural that CRITIQ used hashtags in French and English to appeal to local social media users in both languages.
— Vasyl Pawlowsky (@uamuzik) July 7, 2014
— CanMTL (@VivaMTL) March 5, 2014
The results were wonderful and the group was thrilled to see people of both languages supporting their campaign on Twitter.
While you may not necessarily require bilingual communication for your cause, the point is that linking a keyword or topic to your online petition via social media helps to attract new potential supporters who may see your hashtag. This audience might even include journalists whose attention you want.
Ultimately, be strategic. If the aim is to obtain more signatures from people ages 30 to 60, then learn how that target audience is using their time online. Look at their social media habits. Moreover, don’t forget to use images.
It’s been proven that pictures included in social media posts have a higher engagement rate than those with only text. This provides a great opportunity to use cover photo space, profile pictures and general posts to display provocative and memorable images that draw attention to your brand and online petition. Even infographics are great visual aids.
Promote Your Cause Through Infographics
Infographics are powerful forms of content. What better way to draw attention to your online petition? Neil Patel of Kissmetric and Quicksprout has been a strong advocate for infographics . I believe that an infographic can be a fantastic informative tool for exposure as well.
If you already possess credible data from surveys or reports, then you can use these to create a visually appealing infographic. Be creative in the way you convey your message by providing accurate data. There are also great tools online to help you design your infographic, such as Piktochart and Venngage. Don’t have enough data for your infographic? Lacking the resources to get a project like this done? You can always attempt to align with an organization that has the resources you do not.
Form Strategic Partnerships For Stronger Promotion
Associating yourself with an organization that shares similar views about your cause is an effective way to add credibility to your online petition. Your new partner can easily help share your petition with their audience or at least help you with creating promotional material if they have the resources.
For example, creating and publishing your own blog content on your site is excellent for attracting more inbound traffic. However, you could publish blog content on external partner sites with high inbound traffic. While being a guest blogger or participating in a blog Q&A are creative ways to draw an audience from external sites, the content does not always need to be in text format. Rich blog content can include things like video interviews with your spokesperson, previously recorded radio interviews and original photos. The benefit of publishing this content is that you can keep distributing it across various channels. Furthermore, you can include this same content in emails.
Email Is The Sweet Spot
Email is probably going to be one of your most valuable channels for attracting additional signatures for your online petition. If you haven’t done so already, start building your email subscription list. (You could also propose sending a tailored, co-branded message to your partner organization’s email list.) You will have an easier time building your list if you use a professional email marketing platform (e.g. AWeber or Mailchimp) that can facilitate your ability to collect addresses and other information with respect to email spam legislation in your country. Of course, no one will know they can subscribe to your list unless you show them how.
Your website is the best place for building your email list. A good email marketing platform will provide you with a simple email sign up form you can embed on your website. It could be as simple as a sign-up box you place at the top of your sidebar, a pop-up box that appears when new visitors land on your website, or something more comprehensive, like a dedicated sign-up landing page.
If you persuade potential supporters to be on your email list, then you owe it to them to be engaging and to demonstrate the success of your campaign. Provide updates on the number of signatures you’ve obtained for the month. Link to blog content about your cause in your email newsletters. Notify subscribers of your most recent media appearances. Facilitate the ability for subscribers to connect with you via social media by embedding linked icons in the emails you send. More importantly, don’t forget to thank them for their support if you reach your signature goal.
To recap, here are the six points for launching your online petition on the right foot:
- Establish a well thought-out plan for promoting your online petition.
- Get the media to cover a story about your cause.
- Harness your social media profile and use hashtags.
- Put your group’s reports and surveys to use in the form of an infographic.
- Form strategic alliances with organizations that support your cause.
- Start an engaging email campaign to build a large and loyal list of supporters.
Collecting signatures for any online petition is no easy feat, but with some strategic planning, you can make it an effective campaign using any of the aforementioned ideas.
Have you ever launched an online petition? What strategic methods do you use to gain signatures? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.