Successful Strategic Activism 102: How to Identify the Right Issue

As I outlined in a previous post, your starting point for a successful strategic activism campaign is identifying the right issue. The “right” issue depends on a variety of factors including both internal and external considerations that are specific to your organization. In general, the right issue will have relevance and materiality for your organization so that it effectively resonates with customers and the public.

This first step in the process will help you develop a minimum set of information to help you make decisions with leadership and colleagues about which issue to pursue. Based on our experience working with purpose-driven brands and advocates, we break down your decisions using a sampling of "Do's and Don'ts" coupled with best practice examples.

Issue Identification Do’s and Don’ts

1. Establish criteria for evaluating the universe of potential issues.

  • Do include criteria that address internal and external factors
  • Don’t assume that a competitor's engagement on a specific issue means it's the right issue for your brand

Best Practice Example

A social media company wanted to launch a strategic activism campaign and was interested in issues like climate change, renewable energy, cybersecurity, and net neutrality. The company identified a variety of criteria like potential partners and opponents, budget, and issue relevance, among others, to help them evaluate their opportunities.  

2. Apply your criteria to identify a priority issue. 

  • Do conduct research and collect data related to your criteria
  • Don’t overweight criteria related to the marketing opportunities of strategic activism

Best Practice Example

An organic foods company surveyed members of their online community to strengthen their understanding of issue importance and awareness, as well as willingness to participate in a campaign and then used that data to inform their prioritization of opportunities. 

3. Identify initial campaign goals and measures of success.

  • Do use your initial goals and measures of success to inform your next step in the process: campaign planning
  • Don’t waste time or money on lobbying at this point in the process

(Not a) Best Practice Example

A kids clothing company spent $100k on a DC lobbying firm before identifying an issue or planning a strategic activism campaign. Failing to identify a specific issue and develop clear objectives caused company executives to abandon the campaign before it generated any benefits.

Getting started can be intimidating, we can help

Identifying an issue and understanding where to start can be intimidating if your team doesn't have internal advocacy campaign staff (rare of course), and that's where we can help. We have successfully worked with various brands and organizations to craft meaningful advocacy campaigns that have increased brand loyalty, client engagement, and provided numerous other benefits.

A future post will dig in to the next step in successful strategic activism campaigns: Campaign Planning