What if we told you that Canada’s postal workers have a plan to fight climate change and deliver vital new services to every corner of the country?
Imagine check-ins on elders, low-fee postal banking, high-speed internet, and a climate-friendly delivery with a fleet of electric vehicles. Welcome to the postal service of the future.
If you found this intriguing at all, it’s thanks to a key component of any good campaign: the message guide.
Recently, Campaign Gears helped develop one such message guide with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), as they worked to reboot their visionary campaign to transform the postal office, Delivering Community Power.
While a campaign plan serves as your organization’s Bible, the message guide is like the hymnbook: the notes you want everyone working on your campaign singing from.
It’s a document that outlines your key messages and helps you anticipate potential responses and counter-arguments. A good guide will suggest variations on the message for different target audiences. In the case of CUPW, that includes stakeholders like their membership and labour allies, rural Canadians, Indigenous communities, and environmentalists.
To ensure your messaging is effective at meeting audiences where they are at, the guide will give cues on tone, offer sample elevator pitches, and lay out the core elements of a good message (an outline of the problem, a summary of the solution, and a call to action!).
The guide is intended to make your messaging consistent across every facet of your campaign. It should be used as a reference point while you develop any new materials — whether posters or pamphlets, social media content, advertising, speeches, canvassing scripts, lobbying talking points, or attempts to get media coverage.
The development process can be of varying intensity. Campaign Gears’ preference is to go through several steps:
- review all previous campaign communications,
- survey the knowledge of the campaign’s leaders,
- do a strategic assessment of the current terrain, and
- then generate a rough messaging guide.
Testing what you’ve developed is crucial, and an effective way of doing that is through polling (more on that in a future case study of our work with CUPW) to test which messages have the most impact on changing minds. Another is by using social media advertising to see which messages attract the most attention. Or even by running both at the same time!
Once you’ve reviewed your message guide based on testing, it is ready to be deployed in the campaign. Training is extremely important. Many campaign volunteers (and even some communications professionals) may not be used to the idea of a message and message discipline. You’ll need to keep everyone in tune as the campaign goes along.
But don’t expect to never have to revise the message guide again. They are living documents: they should be updated any time a campaign goes through big changes, receives decisive new information, or best of all starts winning some of its demands! The message guide, produced in April, is already in need of adjustments because the campaign has already achieved more than expected. But more on that coming soon!