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ADVOCACY – why marketing matters!

Updated: Jul 18, 2018

Law, policies, regulations have been my breakfast for many years and still are every now and then. Marketing is what I made my daily profession, at the end. One of the most curious things that I have found out is about how close advocacy and marketing are: these are two sides of the same coin, and it is helpful to understand how important could be to get the right marketing strategy to sustain and strengthen your advocacy activities.

Why marketing for advocacy? Build momentum and support behind your scope. As I have learned from my law background, society is shaping policies and laws. In order to influence the decision makers and make a change in public policy, the critical point in the process is to change attitudes and positions among the public, civil society, citizens and it requires ongoing engagement, discussion, argument and negotiation. This is what marketing people know how to do it very well. For instance, it could be that if an issue is not on the media or on social media, decision makers perceive it as an uninterested issue and it could result in a general indifference towards your advocacy activities, researches and efforts.

Advocacy professionals are missing out a number of opportunities being weak with their promotional activities! I would like to show you how marketing planning is reflected in advocacy planning and give you a 3 key focus on promotion. Here are the 8 key marketing steps and their reflection in the advocacy field!

1. Marketing goal and objective definition = Core focus and advocacy objectives definition

The core focus is the ultimate goal of your advocacy activity, in other words the desired research result.  Your goal description should be short, concise, simple, straightforward and immediate. Here is a very good example: “PROMISS is a European program aiming at preventing malnutrition among older people. Nutrition for healthy ageing is key!”

The advocacy objectives are the practical steps needed to achieve the goal, and are identifiable with intermediate impacts or effects of your advocacy activities. Each objective should be SMART, meaning:

2. Market analysis = Policy landscape analysis

With a good policy environmental breakdown, you can understand the playing field and find out what your upcoming objectives are – for instance, if there is little debate around your issue, you immediately know that your very first advocacy step is to create an actual pressure to get the issue on the decision-makers agenda.

What are the general policy trends?

Is there a call for change around your interest or cause?

Is there an actual debate around your issue?

What is the level of consensus or conflict around your issue

3. Target market & segmentation = Actors, communities and audiences mapping

Networking, networking and networking – that is a massively overused word! However, you won’t get that much out of networking, if you don’t analyse the audiences that might be interesting for you. One of the key steps is understanding the players within the network – who the decision makers are and who influences them. All the players must be identified:

Who are our potential members and the experts we would like interact with?

Who are the decision-makers?

Which are the governmental institutions, NGOs and associations involved?

What are the relevant interest groups?

What are the key media contacts?

4. Consumer behaviour analysis = Decision-making practice identification

In the law practice, as in the economic one, there is often a difference between what the formal process is and what really happens in reality. A clear analysis of the decision-making process can be a real plus! Sometimes, the formalities are just a mandatory element, but the involved NGOs, members, interest groups and the government have already negotiated the decision. That is it – you must understand the decision dynamics far beyond the mere “as stated by law”.

How does the decision making process really work?

When and who does take the decision?

5. Competitors analysis = Antagonist interest entities analysis

All interests have a right to be represented. No matter what you and I may think subjectively, the importance of the oil producers might be as important as the renewable energy lobbies. Again, no matter what each of us think and judge as more important. You need to understand who your “competitors” are. In other words, identify the bodies and entities, which are representing and advocating an interest that is the opposite of yours.

What is their role and how do they present themselves in the policy debate dynamics?

What do they do in terms of communication, research and campaigns?

Do they have a membership program going on?

How do they act within the policy environment? Do they have key alliances or are they related to key influencers?

6. Positioning = Role definition

Set your role in the policy environment and dynamics. Having understood the actors and the practice related to your specific issue, you can understand where to position yourself within the debate.

What is your role within the current debate dynamics?

How could you make your argument fit within the debate?

What side should you take?

Are there any valuable potential alliances within the network that can be more beneficial for your interest or cause?

7. Entry to market = Planning & timing

That is your “entry to market” plan. You should plan to have your research and analysis ready for when these are needed (i.e. when decisions are going to be made on that specific issue). “Time is money” could be translated in “time is your best chance of influencing a decision-maker”. Plan it and be at the right time in the right place. It is true that in researching, the risk of uncertainty is really high, but there are still some elements you really should consider and try to plan.

  • When is the best time to start your advocacy activities?

  • Is there a specific event or process that you can target?

  • Can you draw attention on the issues exploiting a particular trend or new technology?

  • Is there a crucial event or a key change in the political environment that you can exploit

8. Promotional activities = Advocacy activities

For policy officers and advocates, promotion normally means releasing papers and reports, lobbying at meeting and events, participating at conferences and doing a bit of social media. In practice, advocacy professionals tend to focus on the research itself and all its process details.

However, only a little part of the whole target audience has a real actual interest or capacity to understand all these details. The real interest for the majority of your audience is about findings, outcomes, implications and solutions coming from your research!

In the next article, we will take a look at promotion and communication tools for advocacy. So, keep up updated!

What do you think about it? Did you develop a clear marketing planning for your advocacy activities? Let us know!

by Chiara Lamacchia

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