Picture is illustrative. Photo by Melanie Deziel on Unsplash

What is a campaign? 

A campaign is a series of communications activities to push services, products or topics, and often seeks to raise awareness and drive change. Every campaign has a concrete beginning and an end, with a plan to use mixed communication and marketing activities working to achieve the goals set by organisation, people or non-formal groups.


What’s the purpose of running a campaign? 

Campaigning can be a very effective way of reaching your goals: it can reach a large number of people, raise awareness, influence the public, including the decision makers, and drive the change that you want to see in the world.


For youth organisations and youth movements, campaigning is particularly relevant as it is the perfect way to raise the voice of young people. NGOs and voluntary organisations tend to be very close to their communities and the people they work with/represent and therefore they are in a perfect position to shine a spotlight on inequality, injustice and other societal problems.


Campaigns can give a voice to those that don’t have one: e.g. marginalised groups of people and, ultimately, create change. Campaigns also often involve a wider group of people and partners in the planning and carrying out of the campaign and so it is an effective way of involving young people and encouraging youth participation.


When to campaign on youth work-related activities?

Is youth work under-funded in your local area? Is there a problem that young people that you work with face? Are young people in your community experiencing any kind of discrimination? Do you need new members in your organisation or volunteers for your project? These are just some reasons why you may want to launch a campaign; there is change needed that would make a positive impact on those that you work with and you, as an organisation, have direct experience and evidence about the issue and you (along with, most likely, relevant partners) would be the perfect ones to campaign on this.


Campaigning for youth – in action

The European Youth Forum, as the voice of youth organisations in Europe, runs many campaigns at the EU level, advocating for the rights of young people and raising their voice up to policy makers. One example of a long-running campaign run by the European Youth Forum, is the Youth Guarantee. Back in 2010, in the aftermath of the financial crisis, young people across Europe were disproportionately impacted, with high levels of youth unemployment and risks of poverty and social exclusion. The European Youth Forum called for a Youth Guarantee, a tailored approach to ensuring young people were not out of the labour market for more than four months, offering them a job or relevant training. The Youth Forum, making use of its large membership of grassroots youth organisations, had strong evidence of the situation of young people in Europe and, along with its membership, used various campaigning tactics to raise this voice to European policy makers. They employed advocacy, media relations, events, essentially creating “noise” and ensuring that politicians couldn’t ignore young people. The campaign was a success, and the Youth Guarantee was launched across Europe in 2013. Since then, the Youth Forum has continued to put pressure on the EU, by monitoring the implementation of the Youth Guarantee, creating tools, such as this interactive map and calling for more action.


Planning a campaign

  • Establish the aim of your campaign – what is the main purpose of your campaign? What is the ultimate change that you want to see?
  • Develop a theory of changethis lays out a pathway for how you expect the change to come about. It will help you think through what the current situation is and what needs to be done – what kind of activities – to bring about the end goal. 
  • Lay out objectives for the campaign 
  • What’s the story? For a campaign to be compelling and to really make the most of your position as a youth organisation/movement – tell the story of those who are affected by the issue you are campaigning about. Make an emotional connection with the people you are hoping to influence, an effective way to do this is through storytelling.
  • Messaging – ensuring that you have strong messaging is at the heart of any good campaign. Your messages should be simple, compelling, connect with the audience and provide evidence that the change you are calling for is needed. 
  • Tactics and tools – decide on which tactics you want to use. This will depend on your resources – both people and financial – and the target audience.
    Some types of tools you can consider might include: media relations (including press releases, letter to editor, opinion piece, press conference), research/opinion poll (excellent way to back up your messaging and great material for media relations and advocacy activity), a PR stunt, a protest or other mobilisation, advocacy actions (such as meetings with policy makers, letters to relevant decision makers), social media campaign, or an advertising campaign.
  • Build in measurement – to ensure you have had the impact you want, make sure that from the planning stage you are building in proper metrics for evaluation of your campaign.


Photo of Sarah Farndale
Sarah Farndale

Sarah is a communications specialist with 15 years' experience working in-house for a wide range of organisations and institutions, from international NGOs to EU associations and institutions. More recently, she has been advising clients as a freelance communications consultant - based in Brussels - working with organisations on enhancing their communications.