The general election series: Goal 4 – Using digital to achieve impact

We may not have a date for the upcoming election yet, but one thing’s for sure: if you want to seize this political event to achieve impact for your cause, it’s time to start planning.

It’s all about finding fresh angles, devising creative tactics and testing new channels to make waves during the election period – and beyond.

This is the fourth blog in a four-part series sharing the strategies, tools and tactics we covered in our February webinar (watch the replay here). The full blog series covers:

Using digital to achieve impact

Everything we’ve talked about so far in this series is about achieving impact. But there are some specific things to consider to help maximise your success. 

We know that petitions rarely influence targets anymore, emailing MPs now often just generates a template reply, and politicians are extremely comfortable riding out a social media storm. So, we need to be more creative.

Lateral thinking can help us tackle old problems from new angles and test out innovative tactics to disrupt the status quo. In an election year, this approach can be especially useful. Here are some ideas…

1. Get creative with your target

Think carefully about who to target with your campaign. Don’t always just go direct for politicians you’re trying to influence as they’ll be bombarded this year. Instead, think about who influences them that might be more susceptible to public pressure.

(This can be especially useful if you haven’t registered for election campaigning. By targeting corporates instead, you could still influence party manifestos.)

Freedom From Torture’s campaign to stop the government’s Rwanda Plan offers a great example of this kind of thinking. They targeted the airline commissioned to deport refugees, using emails, calls, social media comments and public stunts to pressure them to drop the deal. And they won, massively derailing the government’s plans.

2. Experiment with different channels

Another key rule this year needs to be: don’t stick to tried and tested spaces. Think about how you can expand campaigns to other apps we all use, such calendars, Reddit, LinkedIn, Google reviews, NextDoor and the phone.

Analyse where your targets are, and where they’re least likely to expect you, and then turn up there. By doing this, you’ll be more disruptive and make a greater impact.

This tool from Greenpeace is a great example. It made it easy for supporters to target Shell via its new boss’s LinkedIn profile, offering a choice of messages to copy and a direct link to his first post as CEO.

3. In a crowded space, content is key

Be disruptive and think about who your messengers are.

Freedom From Torture did this really powerfully in their viral video of a Holocaust survivor calling out Suella Braverman (you can read about learning from that here), and Green New Deal Rising cut through with clips of activists confronting Priti Patel and Kwasi Kwarteng.

All three of these examples worked because they used the right timing, message and messenger, and chose an unexpected event. As a result, their targets were on the back foot and had to respond. Because the stunts were so bold, they got picked up by both social media and traditional outlets.

4. New tactics and tools

We need to think about building the tactics and tools that will help us achieve change.

As we’ve seen, petitions, handraisers, open letters and quizzes all have a role to play in building your base. But we also need to develop innovative tactics that contribute to direct impact. 

Here’s a great example from Brazil…

Case study: NOSSAS activates young voters

NOSSAS, an activism network in Brazil, wanted to register as many young people as possible to vote. They ran a competition offering iPhones and other prizes to those who registered the highest number of their peers.

This inspired young people across Brazil to get involved, and garnered lots of media attention. Influencers supported the campaign too, and it became part of the national conversation.

Although it’s easy to think offering prizes like this could result in only superficial engagement from participants – this couldn’t be further from the truth. The campaign really worked: partly as a result of this mobilisation, Brazil gained over two million voters aged 16-18 – and Bolsonaro lost by almost exactly that number of votes. What’s more, many of the young people involved are now very involved in politics or other campaigning.

There are also some great tools out there to make sure you’re optimising your ad spend for impact:

  • Use Who Targets Me to map party and organisational spending, and see who they’re targeting with what content. This will show you where it makes most sense to focus your budget.
  • Use ChangeLab’s Pinpoint to create localised creative and campaigns that meet changemakers where they’re at.
  • Explore geofencing ads to reach political or other targets you know will be in a particular place. Combine this with on-the-ground mobilisation to hit them from all angles.

Next: Read the other blogs in this general election series:


During our live webinar, we had loads of insightful questions about raising the profile of your cause and raising money during a general election.  Here’s a quick overview of answers from Forward Action’s CEO, Berry Cochrane, and Strategy Director, Helen Hector.

Q: Can you give more detail about the tactic of using calendars as a campaigning tool? 

Berry: When I was at Greenpeace, we’d been asking VW for a meeting but they weren’t giving us one. So we built a tool that enabled our supporters to send VW’s CEO a calendar invite through Outlook and Google. It was just a new way of targeting them, by bombarding VW with invites. Alongside other tactics it did help us to get a meeting.

Q: Many charities have small teams and limited resources. How would you go about prioritising what to do in the run-up to the election?

Helen: The first thing is to figure out your goals – you might just focus on one. The second step would be to look at your team, your resources and your current strengths and build on those. For example, if you have a really strong social media team and can put out daily content, start there. You’ll already have people scanning the media, so look at how you can be reactive. On the other hand, it probably doesn’t make sense to launch a huge volunteer organising programme if that’s brand new to you.

If you’re coming away from this with lots of ideas, get a group of people together to help you achieve them. Get that internal buy-in and make some plans now while you’ve got a bit of space to do that. Do some content planning, looking ahead at the milestones you know are going to be coming up. You could start on an email content calendar now and perhaps do some workshops internally to plan across teams.

Get in touch

These are some of the key digital strategies, tools and tactics we think can help you achieve your goals around the general election.

We’re already working with partners right now to make this happen for them, and we can help you work out what to prioritise, and how much time and budget you might need. 

So if you’re keen to hear more about anything, do reach out for a chat.