Aw, you can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent. Forfty percent of all people know that.” – Homer Simpson.

In simple terms, advocacy campaigns involve assembling a bridge that will take your organisation from where you are now to where you want to be in the future.

One of the critical tools in building this bridge is carefully planned and purposeful research that delivers the statistics and evidence needed to support our case for change.

Sounds simple enough, however if you’re going to invest time and resources into quality research, you want to make sure the outcomes are presented in the best way possible to convey your key messages to your key targets.

Here are four simple tips that could help achieve this.

1) What’s it for? Before pen hits paper in drafting the scope of the research you’re about to commission, you must understand the ‘end use’. How you plan to use the data will define the scope and extent of the research to be undertaken. If you’re campaigning against a proposed ban on black jelly beans, researching the history of jelly beans is probably not all that useful

2) How big? One of the most common pitfalls in using data is the misconception that really, really big numbers are impressive and convincing. While figures are important, to most people, including politicians, ‘one billion’ does not exist. That is, most people have never seen ‘a billion’ of anything – dollars, cats, pizzas, anything.  

An important part of effectively using your data is to convert ‘big’ numbers into something of comparable size. For example instead of saying ‘it would take one billion black jelly beans to power Sydney homes,’ it would be more effective to say ‘it would take one billion black jelly beans to power Sydney homes – that’s enough to fill an Olympic swimming pool’.

3) Who cares? Politicians are first and foremost concerned about their own patch. It’s important that the outcomes of your research are contextually relevant to your advocacy targets.

Say the government planned to proceed with its ban on black jelly beans and you’re running the campaign for the jelly bean manufacturing industry, representing 30,000 workers across NSW.  

The NSW Member for Tiddlebum might be somewhat concerned that the ban on black jelly beans would put 30,000 jobs at risk. It’s not really a good look for the government.  However, the Member for Tiddlebum may become ‘outraged’ if you present them with research that shows there are 2,000 local jelly bean workers that live in the Tiddlebum electorate. The information has now been made ‘contextually relevant’.

4) So you wanna be a champion? Once you’ve made your research data contextually relevant to relevant members of parliament, it’s time to make them a champion for your cause. Arm them with additional information on the problem, suggest a solution, offer to provide tailored collateral for their electorate, take them on a site visit, offer them a speaking opportunity and even offer to provide supporters in the public gallery if they decide to speak on your issue in parliament. The desired outcome is for them to take up the issue with the higher levels of government on your behalf.