Commscamp North – campaigns

The amazing Commscamp North took place in Bradford last week. It was my first commscamp for two years, and it was very much a welcome return.

This year, I pitched a session on campaigns, and was pleased to lead this session.

Although, by lead I mean, toss a ball marked ‘campaigns’ into the air and watch and nod as a group of thirty-odd comms pros grabbed it and offered their thoughts.

Where I work, we’re starting to use campaigns more, and move to a proactive campaigning approach from a more reactive one. With this in mind, I thought it’d be useful to know what others felt made a good campaign.

There was some great discussion and some fantastic tips. I’ve summarised these below.

If it feels like I’m teaching you how to suck eggs, then relax in the knowledge that your campaigns are on the right lines.

Your audience is key

I mean, we all know this. But it doesn’t hurt to have this reminder right at the start. A campaign probably involves a call to action – a change in behaviour you’d like to see. Well that’s great, but make sure you know who you are targeting.

What does success look like?

This is absolutely key. If you are not clear about what you plan to deliver from the outset, then you have no idea whether you have achieved it – nor for that matter, when you have achieved it.

Just as important is ensuring that your deliverables and your benefits are measurable (and of course, we’re looking for outcomes rather than outputs).

CAN – The Council Advertising Network – can offer technological solutions to help understand and measure this

Timing and resource

Campaigns are inevitably more resource intensive and take longer to deliver than other, more routine communications activity. Make sure you’re aware of this, and make realistic plans, from the outset.


You’re not the only person talking to your audience. You’re not even the only person in your organisation talking to them. Who else is talking to them, and what are they saying? If you are aware of what else is happening in your audience’s world, then you can better shape your communications to reflect this.

Getting it right

The best campaigns are those which are in tune with their audience – ones that people ‘get’. You might not get this right first time. But you can fine tune things.

Do some message testing – there are different approaches, but in simple terms, you want to find out what message people best respond to. This could be AB testing, or different communications for different audiences.

Respond – if something doesn’t appear to be working, find out why, and tweak your campaign. Some people might see this as a negative – that you didn’t get it right first time, but nothing could be further from the truth.

The best campaigns are those that react to feedback and improve things.

Evidence based

Another obvious point, but you have to base your campaign on evidence. Don’t make assumptions about what will work. Find out, and shape your campaign accordingly.

Target your audience

This links to the above, but think about the best ways of reaching your audience, and how you can target them. Think about the data you have on this audience, where you got this data, and whether this can help you reach them.

A simple example: if you’re a council, do you send recycling information to your new council tax registrants? Do you ask them to sign up for your newsletter? And if not, why not?

Getting help

If you’ve seen a campaign that’s worked, why not ‘steal with pride’ some of what worked?

Beyond that, Dan Slee and Comms2point0 have some brilliant resources. The latter will soon offer a dedicated Campaign Bank, packed with the best resources on the interwebs.

And finally

Apologies that there is a lot to take in above. I hope you read it all and think it’s second nature. That really does mean you’re doing it right.

One final piece of advice would be to keep it simple. The easier your key messages (and your calls to action) are to understand, the more likely you are to succeed.

The discussion on the day was insightful and fast paced, and it was clear that those in the room had seen and delivered some amazing campaigns, including the brilliant, Ask for Angela from Marianne Marshall and her colleagues at Lincolnshire Council.

And finally, finally

I had never visited Bradford before. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was blown away. Stunning architecture, friendly people, urban parks, and amazing curry made for a great few days.

Thanks to Bradford’s Josephine Graham and Albert Freeman for hosting, and to everyone else who made the event a success – including Dan Slee, Bridget Aherne, Leanne Ehren and Kate Bentham – who is without doubt the queen of cakes. She led this year’s baking efforts, which raised hundreds of pounds for Macmillan Cancer Support, who are supporting our good friend and ‘camper’ Emma Rodgers.

Published by Ian Curwen

Communications professional and a bit of a foodie that wants to travel more. Sharing my observations on life.

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