We have created the NOhep Advocacy Toolkit to aid patient organisations, NGOS and individuals working in the field of viral hepatitis with their advocacy efforts.
Lobbying is defined as an attempt to try to influence the thinking of decision-makers for or against a specific issue or cause you care about. It includes meetings, writing letters, making phone calls, and other tactics. Lobbying isn’t just for professionals, it’s a way for us all to take a stand for what we believe in.
Ways of lobbying
Writing a letter
Letters may seem basic but they are powerful tools to get your messages across. Writing letters to your policymaker is most impactful when you can get other organisations involved. For example, the more signatures or the number of letters sent, the more the issue becomes a priority.
Setting up a meeting
It may seem rudimental but one of the key points of lobbying is understanding how to set up a meeting. In the UK for example, MPs have regular surgeries to meet constituents, often on a Friday. It’s important to have a clear sense of when and what you want to speak about. This will increase your chances of securing that meeting.
Preparing a briefing paper
An important note to remember is that policymakers aren’t always experts. They rely on advocates like us to provide them with the information. Therefore, it’s important to be accurate, clear and concise with your aims. A briefing paper is always a good resource to bring to the meeting. It should outline your cause and be tailored to that decision-makers remit of influence. Don’t forget to bring a couple of copies as they are useful to leave behind.
Campaigning is another effective advocacy activity. One which usually involves disseminating your messages to a wider audience. Campaigning can take many forms from setting up online petitions, holding a public stunt to attaching a filter to your Facebook profile picture.
Key questions to keep in mind when considering your campaign:
- Will it raise awareness?
- Is it in line with advocacy goals?
- Will it help to increase understanding of the issue among our audience
- Will it be fun?
- Is it realistic?
- Will it get media attention?
Case Study: Launch of NOhep in Piccadilly Circus, London
On World Hepatitis Day (28 July) 2016, the World Hepatitis Alliance and The Hepatitis C Trust held the first hepatitis “die-in” in Piccadilly Circus, London to mark the launch of NOhep. Over 100 activists, patients and supporters lay down in solidarity to send a powerful message to world leaders that millions of people are dying despite the availability of vaccines and treatments for hepatitis B and a cure for hepatitis C.
The public stunt garnered huge media attention, resulting in the story appearing across online media outlets throughout the world. This an example of how low-cost activity can drive public awareness and secure media coverage. It also helps to have great partners.
The media is one of the most influential advocacy partners you will have. They not only raise awareness of your issue, but they have the power to exert influence on policymakers and other key decision-makers. Therefore, don’t see media as a tactic, see them as ongoing partner – one which you should cultivate and grow throughout the year.
To understand how to work with the media, you need to know who the “media” are and what they want. Media can be broken down into several categories; broadcast, written, online, bloggers, etc..
But before you choose which type of media to use, it is important to think about your audience. The type of audience you wish to target will affect the type of media you speak to.Read the full NOhep Advocacy toolkit for more information and tips for engaging the media
Engaging the media
You have your advocacy goal, you know your audience and have decided on the most influential outlet to meet your aim. Now you need to decide on your “hook”. Hooks are what make stories interesting and relevant. Including hooks in your story will make it more likely to get picked up by journalists. Examples of hooks are topical issues, release of new data, a high-profile endorsement, a public stunt or a human-interest story.
Patient stories are one of the most powerful ways to engage with the media. The case studies provide a ‘real-life’ perspective that draws people in to your story. They can be used by all the different media – from broadcast to blogs. Make sure the information provided is accurate and that that the person is happy for it to be made public. Along with the case study you should present a solution to the issue, with practical steps for decision-makers to take.
Adding pictures makes your story more eye-catching and may give journalists a better idea of if they would like to run the story.
Managing your social media doesn’t have to be time consuming. Using free social media scheduling tools like Hootsuite means you can manage your social media activities from one dashboard and schedule your communications in advance.
The NOhep movement is built on partnership and collaboration. The elimination of viral hepatitis will not be possible without partnerships at a local and political level.
The participation of a wide range of stakeholders can generate broader support for specific issues and increase the legitimacy and effectiveness of advocacy campaigns. Choosing the right partner can increase access to decision-makers, provide technical expertise, support evidence gathering and mitigate risks.
Top tips for a successful partnership
- Partnerships should be strategic and in line with your advocacy plan
- Partnerships should have a common aim and shared interest
- Expectations should be agreed in advance
- Partners should be involved in all aspects of advocacy
- Both partners should have buy-in from senior leadership
- Successes should be shared, and activities evaluated
There are different ways to create partnerships. You can organise a partnership around a single day like World Hepatitis Day or think more long-term like a coalition or an alliance. Either way, it’s important to have a set of processes and procedures to navigate the partnerships.
Who to partner with
Partnerships don’t always have to lie within the hepatitis community. Some of the most effective advocacy partnerships are ones which broaden issue and can engage a wider audience. For example, trade unions or factories are non-traditional actors but serve a powerful role to play in the community, especially regarding anti-discriminatory work policies. Other partners could include medical professionals, student unions, medical students or cancer organisations.