Planning an advocacy strategy

Advocacy can take place at any level – nationally, regionally or at a local level. What’s important is that you have a considered advocacy strategy and goal.

A graphic depicting the process of developing an advocacy strategy

The steps for planning an advocacy strategy

There are five key steps for planning an advocacy strategy:

  1. Identify your issue
  2.  Set your goals and objectives
  3. Identify who you are going to target
  4. Establish your message
  5. Develop an action plan

Step 1: Identify your issue

The first step in developing your advocacy strategy is defining your issue. An issue is a broad problem which affects your work.

  • Are you annoyed that only 48% of countries deliver the birth dose vaccine to newborns?
  • Are you frustrated that you can’t access hepatitis C medicine?
  • Do you have a great idea to improve screening in your community?
  • Or is there something else?

Here are some questions to ask yourself when deciding on your issue:

  1. Does your issue align with your organisational mission?
  2. Can your organisation make an impact?
  3. Do you have the resources?
  4. Timing
Read the full NOhep Advocacy toolkit for more details

A woman wearing a NOhep t-shirt and using a megaphone

A visual depiction of a completed problem tree

Step 2: Set your goals and objectives

What are your root causes?

The first step in the process to find your longterm goal is to define the root causes of your issue. Root causes help you examine what problems are important to your issue which in turn helps you create solutions. Root causes may be the criminalisation of people who inject drugs, that diagnostics are too expensive, or that front-line medical professionals don’t have adequate knowledge of the disease and new therapies. There could be 100 root causes for any issue. As an advocate it’s important to take time to understand these. These will be important factors to consider when developing your strategy.

Top Tip: Keep in mind that it while it would be ideal to advocate on all the issues identified, choosing just a few will help ensure focus and success. Above all, it is important to select an issue that is realistic and will drive action towards WHO’s elimination targets.

Find out more about the Problem Tree tool and download a blank template in the full NOhep Advocacy Toolkit


The five “Whys”

The next step is to choose one of your root causes in the problem tree and apply the five “Whys”. The five “Whys” will help further develop your advocacy goal by repeating the question “Why?” five times, or as many times as needed. You may want to do this several times with the different root causes until you agree on an issue which aligns with your organisation’s mission and your expected impact.

Once you have completed the exercise and decided on the root cause you’d like to tackle as your advocacy issue, you will then have to turn it into an advocacy goal. For example, your overall advocacy goal may be: By 2030 all governments will support screening and treatment of hepatitis C in prisons.

Top tip: Keep your goals as close to wider advocacy efforts. For example, we have used 2030 and 2021 as our advocacy touch-points to coincide with the global WHO targets. This will help align your advocacy and increase impact.

Example: most prisoners are living with hepatitis C unaware

Five “Whys”?

  1. Acquiring hepatitis C via injection drug use or through tattooing is widespread in many prison settings.
  2. Lack of proactive approaches to offering testing means that many prisoners are living with hepatitis C unaware.
  3. Insufficient resources including cost of tests and follow-up treatment, availability of medical staff and lack of knowledge about viral hepatitis reduces the motivation to test and treat.
  4. The cost of hepatitis C medications, the length of treatment, lack of prison medical staff, and the public reaction to spending large sums of money on the general prisoner health budget has stopped systematic testing and treatment.
  5. Governments often don’t have policies in place to support screening and treatment practices in prisons

An outline of SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timebound) objectives

SMART objectives

Objectives should be used to underpin your activities and are important steps to take to help you reach your goal. Remember, it’s important to develop SMART objectives – keep them simple and attainable whilst ensuring they are measurable for impact.

Top tip: When creating your objectives, check back to your root causes and answers to the questions of your 5 Whys. This will help you create more targeted and impactful objectives.

Step 3: Identify your target audience

Once you know what you want to achieve, it is necessary to understand the people and institutions you need to influence to make it happen. After people living with viral hepatitis, decision-makers are most likely to be your most important advocacy stakeholder. These are the people with the power to bring about change and usually work in places of influence such as governments, the media or corporations.

The best way to find out who your key stakeholders are is by doing a stakeholder analysis.

Find our more about conducting a stakeholder analysis and find useful templates in the NOhep Advocacy Toolkit

A venn diagram depicting different kinds of stakeholder

A group of men wearing NOhep t-shirts

Creating allies

You shouldn’t just focus on key stakeholders you want to influence for change. Think more broadly about other stakeholders who can support your activities. 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.

Global partners include the World Hepatitis Alliance, the International Alliance Of Patients’ Organizations, Union for International Cancer Control to name but a few. You can also forge partnerships with local organisations to better support your work. Find out more on how you can build partnerships on page 48 of the NOhep Advocacy Toolkit.

Establishing your message

Once you have a sense of who your target audiences are, reaching them requires crafting persuasive messages. Your key messages are the most important element that your audience will use to decide if they support you and your cause. There is no one set of rules to writing good messages, you will need to practise and pre-test them to see if they get across the information you want in a way that is compelling, but also concise.

In theory, they should be:

  1. Compelling and convincing: your message should help you connect with all stakeholders.
  2. Clear and concise: your message should be delivered and understood in less than a minute.
  3. Consistent: people are more likely to believe a message if it’s being continually used.

Core elements of a strong set of key messages:

A graphic depicting the five core elements of strong key messages

Most advocates recommend having one primary message supported by two or three secondary messages.

Find out more and view an example messaging grid on page 33 of the NOhep Advocacy Toolkit, and use the template on page 73 to create your own

A picture of a graph

Building your evidence base

The most effective messages for advocacy are based on credible evidence which is localised to your setting. Viral hepatitis has a legacy of poor surveillance which means that consistent data is often scarce, especially at a local level. We recommend using WHO data in the first instance. In 2017, they launched their first Global Hepatitis Report which includes validated data for the first time. This provides a useful global snapshot. Other good sources for global data are the Global Burden of Disease Study and the Centre for Disease Analysis Foundation, which give an overview on each country’s progression to the 2030 goals.

Here are some other common sources of local information about viral hepatitis:

  • Hospital or health centre disease registries
  • Interviews with patients or healthcare professionals
  • Media reports from local media outlets
  • Published materials and studies by other hepatitis NGOs
  • Local government surveys

Choosing your messengers

Well-recognised celebrities, sports personalities or politicians can help amplify your cause enormously and get your message out.

When choosing your spokesperson, there’s a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Be authentic: your spokesperson should have an authentic interest or connection with hepatitis.
  2. Be committed: the best partnerships work when both parties are actively involved. The celebrities who commit their high-profile recognition, talent and understanding to support a cause can serve as highly effective messengers.
  3. Know your audience: when identifying your spokesperson, know who you want to target with your message. For example, if we want to raise awareness of hepatitis amongst teenagers – get in touch with a popular singer or blogger.

Securing endorsement from a popular figure does take time, planning and perseverance. If you haven’t worked with them before, we suggest taking part in a smaller activity like asking them to tweet on World Hepatitis Day. This will open the channels of communication for bigger projects.

Top tip: If you want to contact a high-profile celebrity, get in touch with their publicist and not their agent. Agents charge commission on any work secured so they are less likely to follow-up on a charity partnership, whilst publicists are paid a salary so they are more likely to get involved.

Former Miss Health Africa, Ivory Chidi, at a NOhep World Hepatitis Day event

NOhep supporters looking enthusiastic and holding NOhep signs

Step 4: Develop an action plan

Now that you’ve done the research and the mapping, you’re nearly ready to go. Before you get started, take time to reflect on how all the different elements can come together.

We’ve outlined a simple action plan in the NOhep Advocacy Toolkit which puts everything you’ve learnt together and fits directly with the specific objectives. Remember that these actions may need to be revised as you work towards your medium and long term goals. For example, you may wish to focus on drafting and passing legislation, securing funding, and then the development, implementation and monitoring of programmes.

Download the action plan example on page 38 of the NOhep Advocacy Toolkit


What next?

NOhep Advocacy toolkit

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.

News and Resources

Check out case studies from NOhep activists and find toolkits and resources to help you plan and implement impactful NOhep activities!