Start by understanding what your decision maker cares about and what is most likely to influence them. Then engage your supporters to take action together to influence them. That way you can put pressure on your decision maker to act.

Know your Decision Maker

Reputational support

  • How does your decision maker want people to see them?
  • Whose opinion does your decision maker care about?
  • What news headline or celebrity statement would make them furious?

Raise the Bar, Hershey wanted the chocolate manufacturer to purchase Fairtrade cocoa. So they started a petition exposing the company for using child labor in its supply chain with images using company branding and a simple video.

Economic support

  • Who are their donors or funders?
  • Who lends them money or invests in their business?
  • Who are their customers, constituents, suppliers, and workers?

To influence SeaWorld to stop their Orca Shows, Kathleen started a petition directed at British Airways asking them to stop selling trips to the theme park.

Moral support

  • Whose moral authority does your decision maker care about?
  • Who are the respected moral leaders in their community?
  • Who can provide moral clarity by taking a position on the issue?

Aberash Bekele was forced into marriage as a 14 year old girl. As a child victim of the practice of forced child marriage, Aberesh is able to exercise moral authority as a petition starter and activist when engaging with the White House and the public.

Position support

  • Who appointed them and can replace them?
  • Who has the power to direct them to make a change?
  • Whose support do they rely on to continue in their position?

When Nicholas Grillo, an ALS patient seeking faster drug approvals, hit a brick wall with the FDA, he asked supporters to call and email Senators on the committee supervising the agency. Senators agreed to talk to the FDA about faster approval and got the Nicholas meetings with the agency.  

Plan your tactics

Once you know what your decision maker cares about, you can plan tactics to engage your supporters to help you win.

Start with actions and asks for your petition signers that are simple and easy for them to do. As your campaign gains momentum you can ask signers to take actions that are more challenging, and can have more impact. As your signers learn more about your campaign and become more invested, they will be willing to do more to help.

When you make your campaign plan, think about any dates that are relevant to your petition like meetings, hearings or decisions, holidays and cultural events and even the weather. For example, you could:

  • Ask supporters to call your decision maker in the week before a meeting
  • Plan a Father’s Day action for a petition around funding men’s health services
  • Plan an outdoor rally in June rather than January. Brrr!

Don’t be afraid to adjust your plan to take advantage of unexpected opportunities too. For example, a big news story related to your petition or a response by your decision maker are great moments to ask your signers to take action. Be ready to act quickly if an opportunity comes up.

The petition update tool is an important tool that you can use to ask signers to take action on your petition.

Tactics bank

The types of tactics that you can use are limited only by your imagination, but here are some ideas to get you started.

Easy, introductory online actions
  • Share your petition and ask their friends and family to sign
  • Share an article on your petition on social media
  • Tweet at a decision maker or post on their Facebook wall

Lucy Gavaghan asked supporters of her petition to write on Tesco’s Facebook wall asking them not to sell caged eggs. As a result of this action Tesco were forced to respond to her petition.

  • Tweet at local or relevant journalists about the petition
  • Tweet at a celebrity and ask them to share your petition
  • Join or create a Facebook group for the campaign
  • Email the decision maker directly about your petition

Rebecca asked supporters of her petition to email Playmobil’s customer services asking them to make toys that positively represented disability. They are now about to produce their first range of toys with disabilities.

  • Email the investors, partners, customers or supporters of your decision maker about your petition
  • Take a survey to create data about your issue
  • Share a message of support
  • Write an online review about the decision maker, for example on Yelp
  • Write a letter to the editor about your issue
  • Use an online complaints or feedback form
  • Ask signers to email you their personal story about the issue to use in lobbying meetings or media

Fiona asked signers of her petition to provide tests for Group B Strep to share their similar stories on her facebook group. Supporters came forward with stories of their own personal experiences, adding greater weight behind the campaign

Higher commitment, more impactful actions
  • Call talk radio about your issue
  • Take a photo for the campaign

Lucy asked supporters of her petition to stop page 3 to post images of themselves in their “no more page 3” t-shirts with the message #nomorepage3

  • Join a conference call briefing on your petition
  • Distribute stickers about the campaign
  • Ask signers to change their social media profile photo to a campaign image
  • Ask signers to record a video message to the decision maker
  • Do a local delivery of the petition or a letter, for example to a Senator’s office or store
  • Phone a decision maker at their office

When Stevie was only given a postal address to complain to Boots about their pricing structure, she rang their head office and demanded to talk to their MD.

  • Send an object or gift to a Decision Maker
  • Ask signers to donate to buy a billboard, print ad or sky writing about the petition
  • Phone an ally or opponent of your decision maker to publicly support the petition
  • Host a stunt at the office of your decision maker such as a nurse-in
  • Host a rally or vigil about your petition
  • Attend a meeting with an investor, partner, customer or supporter of your Decision Maker
  • Attend a delivery of your petition with a delegation of your supporters

Lindsey Garret, along with residents of the New Era Estate and Russell Brand delivered their petition of over 300,000 signatures to Downing Street in order to achieve affordable rents for the tenants

Highest commitment, highest impact actions
  • Ask your Decision Maker a question at a public event
  • Hold a web broadcast about the petition
  • Write and submit an opinion piece about your petition to a newspaper
  • Offer professional services like graphic design, website design, or video production
  • Speak at a public forum like a school board or city council meeting

Melissa asked her signers to join her at Sheffield Town Hall when she debated her petition to install safety measures in the Town Centre after the tragic death of a 16 year old girl.

  • Ask signers to start their own petition targeting a local decision maker
  • Create a social media share graphic about your petition, for example using quotes from signers
  • Have a lobbying meeting with a person who is influential with your decision maker to tell them about your petition
  • Disrupt a public meeting, for example by unrolling a banner while your decision maker is speaking
  • Turn up at the Decision Maker’s public events in a costume

Stop the Rot delivered their petition to end supermarket food waste dressed up as fruit and vegetables and with a skip filled with rotten food!

  • Hold your own rally or vigil about your petition
  • Create a video about the petition to send to your Decision Maker and share online