So do you want to get REALLY active? Clicking on online petitions is important but it is never going to be enough to achieve real change. For that we need to take the message out to where it will actually count – the real world.
Now with the European elections coming up on 23-26 May, we really need people like you to win support for the campaign – both on the streets and in the corridors of power. And we are trying to get candidates to sign our pledge to show they support the campaign.
Here are five ideas on how you can make a huge difference in your local area so you can make sure your politicians have to sit up and take notice!
Whatever you do, remember to register your event with us so others know about it. And if you win the backing of an MEP candidate let us know!
1. Gatecrash election events and debates
This is the option that requires least organisation and it can be super effective. Take a look at what is going on during the election campaign in your country and just turn up. Almost always there will be some kind of question and answer session which gives you an opportunity to challenge the candidates to make the pledge! But if you are going to do this, you need to be well prepared. Here are some key things to remember:
- Be clear and concise. You will only have a few seconds to make your case. And anyway, everyone hates people who take up too much time. So make every word count. Prepare what you are going to say carefully.
- Formulate your point as a question. It is very annoying when people make statements instead of questions at politicians Q&A events. You won’t win any friends by annoying people. It is easy to do this. Just make your point and add on the “will you pledge?” question on the end.
- Bring a pledge placard for candidates to pose with. Politicians love photo opportunities. Make sure you bring a placard (you can download a simple one we did here).
- Try and talk to politicians in the sidelines after the event. Sometimes despite your best efforts you fail to ask a question. Or the answer isn’t 100% conclusive. Don’t give up! Try and talk to the friendliest ones afterwards and ask them if they will pledge! There’s usually no point trying to convince the ones who do not agree with you though.
- Contact friendly politicians before the event. If your politicians are expecting you to come and they already support you they will be more likely to publicly support you at the meeting.
- Bring your friends. The more of you there are, the stronger the message! If politicians hear similar messages from different people, it’s stronger. You can then do a stall or small action outside too. Maybe one of you can ask about ISDS and the other about the UN Binding Treaty? Don’t go too far though. You don’t want it to look too staged.
- Register the pledge after the event. This is very important. If you do not do this, we will not know about it.
2. Talk to them directly
If you want more than one minute to talk to your candidates, then you might be better off trying to communicate with them directly. You could even try and organise a meeting yourself. Here are some tips to help you.
- Pitch a meeting as a petition hand in. We have over half a million signatures already. Use the popularity of the campaign to get a foot in the door. Call the office of the politician up and say you want to deliver the petition.
- Target only candidates likely to be friendly. There is no point wasting time with politicians you know will reject your arguments. Focus on the ones you think will be sympathetic.
- Do your research. MEP candidates are not used to as much attention as national politicians are. If you show you are wanting to talk to them for a reason (rather than writing a template letter to everyone) you are most likely to be heard. For example, if you know the politician you want to meet is interested in climate change – focus on that.
- Try and get other groups involved. For example, if you are talking to a social democratic candidate, getting local union representatives on board will help secure more attention. For others, farmers or church groups may work better.
- Praise any positive track record. If the person you are trying to reach is already an MEP, then drawing attention to when they have voted against ISDS, TTIP or corporate impunity before will make it more likely they will agree to make the pledge.
If they won’t listen when you ask nicely – sometimes it’s good to ask less nicely. Protests can be an effective way of getting your message across to the general public and the media.
- Tell the local press. If you have a photogenic protest (which you should – see above) it is of little use unless people hear about it. A good way to make that happen is to issue a press release to the local media. Often they will send a photographer to take a picture of your protest.
- Use social media. Same as with normal media – you need to get this out on social media. Getting your protest tweeted out by people with big followings can really put your action on the map. Don’t forget to mention the social media accounts of politicians you are trying to target.
- Make it visually interesting. People love a spectacle. So try out your creative ideas. It doesn’t need to be labour intensive. Sometimes the simplest thing can have a huge effect. Take for example the Gilets Jaunes in France – it’s just a yellow jacket, yet everyone now instantly recognises this as a symbol of that movement.
- Use humour and embarrassment. These can be powerful weapons against politicians who do not want to listen and will help you get people’s attention.
- Tell any supportive politicians about it. If they are MEP candidates, then you can also turn it into an opportunity to get their pledge.
4. Set up a stall
A stall can also be a good way of talking to people on the street in your community. You can use them to get extra signatures for the petition and talk to people about the campaign and recruit new supporters.
- Stalls even more effective when they are near or at a key event. Is there any local election campaign event in your area? A protest about a related issue (like for example on climate change)? Then use it. Setting up a stall where like minded people are likely to congregate will maximise your results.
- Make it look nice. Seems obvious but a nice looking stall will attract more people. But don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. The most important thing is to get out there.
5. Write a letter
Often writing to candidates can be surprisingly effective. MEP candidates are not as used to grassroots public pressure as national parliamentarians.
- It doesn’t have to be long. Don’t worry about writing the perfect letter with all the nuances of what you want to say. Even a few sentences can be effective enough
- Make the key points only. Basically our campaign has two key demands – stop ISDS and demanding an end to corporate impunity. Keep yourself to the main points of what you want to say as a simple message can be a more effective message.
- Remember to ask that they support the pledge. We need as many friends as possible in the next European Parliament. If you get a response saying they support us – please let us know using the online form.