In our September programme, podcast host Mark Bridge asked guests Tony Leonard (landlord of The Snowdrop Inn and chair of Lewes OctoberFeast) and Juliet Oxborrow (a director of Lewes Phoenix Rising) for tips that might help anyone who’s organising a commercial event or community campaign.
JO: Getting the message across is the big thing: you stand or fall by what people understand you’re trying to do and being able to motivate other people to get involved and support you.
The thing you’re most short of is people’s attention. People are so busy in their lives, they’re being bombarded with so many messages about so many things, so the key thing is to have quite a simple message: what it is you’re working for, what it is you’re campaigning against, what it is you’re trying to campaign to do and achieve.
For Lewes Phoenix Rising that’s always been a challenge because it’s not like we’re just saying ‘let’s save something’. And to get all those different messages across in a simple soundbite is quite tricky. We’ve come up with our tagline which is ‘affordable homes, places to work and brilliant buildings’, which is our way of encapsulating what we’re trying to achieve.
So the first thing you need to do is get a really simple message [so] that people immediately grasp what you’re trying to do. And then you need to just get it everywhere. You can’t predict where people are going to hear about you or what medium they’re going to use, because you never know who your supporters will be. It’s not always the people you think will be your most vociferous supporters. And the other thing, with a campaign, is keep saying the same stuff. When you’re doing a campaign, day in, day out, and you’re meeting every week about it, you know the minutiae of what’s going on and how things have progressed. But I still – a year on – get people coming up to me and going “everything on North Street is going to get bulldozed? Is that correct? I didn’t know that”. And so you have to keep informing people about what’s happening and what you want to do.
And I think the third thing is, to make a campaign successful, you need to make it clear what you want people to do in response to support you. So whether you want them to sign a petition, you need them to donate money, you need them to donate particular expertise… be very clear on what people can do to help.
MB: Also I think it’s a question of needing to tell a story. It’s not just about the facts being in there.
JO: That’s absolutely right. It’s about getting people emotionally engaged. If people don’t feel emotionally engaged with a cause, they simply don’t retain the energy to keep going.
MB: Tony, how do you get people talking about stuff? You have good food, you have good beer… how do you engage people?
TL: I think the stories are absolutely vital. The fact I can tell you that this beer comes from this brewery where there’s this story behind it, that there’s this tradition… that our beef comes from Laughton, that the Mays have a shop in the Riverside as well.
And also I think it’s really important for small businesses and individuals to work together. There’s a lot of stuff online and you shouldn’t neglect that – but in some ways ‘online’ is just an extension of personal connections anyway. So yes, you keep it personal, I think.
You can hear the September 2015 Love Lewes podcast on our website audio player. These podcasts can also be heard via iTunes, on our RSS feed, on the Stitcher.com mobile app or by downloading the MP3 file directly.