Photo of a Senior businesswoman shaking hands with client after meeting in office

How to advocate like a pro

Change starts when you choose a cause you care about
print story
print story

lt starts with an idea — an idea gifted to a community or country, to a person or group of people needing help. Advocacy is a personal or group effort. Whether you initiate or support an existing project, it’s a journey with common phases. Drawing on advocacy and direct-marketing best practices, here’s a basic guide for the journey.

Recognize a cause

Choose a cause you’re passionate about. Your enthusiasm fuels determination and generates results.


Do your research. Understand the stakeholders, the solution options and the rewards versus the cost. You need to know the human and financial resources you need to reach your goal.

Identify stakeholders

Understand the people you hope to influence and why they should care about the issue. Talk about the issue in simple terms using key phrases to keep you and your team focused on what you want to accomplish. And these key phrases should drive your communication efforts — whether that’s a letter, email, petition, presentation or discussion guide for a meeting or interview.


Be simple, brief and positive. Match your audience to your messaging so it’s relevant to their wants and needs -answer the question they’ll be asking themselves: Why do I care? What’s in

it for me? The way you talk about the issue, and what you want to accomplish, may change depending on who you want to bring onside: Federal ministers? Provincial or territorial ministers? City counsellors? Business leaders? Shop owners? Keep it simple, whether you’re talking about the issue, solutions, anticipated benefits or the risks of maintaining the status quo. Where you can, support your pitch with powerful images to ground the concepts quickly. Personal efforts — face-to-face, phone, letter or email — carry more sway than online petitions alone, and how much effort and commitment people think you’re putting into this issue.

Test your communication materials before you go live and rethink if you’re not getting the response you’re looking for.


It’s important that stakeholders know you’re monitoring the issue, so make sure your advocacy plans include timelines and evaluations on a number of issues. Track relevant indicators such as number of emails sent, number of responses, reaction to phone calls. If you’re part of a group, stay in contact.

Key questions

  • What situation requires improving?
  • Who benefits? Who else?
  • Who are the stakeholders? What do they stand to gain? Or lose?
  • What are the calls-to-action per stakeholder group?
  • What communication is generating positive response?
  • When was my last contact with stakeholders? When is my next?

Some don’ts

Don’t …

  • Be political: seek cooperation
  • Lecture: initiate dialogue
  • Whine: be firm; show resolve
  • Harass: give and earn respect
  • Be too emotional: but show you care and why they should

The opportunity to help is an honour with immense rewards. Whether you make a small difference or a large one, remember: It matters.

Helpful resources

Visit for more resources, including the RTOERO white papers and more tips for advocating.

more from the author
Photo of a Man changing light bulb while renovating home
Image of ripples made in a large body of water
Photo Active Senior Citizen Removing Garbage from Stream in Park
Rethinking healthy aging
more advocacy
Photo of a Man changing light bulb while renovating home
Image of ripples made in a large body of water
Photo Active Senior Citizen Removing Garbage from Stream in Park

We want to hear from you!

We welcome your feedback and want to hear from you. Letters may be edited for length and clarity at the discretion of the editor.