Online Petitions: Six messaging tips to help you win!

By Jeff Tippett

Imagine hundreds or even thousands of people helping you push policy changes—or stopping changes. Do you realize how much more effective you could be with them helping you? Well, people will help, but you have to find them and motivate them. To do this, online petitions could be one of your best tools, but do you
know how to effectively use them?

Every successful online petition has two major components: persuasive
messaging and tons of participants. In my next post, I’ll discuss ways to
market your petition and integrate it into your other communications
channels. For now, let’s focus on persuasive, effective messaging. This messaging takes strategy, skill, and careful planning. How do you message for success?

  1. Keep your message simple. You only have seconds.

Policy issues are almost never simple.To the contrary, they are extremely complex, but this complexity can bog down your participants, seem overwhelming, and reduce participation. So, boil down your message to something extremely simple. Say it in two to three sentences.

  1. Evoke emotions in your messaging. Especially anger.

When people care, they get involved. All emotions are not equal. As much as we may not like it, anger and hate can motivate and actuate participants.

  1. Take something from them. No one likes their toys taken away.

While prospect theory (what someone can gain) is sometimes the only option, look for ways to craft your messaging around what is being taken from participants. This is called loss aversion. You are more likely to get garner passionate participants if you stress what they are losing.

  1. Speak to people’s self-interest. They care about themselves the most.  

People really don’t care about your cause; they care about themselves. While I would love to believe we are motivated by the general good for all people, the truth is most people are motivated for their own self interest. So, ask yourself how your cause affects them. Make sure you message in a way that motivates them—personally.

  1. Craft a strong CTA. That means call to action.

What do you want people to do? Why should they do it? When should they do it?

I generally advocate for a single call to action. If there are multiple actions you want, consider incremental steps. For example, if you want them to sign your petition and follow on social media, consider only asking them to sign the petition. Once participants have signed, follow up with prompts to follow on social media. People easily get confused and drop when it’s not clear what they should do–or if you are asking them to do too many things at once. Again, keep in mind you only have seconds.

  1. Tell participants how much time you require. And it should be 60 seconds or less.

While you may capture participants’ attention, motivate them through solid messaging—they are still weighing out how much time it will take to participate. Everyone is busy, and we’ve all responded to a call to action only to get bogged down and quit. Once you get participants this far in the cycle, don’t lose them. Give them a clue like: “Sign this petition in less than 60 seconds.” If you’ve crafted compelling messaging, they will likely give you 60 seconds.

The success or failure of your online petition largely depends on your messaging. Your messaging will make—or break your campaign. So, keep these six tips in mind. And reach out for help if you need guidance or get stuck. And let’s build a large group of passionate people to help you affect the change you want!

Watch the video here.