- Develop your key messages that explain the essential points of your issue in simple language
- Understand your audience's agenda and where your issue fits in
- Present your key messages as a "win" for your audience and for you
Imagine that your personal story "paints the picture" of what your issue means in your life. The picture that you have painted needs to be framed in a way that will help your audience to see your picture in a context that he/she understands. Remember, your audience likely has not had the same experience with your issue that you have, and needs some assistance from you to understand your story. This process is called "framing", where you develop statements, or key messages, that create a "frame" around your issue. Use the Framing Your Issues and Developing Your Messages Worksheet [PDF] to help you organize your issues, research and key messages.
In order to know what kind of frame you need to put around your picture, you need to determine your audience's agenda, or where your audience is coming from and what matters to them. You can determine your audience's agenda by:
- Going over your background research: Likely there is information in your research about how your audience has taken action on similar issues in the past, or what your audience's intentions are for the future.
- Going to the source: If your audience is a local elected representative, school board or another institution, consult your audience's website for policies or positions on your issue and goal. Your audience may also belong to a group, e.g. College of Family Physicians of Canada, Canadian Rheumatology Association.
- If your audience is an individual that does not belong to a group that has a website or public information, consult him/her directly.
Develop your 2-3 key messages. Your key messages are the most important pieces of information that you will use to engage your audience and achieve your goal. It is critical to use accurate and current information in these messages. Each of your key messages should be:
- 25 words or less
- A factual explanation of the important points of your issue in simple language
- Clear, compelling, concise and consistent
Example #1 – Sandra needs to go to school
||"My child has juvenile arthritis and cannot walk to school"
||"My child needs to be bussed to school"
||Local school trustee
||"Every child has the right to go to school"
"The school board is obligated to ensure children get to and from school safely"
Example #2 – Phil needs access to rheumatoid arthritis medication
||"I cannot afford to pay for the medication I have been prescribed for me and that will improve my condition and quality of life"
||"My provincial drug plan needs to include my medication on the formulary"
||Local provincial government representative
||"My doctor has said I must take this medication or my disease will get worse"
"This medication is covered in other provinces on a case-by-case basis"
"This medication is proven to improve the condition of those who live with rheumatoid arthritis"
Fit your key messages into your audience's agenda.
The local school board has a policy that all children with disabilities shall be provided transportation to and from school. Sandra's mother can meet with her local school trustee to ensure that Sandra, who lives with juvenile arthritis, is included in this policy and that bussing will be provided. Providing Sandra with bussing to and from school fits within the school board's mandate and policy.
Phil lives in a province that does not cover his prescribed medication on the provincial drug plan. Phil cannot afford the medication himself and does not have an employer-based health plan. Phil's local provincial representative has been working on getting the provincial drug plan to cover medications like Phil's on a case-by-case basis. Phil can meet with his local provincial representative to make sure his medication is included in the list of medications that is being advocated for inclusion, and can continue to work with his local elected representative on his goal.
Fill in your 2-3 key messages on your Advocacy Worksheet [PDF]. The next step is to put all of your work together and make a plan to approach your audience, and start advocating.