Hints and tips



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Text last updated 30 December 2017

This page contains tips and hints to enable your activism to be more productive and successful.

Communication and persuasion

Have a clear idea of what your responsibilities are. What is your role? What are you trying to do? How do you expect the person in front of you to help you? What do you want them to do for you? What is the minimum outcome you will accept from them?

Maintain the right level of optimism about what you want and the belief that you can make a difference and hard headed realism of what you are likely to achieve.
If you use your own experience as a basis from which to speak with you can be a persuasive person.

Get the right information to the right person at the right time.
People make different decisions if they know they are being watched.

Effective communications key points are:

Identify the issue.

Cite a personal connection or describe its local impact.

Use key facts to support your case.

Check all your facts are true, then check them again.

Make a specific ask.

Say thank you and request follow up.

Most of that advice was centred on us communicating our thoughts to others. But from time to time people ask questions and sometimes we may not know, or be able to instantly recall, the facts, to give the person the quality of answer they are entitled to receive from us. In these circumstances, to avoid making an error and saying something you later regret, it is best to ask them what the facts are, and listen very carefully. Then choose your words carefully. Even better, ask them to submit the facts to you, and to meet you again, so you can discuss the issue with them. That creates an opportunity to increase your support base.

Another thing to remember when communicating with people – including other gay men, bisexuals and lesbians – is that you may know what you mean, but they may not be familiar with some of the terminology and language used by gay people, or they may not be as intimately involved in an issue as yourself, as aware of gay history, culture and organisations as yourself. So whoever you are speaking to, it is useful to get a feel for where they are and phrase your communication as clearly as you can and they need so that you all understand one another and can agree outcomes.

One of the main jobs of speaking is to persuade people. The better the speech the more likely it will impress people. Analysis of the greatest speech of former President Kennedy – the famous “ask not” speech – reveals six reasons why the speech was so effective. The speech contained:

Contrasts: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”.

Three-part lists: “Where the strong are just, and the weak secure and the peace preserved”.

Combinations of contrasts and lists (by contrasting a third item with the first two): “Not because the communists are doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right”.

Alliteration: “Let us go forth to lead the land we love”.

Bold Imagery: “The torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans”.
Finally he (and/or his speechwriter) analysed his audience and worked out the best way to persuade them.

Effective use of social media

Identify the purpose of your use of social media and set a realistic goal.

Choose a really powerful photo.

Use really good headlines. Have different headlines for different platforms and see which ones produce the best results.

Share the photo and content at the right time, and don’t hesitate to repeat the share if it is working well.

Ask questions of the readers, to try to encourage them to communicate with you (and share with others).

Have a progression plan – as you post one item, try to plan your next three posts for future occasions.

Keep a copy of each campaigning post in a binder, and after so many days, make a note on the copy of how many shares or likes it received. That will enable you to understand better which posts were effective and improve your campaign.


Be prepared. Why are you doing the interview and is this the right outlet to talk to.  Who is the audience and who will actually hear what you have to say.  Are you clear about your objectives from the interview.  Is it to recruit more volunteers or to obtain more donations.

Understand how the medium works. Radio interviews can be live or pre-recorded and there are advantages to both. A live news interview is usually about ninety seconds and the audience will hear the entire content of this segment. In a recorded conversation, the final edit might not fully convey the intended message as it may be edited and cut, but on the plus side the interview itself tends to be longer at about three minutes and any answers you are not satisfied with can be re-recorded. Radio interviews can take place in a local studio or on location at a charity event or premises in order to provide more context. You might be able to take part in telephone phone-ins to discuss a particular theme or topic.

Tell a story. Use radio to create something incredibly memorable.

Performance is key. Relax. Take a deep breath before going on air or slowing down your speech. Trust your knowledge and your expertise. Sound enthusiastic, engage the presenter and listeners to what your organisatiomn is doing. Smile. Maintain eye contact.

Don’t forget to mention your organisation’s or campaign’s name!

Writing letters and talking to people

Here are some hints and tips for writing letters and for talking to people about yourself or about the problems you have encountered.

Writing letters

Keep it short and to one page, two at most.

The letter heading should clearly state who you are, your address and contact /email details (and your position in the organisation if there is one).

Start the body of your letter with a polite request, such as, “Can you help me, please?”

End your letter with “the ask” – why you are writing and what you want them to do.

Be polite, professional and courteous.

Always address the person correctly. (If you aren’t sure, ask!)

If you are using a sample letter, personalise it and add information about how the issue affects you personally.

Sign it in your own handwriting, put a stamp on it and post it (you’d be surprised how often people forget to!).

Writing letters to newspapers

Many letters to the Editor are now sent by email. You can usually find the email address to send your letters to, from your newspaper itself or from its web site.

Editors are usually pleased to hear from new correspondents and to hear about subjects that have not been debated recently or before in their newspapers.
Pressure is tight on space for letters in newspapers so be brief and to the point. Be polite and make your point.

The newspaper will require a full name, address, email address if by email, and a contact phone number to be appended to your letter or email. They will not publish your full address, but a truncated version of it, and will not publish your telephone number. If you wish to remain anonymous you can do so, but the newspaper will still need your full details so that they can be sure the letter is genuine.

Check any instructions for submitting letters that are printed in your newspaper. They may want the email subject to be “For publication” or similar, and if writing a letter by mail, you may wish to write “For publication” on the letter.

Keep a copy. Your Activist recommends keeping copies of your correspondence in an A4 loose leaf binder, with a separate divider for each person or newspaper you write to. This enables you to periodically check whether your letters have been replied to or published. Add to your binder a copy of your letter as it was printed, so that you can see how they edited it; the newspaper may re-write your letter slightly to make your point better, or to help them fit the letter in. Keep a note of any changes they make, for next time!

Speaking to people

Contact a sympathetic person you will be addressing before hand to make sure you are on the agenda and that the points you want to make are appropriate.

Dress professionally so that your comments are not undermined by your appearance.

Prepare your remarks ahead of time, think about making some copies of your key points to hand out.

Start by introducing yourself, where you are from, and the reason you are speaking.

Speak slowly and clearly.

Use your personal story and expertise to make your case.

Be brief. Find out what the time limit for your remarks is and stick to it.
End your remarks by saying thankyou.

Your Activist suggests you use an A4 ring binder to store your key points for each presentation, so they are to hand if you need them again, and to note where and when the presentation was given.


Listening to people is probably one of the most important skills there are. Really listening to people means you really understand what they are saying, and can ask better questions of them to find out even more; also, the person realises that you are really paying them attention, and feels more confident and valued.


Be interested.

Deal with any emotional disturbance.

Reduce or eliminate distractions.

Like the speaker.

Focus on what they say, not who or what they are.

Don’t relax. Listening is active, not passive.

Be aware of speech lag – the mismatch between the speeds at which people listen (up to 400 words a minute) and speak (up to 120 words a minute).

Practice makes perfect.

Personal Organisation

How organised are you? The more successful people are those who have a “system” for keeping on top of things, and stick to it. If you leave everything to memory, chances are you will forget something.

Your Activist was “facilitating” at a large gathering one day, at which a lady in a very senior job attended. At first she looked apprehensive, as though she thought she might be wasting her time and such a large meeting would not be very productive. Then she relaxed and started to smile. When a coffee break was called, she came over to Your Activist. “You have a Time Manager!” She said. “As soon as I realised you were organised, I realised this was going to be a good meeting.”

Being organised is not only handy; it opens doors for you, gets you noticed, and people see how professional and effective you are.

You don’t have to spend a fortune on office equipment and supplies to be organised. You can be well organised with just a pen and a few basics.
The basics you need are:

A diary to write your appointments in

An address book for your contacts

A note book

Envelopes, labels, a pen.

Some people like the flexibility of a loose leaf system such as a personal organiser. You can achieve the same thing cheaper with a “Project book” or an A4 ring binder, some dividers and an A4 refill pad. They are, however, bigger things to carry around with you.

You can buy note books in which the pages are perforated, which allows you to remove the page and file it. Look for notebooks which are both perforated and also have holes punched ready for A4 ring binders.

You can buy note books and diaries which lie flat when they are open, to make it easier to write in them.

Many people keep a “to do” list and write down everything they want to remember to do, then tick them off as they do them. Your Activist has a “to do” list but also has a “look up list” for things he wishes to look up or research further.
Other people write their “to dos” in their diary on the appropriate day.

Diaries usually cover a period of 12 months and you may find from summer onwards that dates in the next year are being arranged before you have bought your diary for the next year. Your Activist has two extra lists at the end of his diary: a page for appointments to put in next year’s diary when he has obtained it, and a page for recurring events like birthdays and key events, which can be used every year.

Another list Your Activist has found very useful over the years is a “Job done list”. When a major job like writing a report or compiling a submission has been completed, note how long the job took to do. Then the next time another job like it comes around you will know how much time to set aside so that you complete it in time for the deadline. Add a note of any computer filename so you can also find that again in case it can be used as a template next time.

Address books can go out of date very quickly because people keep changing their addresses, email details and phone numbers. A stock of self-adhesive labels solves this; stick a label over the old address and write the new details on the label.