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Only a loon would go to war without weapons, so don’t begin a campaign until armed to the teeth with the protestor’s equivalent - knowledge. Make yourself a leading expert on your subject and people can’t help but respect you. If you’re interested enough in your cause, research will be a pleasure.

Bibi Van Der Zee

Here are Bibi Van Der Zee’s thoughts on the matter:

'Establishing the facts must be one of the most important planks of any campaign. In the simplest possible terms, information is power. [...] It is, of course, one thing to talk about doing a bit of investigation and quite another to do it. But, although Roger Cook will not thank me for saying this, anyone can investigate something. The most useful qualities are patience and determination and the ability to put things together in your head. Most of the time the facts are readily available, and if they're not you may learn something just by asking why. You need a phone, a library ticket, an internet connection and you’re off.'…'Doggedness and discipline, then, must be your watchwords, whether you’re investigating a clothing manufacturer's use of child labour or challenging a planning application.'

Bibi's 8-step guide to gold star research:

  1. Try to work out what you need to know.
  2. If you don't understand something, ring up and ask for clarification. Don't worry about sounding stupid, and don't worry if you get someone snotty on the other end of the line. No one knows anything (this is the first law of doing an investigation).
  3. Just carry on asking questions until you really understand the situation: that is the point of the exercise.
  4. If officials won't help you, try someone like Planning Aid, a government-funded body that offers free advice.
  5. Be polite to everyone, even if they're being a pain. You never know when you'll need to talk to them again. Try to end the conversation on a friendly note, perhaps mentioning that you might need to phone back for more information. More questions will inevitably crop up as soon as you hang up.
  6. Keep neat and legible notes of all your conversations and all your reading.
  7. Set up a phone book and note down all the numbers you use, all the people you talk to: this is invaluable. You can make notes about them if you want, to jog your memory if you need to talk to them again in six months time. It's amazing how easily you forget something (and remembering someone's name when you ring back also has a useful unlocking effect). Write it all down.
  8. Once you've got the first load of information under your belt, what next? More research.

Read a full chapter on research from Bibi's book by downloading the pdf 'Finding out for yourself'.

Fleur and Cat

Battlefront mentoring twosome Fleur and Cat worked on the government's binge drinking campaign. It's the one where people do disgusting things to themselves that has the slogan 'you wouldn't start a night like this, so why end it that way?' They know a thing or two about campaigning, and these are their top researching tips:

  • It's never too soon to start research
  • Research allows you to get close to the people you want to speak to and arms you for defending your campaign.
  • Go and do some vox pops (mini video interviews) with who you think is the audience you think you should be talking to, and see if you are right.
  • Live your audience's life for a while - watch their TV programmes, read their favourite magazine, hang out where they like to go ("you should never judge someone until you have walked in their shoes")
  • Record observations, when you meet people and when you are going about your daily life, then think about if they have any effect on your campaign objectives.

And this is them on researching the government’s campaign:

A case study

Audience research was absolutely critical to the binge drinking campaign. We needed to make sure we didn't irritate our 18-24 year old audience; research showed that they don't really like talking about the negative effects of booze.

We also found that they have a handy list of pre-prepared excuses to justify their binge drinking and don't like to be told what to do, so we had to tread carefully.

The core message we came up with was 'would you do it sober?' We used a lot of research to make sure this was the right message, and to make sure we had the right tone of voice - if we'd come across as bossy, no one would've listened to us.

Watch the campaign video:

These are sites that Fleur and Caroline recommend to help with research:

Here's Robbie Laughton from Dave, one of our mentors, with sterling advice on the importance of research in finding inspiration: