Campaign Tools & Tips

 Introduction | Planning | Implementation | Evaluation | Resources


Creative for Good - Campaign Cycle

The campaigns featured on Creative for Good have made a true impact.  Hundreds of other campaigns have done so as well.  The question is: What makes these campaigns successful? And more importantly: How did they get there?

There is no simple answer.  Effective campaigns differ by scope, by issue, by audience, and by tactics, to name a few major factors. What’s culturally relevant in one community may be completely irrelevant, or inappropriate, in another. Some campaigns utilize cutting-edge media strategies, while others rely on more traditional approaches.  Some are national in scope, while others are hyper-local.  

And of course, even the definition of ‘campaign’ continues to change and expand.  Various models may include advertising, public relations and events, grass-roots organizing, viral social media movements, special promotions, corporate cause marketing initiatives, or even gaming.

But all successful campaigns do embody certain characteristics, four in particular:

  • Clear and single-minded.  The core message—regardless of the media platform—is easy to understand and based on one core insight.
  • Relevant.  When exposed to the campaign, people in the target audience feel that ‘It’s for people like me.’
  • Tangible.  The call to action is clear, so people know right away what you are asking them to do.
  • Emotional.  In most cases, information alone is not inherently motivating. Effective campaigns appeal to people’s emotions as much if not more than their rational side.

Campaigns that are clear, relevant, action-oriented, and emotional are more likely to have the desired effect—in most cases, to influence people to change a behavior that benefits themselves, their families, or their community.

The following pages provide an overview of the process through which great campaigns are made, covering the major steps in planning, implementing and evaluating a campaign.  We also list additional resources that provide more detail on each of these steps.

One note:  Budgets for social marketing campaigns, no matter what the scale, are normally quite tight.  And oftentimes, timing is also tight.   So don’t be discouraged if your organization does not have the budget or time to accomplish every step we recommend.  A huge budget and a relaxed schedule is no guarantee for success.  Do what you can, and be sure to bring your passion, your intelligence, and most importantly your creativity to the process.

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A successful campaign has typically done a lot of ‘homework’ before it launches.  An investment in up-front planning and research is almost always an investment that pays off.

At the end of the planning phase, your team should have a clear understanding of the following:

  • The challenge.  What, exactly, is the problem that we are trying to solve? 
  • The audience.  How do they perceive the social issue?  What action do we want them to take? What are the barriers to action?  What are potential motivators?  How can we reach them?
  • The strategy.  What should we say to decrease barriers?  How should we say it?  Where? What benefits for behaviors do we highlight?
  • The fulfillment.  How can we educate?  How can we engage? 
  • The metrics.  What does success look like, and how will we measure it?

Engaging Creative, PR and Media Partners

There are scores of advertising agencies, public relations firms and media companies that are interested, willing and able to work on public service communications efforts.  Some are big, some are small, but nearly all have identified issues and causes about which they feel passionate.  It may be an individual CEO or senior executive who has been personally touched by an issue, or it may be that a company-wide corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative has been established. Try to approach partners who share a similar passion as yours, and don’t be afraid to ask for their pro-bono or ‘low-bono’ services.  You may be surprised by their generous and passionate reaction to your ask.

Formative Research

You may think you know everything there is to know about your social issue, and how best to communicate it.  Almost always, however, talking to the target audience is an eye-opening experience, uncovering new and unexpected insights about how they perceive the issue—identifying potential barriers and benefits—and how they engage with media.  

Here are a few research methodologies that can help lead you to a smart and effective campaign strategy:

  • Secondary research and literature review.  Read what you can on the scope of the issue, potential solutions, and past efforts—successful and not—to address the issue.  And peruse the cases posted on Creative for Good, as well as other sites listed in the Resources section.
  • Expert interviews. Talk to issue experts and take note of their experiences and learnings.  By this stage, you should have a clear idea of:
    • The target audience.  Who are you speaking to?  Who is most likely to take a positive action?
    • An actionable proposition.  What is the call to action? What is it exactly you want people to do?
  • Primary research with your target audience.  Market research projects take many forms.  Some are in-person, some over the phone, and some online.  Discussions can be purely exploratory, or you can test out certain positioning statements or framings.  The main objective is of an exploratory project is to gain an understanding the barriers and motivators that surround your issue. Research methodologies can include some or all of the following:
    • One-on-one interviews
    • Focus groups
    • In-home ethnographies
    • Online chat or bulletin boards
    • Quantitative surveys
    • Online social listening.  (There are several technologies that allow you to capture and analyze posts and conversations in social media relating to your issue.)
  • Media planning.  It’s not enough to understand your audience’s perceptions of the issue.  You need to know how they are engaging with media (e.g., TV, radio, print, outdoor, digital and social media, mobile, entertainment media).  There are many reports—some freely published and some syndicated—on audience media habits.  Also, many advertising and media buying agencies have a lot of expertise in this area.
    • Understanding the media habits of the target audience allows you to better plan the media tactics you will use to reach and engage them.
    • This is particularly true with social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.) because it helps you plan how you can engage with supporters to share and amplify your message.
  • Public relations planning.  Many campaigns enlist public relations agencies to increase visibility and to help enhance the message.  Public relations focuses mostly on earned media—coverage of the campaign, online and offline—to amplify the campaign message, and to tell the story in a broader context.  If you are unable to establish a separate PR budget, then brainstorm ways that you can activate your grassroots supporters to get the word out.
  • Fulfillment planning. Most effective social marketing campaigns develop an engaging website, where audiences can be directed to learn more about the issue and what they can do about it, find resources, and connect with like-minded people.  Some campaigns run call centers where interested parties can call to talk to a live person to answer questions and provide resources.  Other campaigns plan social media initiatives, where audiences can learn more about an issue and share their support with their friends, family or colleagues—whoever is in their social network.
  • Partnership planning.  No matter how influential your organization is, you can’t do it alone.  When planning campaign strategy, identify potential partners that can help you extend and amplify your message.  Partners may include:
    • NGOs or government agencies with similar goals
    • Media and technology companies
    • Corporations with corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs that align with your own
    • Local grassroots organizations 

Creative Brief

The creative brief is a concise document that outlines the campaign’s challenge, objectives, audience insights, main message and call to action, as well as metrics for success.  The primary purpose of the brief is to provide the creative team with background information and guidelines—and inspiration!—for developing an effective campaign.  The other function of the brief is to ensure that the entire campaign team maintains focus on the core campaign strategy.

Creative briefs take many forms. Click here to download the template that Ad Council campaigns use.   

The 4 P’s 

When developing a campaign strategy, it is often helpful to consider the “4 P’s”—the four pillars that many commercial marketers use to plan their sales strategies.  Some consider this approach outdated, but it still has value, particularly in the social marketing context.  

  • Product.  In social marketing, the product is the desired behavior, as well as key benefits for adopting the behavior, and any tangible goods or services that add value and support the intended behavior change.
  • Price.  The cost that the target market associates with adopting the desired behavior.  In social marketing, the “price” can be reduced by incentivizing people to adopt the behavior, either through material or psychological benefits.
  • Place.  Where the target market will perform the desired behavior, and receive any associated tangible goods and services.
  • Promotion.  Persuasive communications designed and delivered to inspire your target audience to action.

Too often, social marketers place all of their focus on the 4th P—Promotion—and do not consider other ways they can inspire and incentivize people to take action.  

Recently, there has been increasing attention to a fifth ‘P’:

  • Participation.  Getting your target audience to actively engage with you, via social media or other platforms.

And as social marketing programs proliferate, organizations increasingly strategize to build two additional ‘P’s’:

  • Partnerships.  Working with like-minded organizations—public, private and corporate, big and small—to reach and activate larger audiences.
  • Policy.  Some social marketing initiatives advocate for a particular public policy.  But many more build public will that indirectly may influence law and policy.  

Evaluation Planning

Successful campaigns have a clear vision of what success looks like.  They have objectives that are S.M.A.R.T. – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Sensitive.  They start this conversation early in the process, rather than right before the campaign launches.  They have research tools in place that will help them assess impact once the campaign is launched.

For more tips on impact measurement, please refer to the Evaluation section.

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Creative Development

There is no reliable how-to guide on ‘being creative.’  Different organizations have different methods for fostering creativity.  Some people are naturally gifted, and some have to work hard for it.  Some campaigns are dreamt up by one person, others by a whole team of people. There is only one thing for certain:  People working off of a great creative brief (see here) are more likely to generate great creative concepts.

How do you know if you have a great idea on your hands?  When considering the idea, ask yourself if it is:

  • Clear and single-minded.  Is the message focused on one core idea and easy to understand?  Does it work across different types of media platforms? 
  • Relevant.  Will people in the target audience feel that ‘it’s for people like me’?
  • Tangible.  Will people know what you are asking them to do?
  • Emotional.  Will people be motivated to act?

For some examples of creative campaigns that possess these qualities, you can peruse some of the inspiring case studies featured by Creative for Good.

Website and Digital Development

Many campaigns have messages that direct people to a website, for in-depth information, tools, tips and resources.  Websites can do the ‘heavy lifting’ in providing important information that your typical media channels do not address.  Try to assign a URL that is short and memorable.  When developing your site, try to make it concise, easy to navigate, and entertaining yet informative.

Most campaigns today devote some—or even all—of their resources to social media activities.  By inspiring others to share your message within their social networks, you are amplifying your message, building commitment and trust, and engaging people more deeply.  Be creative in your approach!  Keep in mind that most social media users are looking to be entertained, inspired, and connected—they are generally not looking to be educated or lectured.  The best social media initiatives leverage available platforms creatively to encourage sharing and engagement.

Communications Checks

When a creative campaign is preliminarily approved, the next step is typically communications checks; that is, exposing the target audience to the creative ideas and getting their feedback.  The main goal of communications checks is to ensure that the campaign is comprehensible and has the potential to motivate.  

Communications checks can help ensure that your message is not off-base or off-putting.  Most communications check projects occur prior to campaign production, exposing people to storyboards, scripts, and mock-ups.  Many social marketers do this in order to avoid wasting money on producing ineffective creative assets.  But sometimes this research occurs after production, so that people are exposed to the produced creative product.  

Either way, there are two basic methodologies to assess creative effectiveness:

  • Qualitative discussions.  Convene one-on-one interviews or small focus groups to hear audiences’ reaction to the creative concepts.  Does the campaign have the potential to motivate them to take the desired, intended action?
  • Quantitative copy tests.  Expose a large sample of the target audience—typically via online methodology—to rate the creative concepts on a variety of measures.

Some campaigns cannot afford formal research methodologies and rely on less formal procedures.  Whatever you can afford, it’s almost always a good idea to check in with the people you are trying to reach.

Creative Production

The costs to produce a campaign can vary wildly, depending on what you are producing and in which media platforms.  Whatever your plan, try to work with producers with a proven track record.  One thing to keep in mind:  if your campaign’s producers are aligned with your cause, they may reduce their typical costs in order to accommodate your budget.  


When you are finally ready to bring your campaign to the public, try to secure coverage both online and in broadcast and print news media.  Many times campaigns launch with a special event or promotion that brings additional attention to it.  And don’t let up on your public relations activities after the campaign launch.  Successful campaigns can often secure ongoing coverage, which in turn helps keep your initiative fresh and sustainable.

Extend the Message

No matter how influential your organization is, you can’t do it alone.  When planning campaign strategy, identify potential partners that can help you extend and amplify your message.  Partners may include:

  • NGOs or government agencies with similar goals
  • Media and technology companies
  • Corporations with corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs that align with your own
  • Local grassroots organizations
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You should establish evaluation metrics well before your campaign is launched, and have tools in place to measure impact.  Some campaigns have a smart strategy and excellent creative assets, but no means to measure impact.  Without a full and honest assessment of impact, you risk being viewed as unaccountable, which in turn may put your funding at risk.  More importantly, you will have no concrete understanding of whether all of your hard work is actually making a difference.

There are many different campaign evaluation frameworks.  Here is one framework that has proven useful:

  • Exposure:  How many people were reached with our messages?
  • Awareness:  Among those who were exposed, how many actually recognize and remember our messages?
  • Engagement:  How many people engaged with our campaign, and how did they do so?
  • Impact: Ultimately, did the campaign measurably change relevant attitudes and behavior?

Evaluation tools

  • Media measurement.  Some campaigns buy media, some rely on donated media, some rely on earned media, and some use some combination of the three.  Regardless, some countries have companies that verify and measure where your campaign is running, how many people you are reaching, and what the total media value is.  Through media partnerships, some media companies will also self-report where and when they ran campaign messages.
  • Engagement analytics. Many campaigns feature a website where consumers can get more information or become involved. Through a variety of measurement tools, you can monitor website traffic trends, engagement with the website, source of traffic, time on site, email sign-ups, etc. For campaigns that initiate special social media initiatives, there are tools to assess the extent of sharing, and the online ‘buzz’ engendered by your activities.
  • Tracking surveys.   One of the best methods of measuring impact is a tracking survey.  As a benchmark prior to a campaign launch, you can field a representative survey among the target audience, asking about their awareness of messages relating to the issue, and attitudes and behaviors relating to the issue. Then at some point following the campaign launch, you can re-field the survey to determine if awareness, attitudes or behavior had improved in statistically significant manner.  Some surveys are conducted online, while others are conducted over the phone or by other means.  
  • Third-party statistics.  Government agencies, foundations and NGOs oftentimes compile statistics that relate to your social issue. For example: binge drinking rates, impaired driving fatalities, obesity rates, high school dropout rates.  These are great data to access; however, it’s often a challenge to isolate the impact of your campaign effort versus other factors.
  • Personal stories and anecdotal evidence.  Numbers don’t tell the whole story.  Personal testimonials about how a campaign affected an individual, family or community can be quite powerful.

Holistic evaluation

It’s one thing to collect results data; it’s another to pull the information together to provide a cohesive narrative of what has worked on the campaign, what has not worked, and what are the recommended next steps for the next phase of the campaign.  Great campaigns provide an honest assessment of what’s working and what’s not, and make adjustments accordingly.  

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There are many websites, books, articles and blogs that provide a deeper level of insight and detail on effective social marketing campaigns.  

Here are a few of the best online resources:

Here are a few recommended books on the topic (look them up online to purchase):

  • The Sage Handbook of Social Marketing.  Edited by Gerard Hastings, Kathryn Angus, Carol Bryant.  Sage Publications, 2011.
  • Social Marketing and Public Health:  Global Trends and Success Stories.  Hong Cheng, Philip Kotler, Nancy Lee.  Sage Publications, 2008.
  • Social Marketing and Social Change: Strategies and Tools For Improving Health, Well-Being, and the Environment. R. Craig Lefebvre, John Wiley & Sons, 2013
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International Advertising Award Resources 

In addition to Creative For Good’s recently announced partnership with the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, the following is a list of competitive regional and international advertising award shows that accept and recognize campaigns in the social good categories. These shows are great resources for inspirational creative and for opportunities to submit your campaigns for global industry recognition. Many of the websites listed include access to case studies of winning campaigns. 
  • AME Awards
    The AME Awards® for advertising and marketing effectiveness honors work that demonstrates ground-breaking solutions to challenging marketing problems. Winning campaigns address a challenge in the marketplace, utilize outstanding creative elements, and incorporate a thorough marketing plan to deliver a successful execution; they exhibit specific marketing goals and objectives accomplished through creative execution and strategic planning.
  • Concerned Communicators Award
    Instituted by Patrika group in 1997, the Concerned Communicator Award (CCA) is one of the most awaited and prestigious social advertising awards based on philanthropic issues. CCA invites agencies, ad professionals and freelancers in advertising field to make print ads on any social/philanthropic issue that one feels strongly for.
  • The Cresta International Advertising Awards
    The Cresta Awards were launched in 1993 by Creative Standards International, in partnership with the International Advertising Association. Cresta stands for 'Creative Standards'. As the name suggests, the aim of the Cresta Awards is to honor an absolute standard of creative excellence in the international advertising and marketing communications industry.
  • The Cristal Festival
    The goal of the Festival is to promote European advertising creativity and to showcase a variety of work from the industry by means of a diverse range of creative competitions and through the sharing of knowledge. The “Cristal” awards reward the year’s best creations for different types of media, and are judged by mixed international juries made of agencies and advertisers.
  • Dubai Lynx International Festival of Creativity
    The Dubai Lynx International Festival of Creativity is the Middle East and North Africa region’s (MENA) annual must-attend event for the advertising and communications industry to learn, be inspired, network and celebrate. The Dubai Lynx Awards honor the region’s best work in advertising.
  • The EACA Care Awards
    This creative award aims to recognize excellence in social marketing as part of EACA's overall commitment to promote Corporate Social Responsibility in Europe. The Awards cover subjects such as public health, environment, sustainable consumption, public safety, disability, human rights, domestic violence, child abuse, homelessness, education and other similar topical public issues.
  • Effie Worldwide
    Effie Worldwide stands for effectiveness in marketing communications, spotlighting marketing ideas that work and encouraging thoughtful dialogue about the drivers of marketing effectiveness. The Effie Awards recognize any and all forms of marketing communication that contribute to a brand's success. Effie celebrates effectiveness worldwide with the Global Effie, the Euro Effie, the Middle East / North Africa Effie and more than 40 national Effie programs.
  • The Epica Awards
    Epica’s aim is to reward outstanding creativity and help communication agencies, film production companies, media consultancies, photographers and design studios to develop their reputations beyond their national borders. The awards are judged by journalists representing the trade press. The Epica awards were created in 1987. Having originally focused on the Europe, Middle East and Africa region exclusively, the awards became global in 2012.
  • The Golden Drum
    The Golden Drum New Europe is a creative competition open to all agencies, advertisers, clients, design or production houses, TV stations, media and other parties involved in the creation or production of marketing communications registered in a number of “New Europe” eastern and southern European countries. 
  • Golden Hammer International Advertising Festival
    The Golden Hammer International Advertising Festival was founded in 1994 by the Latvian
Advertising association. Since 1994, Golden Hammer has grown from a local advertising festival to a fully-formed two–day International advertising festival and award
show, celebrating and exploring the best communications solutions from across Europe
and even further. Golden Hammer honors creativity in 10 different entry categories: PR, craft, TV ads,
Print, Outdoor, Radio, Interactive, Campaigns, Direct
Marketing, and best use of media.
  • London International Awards
    London International Awards (LIA) has established itself as a revolutionary global competition, celebrating creativity, the power of ideas and new technology in all forms of Advertising, Digital and Design. Launched in 1986 with a mission to be different, LIA was the first truly international award, accepting entries in Television, Print and Radio media from around the world. LIA now accepts entries into thirteen unique media types.
  • MarCom Awards
    MarCom Awards is a creative competition for any individual or company involved in the concept, writing and design of print, visual, audio and web materials and programs. Entries come from corporate marketing and communication departments, advertising agencies, PR firms, design shops, production companies and freelancers.
  • The IAB MIXX Awards
    The IAB MIXX Awards elevates interactive advertising by celebrating the world’s most creative and high-impact digital executions. Recognized as the benchmark for best-in-class campaigns and embodying leading-edge innovation, IAB MIXX Award-winning work inspires and educates the marketplace about the power to build brands digitally.
  • Mobile Marketing Association Smarties
    The Smarties is the only awards program that recognizes best in class mobile work from around the world. Winners are selected from a competitive field of entrants, all of which demonstrate innovation, creativity and bravery across the mobile marketing and advertising ecosystem. The MMA assembles a collection of industry visionaries to form the Smarties jury with the task of identifying the winning work.
  • New York Festivals 
    New York Festivals® has been honoring the World's Best Work™ in all media since 1957. World-class judges review submissions in the most current and relevant categories to award creativity across all media. With entries and jury members from over 70 countries, it is the most diverse advertising awards competition in the world.
  • TED Ads Worth Spreading
    This initiative finds ads that communicate ideas with consumers in the same way that TED wants to communicate with its audience. Six teams of two – made up of one renowned TED speaker and one rising star from the advertising industry – work together to nominate incredible work across specific categories. Twenty-five leading voices in the ad industry act as Advocates and also make nominations.
  • The Webby Awards
    The Webby Awards is the leading international award honoring excellence on the Internet. Established in 1996 during the Web's infancy, The Webbys is presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (IADAS) — a 1,000+ member judging body that includes Executive Members comprised of leading Web experts, business figures, luminaries, visionaries and creative celebrities, and Associate Members who are former Webby Award Winners and Nominees and other Internet professionals.
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