Many campaigners say that when they have the opportunity to explain what the arms trade is about, they often get a very good response. That’s why raising awareness is so important. There are lots of creative ways to raise awareness in your area. Here we concentrate on organising a public meeting, running a street stall, and using the local media.
Holding a public meeting
Whilst to many people the thought of organising a public meeting on the arms trade is a daunting task, in fact with careful planning and preparation, you could have a highly successful event and raise a lot of awareness about the impact of the arms trade.
The most important elements of a good public meeting are:
- a central venue
- a good speaker
- lots and lots of publicity
We can also help with publicity for instance by letting CAAT supporters in the area know about the event. It will be worth letting other local groups such as Amnesty International, World Development Movement, CND, Stop the War, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth know about the event so they can help publicise the meeting. Also, don’t forget to let the local press know that the meeting will be taking place, and send them a photo after the event.
Another idea to provide a focus and develop discussion at a public meeting is to show a film. CAAT has a short film called Where is the love? Contact the CAAT office for more details email the office coordinator. Or you could even make a film yourselves, like Brighton anti-arms trade group Smash EDO did.
Mark Bitel, Local Contact for Edinburgh describes how he organized a meeting:
"Our local CAAT group in Edinburgh planned a follow up event to the CAAT Control BAE speaking tour to coincide with the ruling from the judicial review. This meant we had to plan well ahead and hope that the ruling would be out in time. Fortunately, the ruling was announced 9 days beforehand, so this gave us lots of opportunities to promote the event in the media. We sent press releases to the media to coincide with the announcement.
As part of our strategy to attract younger people, we decided to hold the event as a ‘Question Time’ style debate with panellists including a politician, an academic, a union representative, and someone from CAAT. We wanted to have a genuine debate, so we invited people onto the panel that held a range of views. We also decided that the event should have the flavour of a festival, since Edinburgh is one of the world’s great festival capitals. Using our networks we made contact with some high profile Scottish musicians and comedians. I was surprised at how easy it was to get artists to support us and to perform for free. We had a folk/protest musician (who recently released a CD that was featured by the Herald as the CD of the week), and we had 2 top stand-up comedians and a professional compere. During the interval, a bar also helped to raise money for CAAT. We also distributed the latest CAAT postcards on controlling BAE, so hopefully Gordon Brown will be getting lots more postcards!
We worked closely with Jubilee Scotland to organise the event and they helped us to secure a fabulous free venue and helped us to produce a professional flyer for the event. We distributed the leaflets widely in churches, student union bars, notice boards and windows in shops, and gave out flyers at other events where we thought people might be interested in our cause.
The event went really well and many people told us how much they had enjoyed it."
Street stalls are a really important way to reach out to ordinary members of the public about issues such as the arms trade. They are a simple way to raise awareness, build public pressure and recruit people to CAAT or to your local group. It is worth putting some time and thought into planning your stall, but to get one running, all that is required are some materials such as leaflets, petitions and posters, a table and some willing helpers!
Tips for running a street stall
- Focus your stall around one key message. This will be more attractive and easy to understand.
- Think about how your stall will look. Keep materials focused on your key aims and think about whether there are any props or banners that will help get your message across.
- Find a good location and choose the right time.
- Order the materials you will need from CAAT – posters, leaflets, postcards, petitions, briefings, badges, etc. Get hold of a table and tablecloth, lots of pens and clipboards and some paperweights.
- You only have a few seconds to grab someone’s attention so try using simple ‘openers’ to get them to stop. For example, ‘Would you like to sign a petition to stop the arms trade?’ You could also approach people with a clipboard to draw them to your stall.
- Always have a ‘sign up for more info sheet’. If someone is very interested, remember to get a contact phone number or email address they might want to help you run the stall next time!
We have more detailed advice on running a street stall in our handout top tips for running an effective stall. You can call the office for a copy.
Robin Yu describes London CAAT group's successful street stall, which used their novel idea of an ‘opinionnaire’:
"During the Control BAE month of action last year, we set up a stall near Old Street station for a day to raise awareness about the campaign. We chose the location because it was outside the BAE/HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd) joint venture company offices.
An element of the event that raised some laughs was an opinionnaire. Passers-by were given the following five statements and were asked to indicate for each whether they thought they were likely, possible, unlikely or impossible:
- Elvis Presley is still alive
- There is/was a Loch Ness monster
- BAE is innocent of all bribery charges
- The Apollo moon landings were faked
- Aliens have visited Earth
Of the respondents, more people thought it was impossible that BAE is innocent of all the charges of bribery being investigated in six different countries than thought it was impossible that aliens have visited Earth or that there is or was a Loch Ness monster.
Approximately 86 per cent of those who responded said that it was either unlikely or impossible that BAE was innocent of all of the corruption charges.
Other statistics show, somewhat incredibly I feel, that twice as many people who completed the survey believe it is likely that the moon landings were faked as believe it likely that BAE is innocent. More people thought it was unlikely that BAE was innocent than thought it was unlikely that Elvis is still alive! It is clear that the British public has already judged BAE. "
Using the local media
Local media work is an important way of raising the profile of our campaign and informing public opinion. Once you start looking for opportunities for coverage, you’ll be surprised by how many you will find. Many local newspapers will report on a protest, especially if it is distinctive or involves a photo stunt. You might also ring in to a local radio phone-in, get an article in community newsletters or websites, or write to the letters pages.
When approaching local media, remember these top tips:
- Pick one key message and up to three key points you want to make and stick to them.
- Look for hooks for your publicity, e.g. a story in the paper the previous week, an event, demonstration or stall you have organised, a debate in the letters’ pages or a personal story angle.
- Think about whether there are opportunities for photos or footage to be taken and invite a photographer if so!
- Record any responses you have from reporters so that you can begin to build up personal links with them and get more coverage. Be sure to get in touch with them again when you have another story.
Letters in newspapers can reach a wide audience, bring up issues not raised in an article, create an impression of widespread support and are often read by the people we are trying to influence. In short, they are a really effective tool for our campaigning.
There always seem to be stories about cuts to services in our local newspapers. Why not write a letter about the amount of public money used to subsidise the arms trade, suggesting it be better spent on local services? Or write making links between the international arms trade and any local stories in your area, for example levels of gun crime, local arms company operations etc.
Keep your letter short and on one subject so that your key message isn’t edited out. Include your contact details in case the paper wants to verify who you are. Mention the article or issue you are relating your letter to in the first sentence. Write as often as you can; if you use a different hook for each letter then they all have a good chance of being printed!
Ian Davison used information from CAAT to make a point humorously in his regional paper, The Glasgow Herald:
"Please allow me on behalf of arms exporters to thank your readers for their annual £29 donation through taxation.
We appreciate warmly the £900 million that the government decided not to spend on new hospitals or schools or even conflict resolution and development aid. I want to assure everybody that their subsidy to us is well spent on weapons marketing, promotion, research and development. Above all I thank you for insuring us against losses when our customers fail to pay, a very welcome provision in our rather volatile trade.
Regrettably our products sometimes fall into the hands of people who actually use them; but last year we only sold arms to half of the countries that our government identified as having major human rights concerns, and only 90% of conflict casualties are civilians, and only 40% of these are children. I urge your readers to encourage further government spending in the weapons field."
If you can’t think of a hook to get coverage for your campaign, then make one! Photo stunts work for visual media, as the image provides a hook for your campaign to be covered. If you are thinking of planning a press stunt:
- Brainstorm lots of ideas for how you could visually communicate your message: you might want to think about location, props, costumes or banners you could use. Pick one that you think clearly communicates your message, is feasible given your time and resources, and is quirky enough to get press coverage.
- Choose the right time for the event. If your local paper goes to print on Tuesday morning, don’t hold a photo stunt on Tuesday afternoon.
- Set aside time to make any props you need, develop a press release for your local media and ring around to follow it up.
- Bring your own camera too, so that you can email the photo to your local media afterwards and send it to CAAT for the website, or possibly CAAT News.
More media advice
CAAT’s local media guide is an invaluable resource with tips on researching your local media, letter writing, writing a press release, TV and radio interviews and phone-ins and more. You order a copy from the office. You can also email CAAT’s media co-ordinator or phone 020 7281 0297 for advice.
Become a CAAT speaker
Speaking to groups of people to put CAAT’s campaigns and position across is essential to raising awareness and encouraging people to campaign. Even if you have no experience of public speaking, CAAT can support you to become a speaker so you can help carry out this important work.
CAAT speakers receive training and up-to-date advice on our campaigns. The role can involve:
- Pro-actively contacting groups such as the Fabian Society, trade unions, schools, local campaign groups and faith institutions for opportunities to speak.
- Helping CAAT respond to requests for speakers in your area.
If you receive a request to speak about CAAT, our guide Top Tips for Public Speaking offers really useful advice. You can order a copy from the office. If you are interested in becoming a CAAT speaker, email the Local Campaigns Co-ordinator.
- Sign up to receive extra copies of CAAT News and other materials to distribute to other groups you are involved in.
- Ask if you can put up a display or leave leaflets about the arms trade in your local library, church, alternative shops or other public space.
- Invite a CAAT speaker to any group or organisation that you are involved in such as a union branch, a campaign group, Chamber of Commerce, Women’s Institute, etc.
- Write an article or a letter for the newsletter of any organisations you are involved in.
- Wear a CAAT badge – it helps to start conversations about the arms trade.
- Organise a service of peace at your local Church, Mosque, Synagogue or Temple. Or go one further and organise a multi-faith event. (CAAT has a Christian Network and you can email the Christian Netork Co-ordinator or phone the office.)
- Don’t forget to invite the media to any event you organise!