What do you do if you see something happening in the world or in your community that you don’t think is right?
Like finding out from the New York Times that the reason the Grand Canyon decided not to go forward with its ban on the sale of disposable bottled water in Grand Canyon National Park was because of pushback from Coca-Cola, a major park funder.
Or finding out that Girl Scout Cookies are made with Palm Oil, an ingredient that causes clearcutting of irreplaceable rainforests and threatens the survival of humankind’s closest relative, orangutans.
Chances are, you probably post the article on Facebook and Twitter, and hope that the people you shared it with will do the same thing. But what if you could do something more? What if you could get national attention for the issues that you care about and create positive change in a much bigger way?
Of course, there are a lot of petitions that don’t get support and never get the kind of media attention they deserve. So what are the secrets to creating a more effective petition?
1. Highlight a specific problem with a specific solution. Ending animal cruelty is too broad. However, you could start a petition like this person did, asking a specific fast food chain to stop using pork from abused pigs.
2. Describe the problem clearly and succinctly. If you can’t describe the problem in a paragraph or less (some would even say 140 characters or less), then chances are you’ve already lost your audience’s attention.
3. Tell a compelling story that people can relate to. If people don’t see how the problem relates to them or could potentially affect them, they won’t care, which means they won’t act.
4. Support your claim with quotes and stats from mainstream media outlets. This will help your cause in a couple of ways. First, your cause will be more credible. Second, you may be able to inflame a news story that already exists, but may have been overlooked by the population at large.
5. Keep up with the trends related to your cause using Twitter and Google Alerts. Any news story or tweet that mentions the issue you’re petitioning is an opportunity for your cause to gain more traction and catch fire. So make sure you reply to tweets, leave comments on news stories, and direct people to your petition.
Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that not all petitions have to be against something. A petition can be used to create positive change for something you do want, not just what you don’t want. For example, here’s a petition from our very own Southwest Airlines, which is looking to bring lower fares and better international service out of William P. Hobby Airport in Houston, TX.
If you like that idea (and let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to go to Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America on SWA), then by all means, click here and sign the petition!