Becoming An Effective Activist

We keep hearing people talk about effective activism, though what does that really mean, and how does someone become an effective activist?

Some would have you believe that all you need to do to be effective is stand in a square, holding a tv screen, and wearing a mask.

Others will tell you that not saying the word vegan while encouraging others to still consume animal products, and call themselves vegan is being effective.

Except neither of them are right.

So, What Is Being Effective?

Putting egos aside, being effective is the ability to influence the greatest number of people to go vegan with the least amount of effort.

Who is more effective out of the two?

Jimmy, who does the same speech wherever he goes, and is able to convince 3% of his audience to adopt a plant based diet. (This 3% usually last on a plant based diet for about 12-24 months, before reverting back to their previous lifestyle choices)

Or, George who during the course of a 5hr shift at an outreach stunt is able to 10 people about how some animals are used, and by the end of the night has a 90% success rate in getting the person to take a brochure or promise to sign up to an x-day challenge.

If you are like most people, you would say George is the more effective one, as he has a 90% success rate, when compared to Jimmy who has a 3% rate.

Except, in this situation, neither of them are what you would call an effective vegan activist.

This is because none of the target audience adopted veganism long term.

And this is what we need to be clear about.

Having 100 people listen to one of your talks, or take a brochure isn’t being effective.

Being effective is having people take up veganism long term, and that is something we won’t know the result of for years to come.

So, what can we do to increase our effectiveness?

Know Your Audience

If you don’t know who your audience is, it doesn’t matter what you are saying, the odds of you being effective is greatly reduced.

While the vegan message is suitable for almost everyone, not everyone will be receptive to the way that you deliver it.

For example, the way that you talk to a 45yo CEO about veganism would be completely different to the way that you talk to a 25yo about it.

If you aim to please everyone with your message, you will end up pleasing no-one.

Let’s say that you are going to focus your energy in online activism.

The first step would be to create an audience persona, and only create content that they would be interested in viewing/reading/listening to.

If your audience is going to be face to face, you would need to create a series of questions that you would ask to find out what the person’s passions and interests are.

The aim here is to craft your conversation to continuously press their hot button.

By hot, I mean one that is inline with their passions and more likely to take action, rather than a hot button of creating something they will object too.

Before You Begin

Before you start defining your intended audience, you really need to work out whether your message is going to be one that primes people to think about veganism, or one that helps them move toward making the decision.

If you are going to be someone who primes people towards veganism, your audience would be described as a cold audience.

This means that they don’t know about veganism or have never looked any deeper into it, outside of a news headline.

If you are going to craft your message to those who are interested in veganism, or do know about it, though not ready to take the final step, your audience would be described as a warm audience.

If your audience is going to be one which is knows about veganism, has consumed all the information, and is ready to take that final step, your audience would be described as a hot audience.

While this is a progression from cold, to warm, to hot, it may not happen in a logical sequence.

For example, depending on the message received from everyone, your audience could be warm, and just about to jump to hot, and make the decision to go vegan, when a contrary message comes out, and undoes all the work you have done, sending them all the way back to cold again.

The Vegan Brand

Every time we do something as a vegan, we are representing the vegan brand.

It shouldn’t be like this, except it is, and it is something we need to keep in mind and be aware of.

Anything that we do that is viewed negatively impacts the vegan brand.

It isn’t only us, it is also the products that are identified as being vegan, that represent the vegan brand.

Remember way back in the early 2010’s when Devondale did their Soy Aftertaste Face ads?

Devondale – Sunshine Bubble – YouTube

Way back then, people said they could never go vegan because they didn’t like the taste of soy milk. (While it is doubtful that the ad campaign hurt the vegan brand, it did become a barrier that had to be overcome).

This is why mass activism has the potential to cause long term damage to the movement.

The protests that happened last month weren’t good for vegans, and they weren’t good for the vegan brand.

There is a quote from Marcus Aurelius that I like that relates to this.

That which is not good for the swarm, neither is it good for the bee.

We can’t simply say that we are doing something for the animals, if what we are doing makes the wall between vegans and those who aren’t, higher.

Moment Of Truth

In the old days, there were only two moments of truth.

There was the First Moment of Truth, when someone saw something, and contemplating making a decision to buy. This is usually because they have seen an ad for the product that talked about its benefits.

Then there was the Second Moment of Truth, which is where the person purchased the product and got the experience of that product.

Now with the advent of the internet, and online searches, there is a Zero Moment of Truth.

The ZMOT comes before the FMOT, and it relates to how many sources of information a consumer needs to utilise before they get to the FMOT.

In early 2011, when Google coined the term, it was 10.4 pieces of information from a variety of sources.

By 2015, it was up to 20, going as high as 40 for hospitality and travel industries.

With the ZMOT making a resurgence in 2019, the number is likely to have doubled.

What Does That Mean For Us?

But veganism is a social justice movement, so what does ZMOT, FMOT, and SMOT have to do with us?

While it may be a social justice movement to those in it, to an outsider, it isn’t.

And, until we reach a point where enough of us are vegan, it won’t be.

Which means that we need to take a marketing approach to get people interested in veganism and into the movement.

We are selling people on the idea of veganism, and what it is.

This is why we need to pay attention to whether our audience is cold, warm or hot, and whether we are focusing on an online or face to face one.

Once we have that sorted, we need to craft our message to be something they would want to consume.

Online Audience

When creating an online audience persona, you can go as deep or as shallow as you would like to.

The more personal, you can make the persona, the better.

So, grab a piece of paper and write all this down.

Name: What is the persona’s name?

Age: How old are they? (Their age will influence how the message is presented)

Marital Status: Are they married/single/etc

Number of Children: If any

Where Do They Live:



Education Level:

Values: What values do they have?

Sources of Information: Where do they go to find things out? Do they use social media, blogs, etc.

Challenges: What are some of the life challenges they face?

Pain points: What are some of the pain points in their life?

You can go deeper, and write down what hobbies they have, what sport they play, etc.

The idea behind this is to create a person who could be real.

Then, once you have that, the content you create will be for them, and them alone.

The more that you focus in on creating content for them, the more likely it is that others will be interested in what you create.

The benefit of an online audience over a face to face one is that you are able to build up a long term relationship with them, through blog articles, emails, and so on.

Face To Face Audience

A face to face audience is a bit different to building an online audience.

With face to face audience, the message becomes more personal and a relationship is built up over a period of time.

(A 10 minute street conversation is not an effective way to do anything, and for the time spent doing it, is counter productive to actually being effective).

You will need to know which questions to ask to find out what the person is passionate about, and what really matters to them.

Then you need to talk to them in way that they feel comfortable with.

Now, as much as you want to start blurting things out for the animals, something you need to remember is that what you talk about has to have nothing to do with the animals, or yourself even.

It is all about the person you are talking to.

It’s A Matter Of Trust

Regardless of whether you choose an online or face to face audience, nothing you say or write about will be considered if the audience doesn’t trust you.

And trust is a fickle thing.

It needs to be built up over a period of time, can disappear in a moment, and may never be rebuilt..

Trust can only be built up by being consistent, and being of value to your audience.

And, by being you.

The real you.

Not the you who repeats a cookie cutter speech, or wears a mask and holds a TV screen.

Your Mission Jim…

Something that always baffles me about those who talk about effective activism is that they present things to make it feel like you are responsible for converting the person to veganism.

Which by default, leads us to thinking we are a failure if we don’t or can’t.

This is totally the wrong way of thinking, and is dangerous to this movement.

Your actual mission is to make things easier for them to go vegan.

You do this by presenting veganism in a way that they are ready for, (based on their audience type, and medium), so that by the time the next person talks to them, they would be described as a hot audience.

To be clear, this isn’t being a cop out or passing the buck.

It is understanding that things take time.

And that while there is a good chance that you may be the person they talk to next, you may not be. And, you don’t want to be making things harder for that person by having them undo any damage that you have done.

What Should You Be Doing?

Here’s the deal folks.

I am going to draw a line in the sand here and say that if you participate in “cubes” or jump fences or anything like that, you are wasting your time, and making things worse for the animals.

The very first thing you should be doing is working on yourself.

If you aren’t presenting the best possible version of yourself that you can, you are doing the animals a disservice.

If you aren’t presenting an image of a person your prospect would want to be like, there is nothing that you could do that would be considered effective.

Once you have yourself sorted, then you can think about doing something to help the animals.

Something I like to tell people to remind them of this is to remember the safety briefing you get when you fly.

They tell you when the oxygen mask drops, to fix yours first BEFORE you think about helping someone else with theirs.

We all need to remember this quote from Seneca, in his Letters from a Stoic.

Let our aim be a way of life not diametrically opposed to, but better than that of the mob. Otherwise, we shall repel and alienate the very people whose reform we desire; we shall make them, moreover, reluctant to imitate us in anything for fear they have to imitate us in everything

Things that you can do, both online and face to face will be covered in a future article, which should be appearing next week.

So, keep an eye out for that one.