It could be building relationships with politicians, funding bodies, press, sponsors or potential supporters. A good advocate for dance is passionate and knowledgeable about the sector of dance they want to promote. A good advocate is also organised.
Identify what you want to lobby for
Decide what you want to achieve. This will effect who you focus on communicating with.
Are you a professional dancer who needs affordable access to specialist health care, or are you trying to get funding for your child's school to provide regular dance classes?
Each question suggests a different set of people who can help you achieve your goal. To gain access to affordable specialist health care you may want to start by identifying a specialist dance health specialist you would like to treat you, then you would need to persuade your GP that for your work it is crucial that he refers you to this person. You may also need to persuade your local health authority that this is efficient use of funds. Your local MP could also be worth lobbying for support.
Whereas, if you want your school to provide regular dance classes for its pupils, you need to target the head teacher, the school's board of governors, the local education authority, and your local MP and councillors to persuade them that this is a provision that would be of great benefit to pupils which is worth investing in.
Identify who your most important contacts are
You should start by working out what existing contacts you already have. Personal contacts are most effective and if they can't directly help you, they may be happy to offer advice or introductions to other useful contacts.
Other contacts you could look to develop include:
- Local press
- National press
- Local government
- National government
- Commercial sponsors
- Funding bodies
Ways to communicate:
- Letter writing
- Press releases
- Inviting people to attend performances
Write to the key people you want to contact
Be polite and clear about why you are writing.Keep your letter to one page if possible and make your points succinctly. You could ask at the end of the letter if you could meet the person you are writing to for a short meeting, suggest twenty minutes, so that you can tell them more about what you are campaigning for and how they might be able to help or advise you.
Think before you write about why your cause would be of interest to the person you are writing to. For example, the government is currently very interested in lowering child obesity, so if you were writing to your local MP to push for dance classes in every school you could point out how many children such an initiative would reach and the health benefits of dancing. MPs and local councillors are concerned with gaining votes, so you want to stress how popular helping your cause would be with the local electorate and who specifically your cause has an effect on.
If you want to contact your local MP the Houses of Parliament websiteis a very useful resource. It includes full lists of all Members of Parliament and also all the members of the House of Lords. It includes biographical information, postal addresses, email contacts, and advice on how to address letters.
Create press coverage to support your cause
Press coverage can help to raise awareness of your cause and also generate pressure. Local press are interested in local stories, whether it is a personal profile of a local dancer who has a successful career which is being blighted by injury that he or she can't get specialist treatment for because of local health authority policy, or a fantastic picture of lots of local children enjoying a dance class.
Send information to your local newspaper and call the local journalists to tell them what is happening when you have an interesting story. Remember to also send them information about success stories too.
If you have a story that has national relevance, send press releases and information to dance critics, arts editors and arts correspondents on the national newspapers.
Invite your contacts to come and see shows, performances or dance related activities you are promoting
Remember, dance is exciting and fun. You are not advocating on behalf of a dry and boring subject. If you can show dance in action to who you are trying to communicate with, either a professional performance, rehearsal or a community dance project, the person you are lobbying is very likely to find it interesting.
Dance is a powerful art form - show the person you are lobbying how dance can positively affect an audience or somebody joining in a community dance activity, and then talk to them about what you are trying to achieve in the interval or after the show. This will leave a much stronger impression on the person you are lobbying than just a letter or an email.
Maintain your database and send your contacts regular information, but make sure you only send them information they will be interested in
As you develop your key contacts, create a database of their names and addresses and things you know about each contact. For example, make a note when you speak to them or send them a letter and of if they respond. If you know they have children who attend a dance class, or a husband or wife who particularly like musicals or ballet for example, make a note as it could be useful at a later point.
Use facts, figures and case studies
Figures and anecdotal evidence are very useful to get your point across. The personal story of one person which illustrates what you are lobbying for can often be the strongest tool. Use quotes you have collected from people about how dance has personally affected or benefited their lives.
Dance UK have compiled a list of statistics that are in our resources section under Things You Should Know About Dance here.