Writing a petition is not as difficult as you might think. There are four key ingredients to successful petition writing. The first is identifying your petition's target which could range from an individual to a large corporate organization, government, NGO or even an international entity such as the United Nations. The second is to properly research the target's rules or protocols for acceptance of your petition for review. The third critical issue is conducting proper and thorough research into the petition's subject matter so that the call to action (or refrain) is both believable and feasible. Last, the petition must pass a communication test: its language should be clear, concise and believable.
Identifying Petition Targets
The first task of effective petition writing is to properly identify the petition's target (the ultimate recipient of the signature list). An effective petition will correctly indentify the key players in a campaign or cause, including key interest groups. It is critical, however, that the ultimate target is correctly identified. The list below illustrates some popular targets:
- Governments, parliaments, politicians: local, state, federal, national, EU, UN;
- Political parties, presidents, prime ministers, senators, ambassadors, campaigners;
- Educational institutions;
- Sports organizations;
- Media organizations;
- Entertainment producers - TV stations, Film and TV producers, studios;
- Neighborhood authorities or home owner associations.
Many petitions will not need to comply with any specific petition rules or protocols because many targets don't require strict procedures in the lobbying process. However, petitions written to governments and parliaments will generally need to comply with standing orders, rules, or local regulations. Moreover, these standing orders may have specific additions in relation to internet petitions. Several jurisdictions throughout the world now recognize internet petitions. For example, 10 Downing Street, UK, accepts electronic petitions as does Scotland (e-Petitioner, a parliamentary service), Queensland Australia (state parliament), while the Federal Government of Australia is now considering the introduction of electronic petitions.
Proper research is essential
A petition should begin with a request, followed by well researched reasons for making the request. Each petition should provide a description of relevant circumstances and links to documentation or facts that support that description. A good petition may includes links to PDF documents, video and relevant websites. Overall, a petition should contain information that suggests its request is feasible.
It is advisable to view a variety of petitions in your field of interest to see what evidence is being used in these causes and how the relevant arguments are structured. Ultimately, a good petition is logical, compelling and backed up with good research and facts.
Clear and concise communication
A petition should not be cluttered with information or requests that have no essential connection to the main message. It should:
(1) describe the relevant situation,
(2) suggests what is needed, and
(3) explains why it is needed.
The message should be clear and concise. There are many examples of excellent and well written petitions. Some of the more popular petitions can be used as petition templates in the petition creation process.
Often brief and succinct petitions are the most powerful and effective. Signers are more motivated when their cause is clear and their objectives are easy to understand.
In conclusion, those who are interested in starting a petition (traditional or electronic) should observe the above principles in the petition writing process. By properly identifying the players in your cause, observing any relevant protocols and conducting thorough research, your campaign will have a good foundation for success. When packaged with clear communication and marketing, your petition will have the ingredients necessary to make a lasting impact.
John Pope is the CEO of GoPetition.com and has an interest in how internet petitions function within social networks. For more information see http://www.gopetition.com/howtowriteapetition.php