As an activist, one of the most important actions is to inspire and persuade others to stop consuming or using animal products and encourage everyone they know to do the same.
Animal protectors can play a vital role in educating people about the issues. Let’s look at some of the models of outreach and how we can communicate using them effectively.
Modes of Outreach
Various tried and tested modes of outreach have been tested and checked. We’re listing some of them down here.
- Videos:-A common and effective way to engage people can be videos. At tabling events, or colleges one can arrange for screenings of various undercover investigation movies like Glass Walls, Meet your Meat etc. This becomes a starting point from where one could hand out leaflets for information and gets pledges signed. This works best at any event where you have a captive audience. College events, environmental events, club meets, local events like building or community meetings functions are great opportunities for video outreach.Staying informed about events helps plan ahead to contact the organizers work out the requirements.
- Tabling, Presentations and Talks: Another popular method of outreach however the number of people you could reach may not be as high as handing out leaflets. Having a pledge/petition of some kind is very effective to attract people and make them feel they are actively doing something about the causes we are discussing about. Carry a copy of our ‘Pledge to go Veg’ sheet wherever you go!
Events happen once or twice a month, and valuable time in between could be used to spread awareness by the simple activity of handing out leaflets
- Distribution/ Handing out leaflets: Of the various channels of distribution include tabling events, general handing out of leaflets is the most effective in terms of reaching out to more people. You could go outside colleges, malls etc and distribute leaflets to the passing public. Following are specific locations where leafleting may be more beneficial.
- Number of leaflets:Target an approximate of 60-100 leaflets to be distributed in an hour and half. This depends a lot on the way we can attract and interest people on taking the leaflet.
- Pledges: While handing out leaflets, pledges may not do a swell job. However make it a point to carry a volunteer sheet, just in case some people are interested.
Other outreach avenues:
- Advertisements, billboards or ad clips: With heightened coverage and reach , they can help us if creatively designed and placed. However huge costs are involved in getting airtime, footage editing and other details.
- Vegan Potlucks and festivals: Yet another powerful tool to introduce people who may be interested in changing to a vegan diet. These are handholding tools to ensure a smoother transition for people who are already aware of vegan activities
The bigger picture is always to spread awareness on a large scale, to plant the seed of thought about animal cruelty in the minds of people. All of these avenues should be explored, but based on simple numbers and ease, leafleting andtabling are the most effective, fast and easiest way to do outreach work.
So what do tabling and leafleting really mean? Tabling means setting up a table on which is displayed a variety of informational brochures, graphic images, or a laptop with video rolling. A friendly, well-informed animal rights activist should distribute the literature, and collect the email if the person wishes to be involved.
Leafleting means selecting a location where your target age range, socio-economic status “audience” congregates in the largest numbers possible. This could be in a train station, a mall, or on a busy popular street, or in a park. Passing out literature for an hour could result in 200-300 leaflets handed out based on data provided by ‘Mercy for Animals (effective leafleting)’.
At a college event/screening, the availability of leaflets is a great tool to spread the message. Putting free information directly into the hands of the public helps promote humane eating, cost-effective grassroots activism, volunteerism and dedication.
Benefits of leafleting:
- Leafleting gives directly to the targeted group information they can read at their leisure, photos they can return to again and again and share with others.
- It is cost effective, as it doesn’t take time to organize/plan a leafleting point, and it contacts a large number of people.
- At an event one may give out 1500 leaflets, while leafleting for a just an hour could help put the information in the hands of 200-300 people.
- Leaflets can provide visual connect with the images of animals and the conditions in which they suffer.
- It empowers and activates volunteers to go out and do outreach work, providing a platform for people who want do more than sign petitions as well as giving a wider base for activities.
Strategies for effective leafleting
Leafleting is a fun activity, and when done with friends and volunteers, can feel almost like a social event.
Identifying locations, audience and timelines are the keys to set before starting leafleting activities. Even if you target to do one leafleting event a week, you may have given out over 5000 leaflets in a month.
Setting targets for your activity – how many leaflets should be given out, how many pledges should be signed, how many volunteers recruited.
- Where to leaflet: Are you going to distribute leaflets in the park on a Sunday morning? Or are you setting up a stall at a larger event? Deciding a routine for outreach is extremely important.
o In case of stalls, specific locations like events, expos and speaking events can be identified in advance by checking newspapers and online upcoming events.
o While in case of one-to-one leafleting, creating a schedule helps to maintain it as a regular activity. Ideally an hour a week should be put in for active leafleting
- Number of leaflets: For handing out leaflets, carrying 150 leaflets should suffice. For a tabling event, carrying somewhere between 500 – 700 leaflets per day in 2 languages should suffice.
- Language: Leafleting in India can be challenging due to various regional languages. It is important to identify the most used language at a given area and carry leaflets accordingly. In a city like Mumbai and Delhi, carrying equal number of English and Hindi ones are important. Keep in mind that if you’re aware that the predominant crowd speaks a particular language it is important that most of the communication be done and given in that language.
- Volunteers: Carrying volunteer sign-up sheets and getting people to add their contact details in it typically gains at least 3 good volunteers for every 50-60 who sign up. They’re great help for planning future events!
Checklist of material needed at the leafleting site :-
- For handing out leaflets: Ensure you are carrying leaflets in the language of your target audience. Make sure you have volunteer sign-up sheet, pens, a fact sheet detailing stats and practices for people who are interested in more information. Make sure you have water! You’ll be thirsty with all this talking.
- For a tabling event: Make sure you have enough leaflets in the language of your target audience. Running out of leaflets is OK—it means you’ve done your job. Also bring volunteer sign-up sheet, pledge/petition, posters, staplers, pens, selo tape, a pair of scissors, a camera, water, drawing pins, stapler, rulers, 2 exam boards, fact sheet, make sure your phone is charged, a feedback register and a schedule of the shift of volunteers.
- Keep a print list of vegan options for dairy products.
- If you have a laptop, do carry it with saved file of videos of underground investigations, and do play it if you get an opportunity.
- Prepare sound bytes for volunteers. Sound bytes are just a set of answers to frequently asked questions so that all volunteers are giving out correct information at all times.
Laws and permissions for leafleting
What are relevant laws that affect public leafleting:
- Leafleting in public spots is not illegal in India. For example, at a leafleting demo outside a KFC on the main street in Bandra, Mumbai (not inside a mall) there was nothing that the staff or the police can do, or did to interfere with it.
- Typically one does not face any problems on handing out leaflets, however if one is venturing into a sensitive area or is unsure about the area, it is best to call the local police station in advance to verify.
- What permissions are necessary:
- To do leafleting in public spaces no permission is required. We have tested leafleting on main roads, trains, stations, college events in external auditoriums, outside colleges. All were done without seeking any permissions, and there was never any issue regarding it.
- To do leafleting in a mall, which is a privately-owned space, one should simply walk in and look for a spot where there are no security guards. Walk around approaching shoppers and request them to take the leaflet. If the mall authorities do question, then ask them for the permission. If they do not give it, it’s best to leave and leaflet on the road outside the mall.
How to deal with the police while leafleting
- Through all our leafleting sessions, not a single officer approached or questioned us.
- At a demo outside KFC in Bandra, Mumbai, the police who were driving around approached us with curiosity and seemed quite happy with a vegetarian awareness drive.
- Since it is not a political cause, most police do not disturb or question.
- If they do approach, be friendly and explain that you are doing this activity to save animals, that it’s an effort to protect animals. Give them a leaflet. If the police are sounding aggressive, apologize and leave immediately.
- Time of the activity (during the day) and why pick that particular time.
a) For leafleting colleges, 9 am to 2:30 pm works best because there will be the most traffic. If you only have one or two hours to spare, leaflet around lunchtime.
b) Typically for office areas, the lunch break time works best. Avoid morning and evening hours.
c) For shopping areas, parks and malls evening hours are when you get the most pedestrian traffic
d) Avoid rush hour situations at stations etc, or extremely crowded areas, people are in too much of hurry to be open to accepting literature
On average, students are considerably more open to becoming vegetarian than non-students. And while many colleges have social groups, they do not have groups for animal welfare, and others are not very active. Leafleting at colleges is therefore imperative to larger social change!
- Colleges work well with leafleting and tabling .If the college is a Hindu/ Jain college, make sure to carry vegan leaflets.
- Short list 2 colleges near your area, for intensive outreach for a specific period of time. This works better than trying to approach all colleges. That is because the more you visit one place the more students get used to seeing you around, and may be more open to the information you are handing out. See our Adopt A college page for more information, or click here !
- Colleges frequently have some event or the other, it helps to have contacts within the active social group of the college to participate or encourage them to keep animal-friendly events.
- For distributing leaflets in colleges, you usually do not require permissions, if you are standing outside.
- For handing out leaflets inside the college canteens and foyer, it is advisable to approach the office first, either by calling them or going to the college office.
- Simply by introducing yourself, giving them a sample leaflet and explaining that you are working on a social cause can open a lot of doors. Some colleges may not respond positively or have sets of restrictions on where you can stand etc. If in doubt call their office in advance to check about permissions, number of hours that one can spend on their campus, and for any rules or guidelines they may have for such activities.
- Alternatively, get in touch with the social cell of a college and ask them to facilitate a session can work depending on individual colleges.
- Do keep in mind not to approach colleges during exams, a) the students are too tired to want to accept the leaflet, b) the college officials and heads do not allow/encourage such activities during exams
- If standing outside the college gate, it best to be at a spot where there is reasonable space for you to walk around and meet more students.
- Approaching groups of students who are hanging around, introducing yourself and handing them a leaflet with a confident smile and asking something like ‘May I hand you a leaflet on animal welfare’ will entice most students to accept the leaflet.
Setting up the stall/table
In the case of an event, contact the organizers and request a stall as early as possible. Following are some tips on an effective stall.
- Find out the stall size and use bright colourful posters evenly spread out, within eye range. Avoid using too many posters, too high or too low as it looks crowded.
- The posters and text should be large enough to be visible within at least 2 feet of sight.
- A banner in the centre of the back wall of the stall stating the name of the organization or a name like veg outreach helps to give people an idea of what the stall is about.
- These posters could be handmade or flex printed, both options are very cost effective. Make sure you have enough leaflets of veg and vegan, especially in the languages that would be most used in the location
- Have a table with leaflets neatly stacked in vertical or horizontal piles. Also ensure you have a pledge/ petition and the volunteer sign-up sheet ready.
- On the day of the event, make sure you reach early and prepare the stall before people start walking in.
b. Costs to consider: Table sizes are dependent on the space available. Usually at events one table and chairs are provided for.
c. Need of electricity on site, laptop/tablet, speakers:
- This is usually provided at all events where tabling can be done.
- A laptop may come into use for a screening, so please make sure you carry one if available
Costume/masks and other props, large posters at eye level for attention:
- At college events, having a volunteer in an animal costume helps attract attention
- If there is an opportunity/space for props, please use them. However ensure that all props are stable and dismantle easily.
- Within the stall, always ensure the posters are at eye level and not too high or low. They should be evenly spaced out, and all visuals, texts should be easily readable from at least 2 feet away.
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