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How to Write a Petition:
Craft a Compelling Message!

A successful petition has the right goals, is written for the best audience, and has a strong message that resonates. Let’s dive headfirst into how to craft that powerful message to start your petition.

  1. Write a short headline that grabs attention and creates an immediate connection.
  2. Write a summary that either demands or requests change and tells people why they should sign.
  3. Keep your petition short (150–200 words), and include paragraph breaks and bulleted lists to make it easy to read.

We have broken down those three goals into six steps for clarity. Follow the short sections below to create a powerful petition message that gets results:

a headline is crucial to grabbing attention

Step 1: The Headline

A headline is crucial to grabbing attention and creating an immediate emotional connection to your cause. It grabs readers’ attention and draws them in to learn more.

Follow these guidelines:

  • Keep your headline short — four to ten words is best.
  • State the solution to your issue in the headline (e.g., “Stop the slaughter of seal pups”)
  • Create urgency by using words like, “Now!”
petition tone: demand change or request change

Step 2: Demand or Request?

When framing your cause in a headline, should you request change or demand change? Both have pros and cons, and your choice between the two can be influenced by the nature of your issue.

Care2’s Activism Marketing Manager, Julie Mastrine, outlines the different approaches:

  • Demand change: Petitioning a government or company to correct human rights abuses would fall under this category. It is urgent. Focusing negative attention on the perpetrator can help you get more attention.
  • Request change: If you are petitioning a park to stop the sale of bottled water, you’ll be more likely to be taken seriously when you demonstrate a willingness to work with the target in a measured way rather than try to force their hand.
petition tone: positive or negative

Step 3: Positive or Negative?

Your tone sets expectations and can influence your supporters. Are we building up or tearing down? Do we point fingers at the problem or focus solely on our end goal? There is no right answer here, as both can yield overall positive results. Just be consistent!

Follow these guidelines to choose the appropriate tone for your petition:

  • Keep your message forward-thinking. Negative campaigns can still focus on a positive resolution.
  • Remember, we want our target to take action in our favor. If we cross the line and sling too much mud, they are likely to sling back! The goal of any petition is to engage a dialogue with our target. If you were the target, how would you like to be spoken to about this issue?
  • Make contact with your target ahead of time! Raising your concerns directly with your target can be a springboard for creating change. Perhaps they are willing to change course without any extra attention brought to the issue.
  • Always, always, always stick to the truth. A lie or exaggeration can derail an otherwise successful campaign.
Julie Mastrine, Social Media Manager, Care2 Petitions
Julie Mastrine,
Activism Marketing and
Social Media Manager

“A level of mutual respect is what often fuels a petition to success.”

Step 4: Stop, Start, Now!

Using these three words can immediately focus the attention of both your target and your supporters on the task at hand.

  • STOP: What action needs to be halted?
  • START: What can we do instead?
  • NOW: What benefits can be achieved, immediately or imminently, by changing course?

Urge your petition supporters to not only sign and share, but take a small and measurable action to propel the issue forward. Your petition should include ways to support the cause in addition to signing and sharing the petition within their circle of influence. In future posts, we’ll talk about what some of these actions might be.

Step 5: Be Visual

Add photos and videos for the strongest impact possible! Compelling media brings your issue to life — adding pictures and video adds a tremendous boost to your petition.

Viewing an image or video emotionally links the viewer to your cause, and this connection is vital to the success of your campaign. Follow these guidelines to select the right media:

  • Images should be clear, have an obvious focal point and tell a story consistent with your campaign.
  • In photos, use images of individuals rather than groups to create a more personal connection between the viewer and the cause.
  • The emotional response should match the overall positive or negative tone you’ve set for the petition.
  • The ideal image communicates your campaign’s main idea clearly, without the need for additional explanation.
  • Don’t just limit yourself to photos and videos! Creative ideas like graphics and diagrams can be utilized in many ways.
Jen Johnson, Manager of Member Activism for Care2 Petitions
Jen Johnson,
Manager of Member Activism

“There are a ton of different things you can try, from creating an infographic about your campaign, to hosting a Twitter discussion, to dressing in costume at your petition delivery. These tactics make your petition memorable and demonstrate that people are paying attention to the cause.”

Step 6: Promote, Update, Repeat!

Promoting your petition doesn’t stop as soon as it goes live on Care2 Petitions — far from it! Sharing your petition repeatedly via different social media channels gives your family and friends multiple opportunities to learn about your issue.

After you publish your petition, continue talking to the target! Let them know there are others who support your cause. Likewise, keep your petition signers updated on new developments. When the target sees a groundswell of support rising, they may institute changes in your cause’s favor before the petition has even been completed. Fortunately, online petitions easily and quickly allow you to communicate changes and developments.

Emily Logan, Directory of Advocacy for Care2 Petitions
Emily Logan,
Director of Advocacy

“Don’t be afraid to continue reminding people to sign your petition! You’ll be surprised how many people will sign after the second or third time they are asked. One round of outreach on Facebook, email, Twitter , and any other sites you are active on each week is ideal!”

It’s very easy to create a petition using Care2 Petitions. We prompt you each step of the way, from creating amazing headlines to easily sharing your created petition in the quickest and easiest ways possible.

Now, continue on to part five of our series, where we provide detailed advice to make the most of your live petition.