Effective Outreach Tips

To end the mistreatment of animals, we must inform people that it is happening and encourage them to join our cause. Handing out leaflets, flyers, brochures and booklets in public is one of the best ways to have a powerful impact and reach people who might otherwise never know about these issues. 

Through this form of direct activism, advocates can expose masses of people to challenging new information and perspectives. However, it is essential to understand that your manner as the messenger who brings new ideas will in many ways determine whether people accept, ignore or reject the message and perhaps their perceptions of animal rights activists for a long time to come. 

To the average person who may not personally know any animal rights advocates, leafleters represent the entire movement, and they may make snap judgments based on their fleeting impressions of you. Since we all know how important first impressions are, here are some tips to maximizing the success of your outreach efforts: 

Look the Part: In general, you will reach the greatest number of people by being neat and well-groomed and dressing conservatively. Many people carry negative stereotypes about animal advocates and will automatically reject anyone who triggers their preconceptions, so don’t give them reason to do so. People are more likely to listen to someone with whom they identify, not someone that looks like they could be from another planet. The mainstream population will assume that you are so different from them that whatever you have to say can’t possibly apply to their lives. The exception is when you are leafleting a counterculture event where people celebrate alternative styles. Basically, you should try to dress like your target audience so that your appearance doesn’t interfere with your message.

Get the Message Out: If people understand that you are there to tell them something important about animals, they will be more receptive to your message. Start by holding your leaflet face-forward so that people passing by can see the title. Make eye contact (no sunglasses) with people you want to reach and say something like “Would you like some information on (the subject of your campaign)?” or “Have you seen this pamphlet yet?” If, as a beginner, you feel more comfortable choosing people to approach based on their appearance, facial expression or other factor, that is ok.

Be Polite: Always show respect for people. If you want people to listen, try to connect with them by being friendly, approachable and non-judgmental. It is also important to never lose your temper. There are some people who enjoy provoking animal rights activists by making offensive comments just to get a rise out of them. While you may feel justified in retaliating, venting your outrage in this context is not going to help animals and will only turn people away. Yelling at rude people gives them the satisfaction of knowing they’ve gotten under your skin and gives others the impression that you are an angry, unpleasant person who is not in control of your emotions. It is best to react by staying calm and ignoring people who are hostile. If you do interact with them, be sure not to stoop to their level.

Resources for becoming an activist

Student Projects

Starting Your Own Group

Planning Campaigns

Effective Picketing

Effective Outreach Tips

Rallies and Marches

Conducting a Vigil

High School Organizing

How to Make The News

Demonstration Check List
(PDF format - Adobe Acrobat Reader required)

Connect with People: You are leafleting to get people interested in helping animals. Sometimes that just involves handing someone a leaflet; in other cases, people may want to know more. Prepare ahead of time by knowing how to answer questions about the issue at hand and the event you are participating in. Also use active listening techniques such as repeating the speaker’s main points back through different words to show that you understand. However, your job is to hand out as many leaflets as possible, so don’t take too long to talk to people. If pedestrians are walking by and you are still talking to the same person who approached you a few minutes ago, tell them where they can find more information and politely explain that you must get back to handing out leaflets. If they are interested in getting more involved, take their phone number and email address and give it to the event coordinator. 

Other Outreach Tools: If you have the resources, there are even more ways to reach the public with a compassionate message for the animals. For instance, setting up a table, whether on the street or at a festival, can give your group a professional appeal. Drape a banner with the name of your group over the front and arrange stacks of literature on top and you’re in business. This setup can make people feel more comfortable because they can look at the brochures on their own with someone on hand to answer questions as needed. Another way to get more attention is to set up a battery-powered video player (TV/VCR, laptop/DVD, etc.) showing footage of animal mistreatment specific to your issue. Just be sure to keep the volume to a minimum, as the screams of animals are likely to drive most people away, and you want them to get close so they will see the powerful images on screen. 

These are some of the basics of effective outreach which will help you make the most of your efforts. Thank you for working to help animals…and have fun!


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