How To Petition: The Unexpected Activist

by Mary Haight on October 10, 2011

Finding out how to petition was the last thing on my mind. I’m a bit of a cynic, so all of what follows still surprises me. I share my story in case passion slaps you awake one day too!

Petland Canada with 50 stores had announced they would stop selling pets. Anti-selling pets legislation and protests found Petland Canada wanting to get in front of the trend. I searched the news here for a possible  statement from Petland USA – nothing. You can get the whole story at the link, but to skip to the end of the beginning, the catalyst for my foray into petition activism was Petland USA’s response to my call for a comment.

I was familiar with Change.org as the site for the motherlode of petitions, and I also write for BTC4Animals. I went to Facebook to ask Kim Clune, founder of BTC4Animals, and Stephanie Feldstein, writer and Director of Organizing at Change.org, two things:

  1. If my petition sounded like a good idea, and
  2. Could I submit a Change.org petition to BTC4Animals asking Petland USA to stop selling pets and fire puppy mills.

I got an enthusiastic “yes”.  Then I had to figure out what to do next.

How To Petition

I went to Change.org and immediately saw “Start a Petition” at the top and bottom of the page. That was easy;) Then I was faced with three questions:

  1. Who do you want to petition
  2. What do you want them to do
  3. Why does it matter.

I thought – what, that’s it?  Was starting a petition really that simple?  Well, yes and no.

Crafting an effective message takes attention to detail. Many of us are not as good as we think on that score. It’s a good idea to enlist friends or social media acquaintances who have written and marketed a petition to help you and to use as a sounding board. I did, and my petition was much better for it! Double check all your facts and links.  I started a petition and ended up using it as practice. My problem was I did not use the handy and very helpful guide on Change.org to garner the fine points of how to petition. I blame the counter-conditioning of the computer age and its technical manuals for my reticence. Foolish on my part, as it turned out, the guide is easy to read!

The guide on how to petition is comprehensive.  It is well-written and edited, and has all you ever need to know about how to petition – not just write a petition, but market it – divided into easily digestible sections, like how a petition works online, how to start a petition, how to set a goal, who to target, how to write a petition letter, how to promote – thorough, and a quick read.

If I had read the guide first, then wrote the petition, I would not have made the rooky mistake with the title of the first petition. Whatever you do, once you craft an effective title, hit the “custom title” button. Otherwise the program will take titles of your target as the first words in the title of the petition. That won’t work very well! My “practice” petition came out with the title “Founder & Chairman, Stop Selling Pets…”  Yikes!

Before you hit that publish button, double check your petition letter – make sure all changes made have been incorporated. When you’re finished, you can get a widget for your site like the one I have below! [By the way, please sign before you go? Thank you!]

Learning how to petition was an easy process that leads to a focused, easily understood petition campaign. It made me feel like I got off the sidelines and took action! Anyone, anywhere can learn how to petition. Change.org is your resource and guide to online petition success. So the next time something gets you excited or inspired enough to want to make change happen, go to Change.org and be heard! You might even submit your animal-centric petition for approval as a cause to BTC4Animals…the more eyes on your petition, the better!

Stephanie Feldstein of Change.org will be interviewed at BTC4Animals October 31– don’t miss it!  Blog the Change Speak out against Petland and puppy mills October 15th! Send your link in the comments if you do!

15 comments
Amy@GoPetFriendly
Amy@GoPetFriendly

Congratulations, Mary. After Blog the Change there are more than 1,000 signatures on the petition. It's just a start, but a good start I think. It speaks to the leg work you put in to make it successful.

Stephanie Feldstein
Stephanie Feldstein

Great post, Mary (and great petition!). I think it's helpful for people to hear these stories ... everyone really does have a voice.

Peggy Frezon
Peggy Frezon

Way to go Mary! I signed the petition, tweeted, FB, and I am definitely getting behind you and blogging the change about puppy mills Saturday.

Pup Fan
Pup Fan

Thank you for doing so much legwork on this!

Kristine
Kristine

I was quite surprised to learn there had been no response from Petland USA. Especially when many companies here in Canada have been changing their policies just within the last few months. It's almost been a mad dash to see which stores can attach themselves to animal welfare groups first. A former cynic as well, I have great hope now for similar changes to occur there. Thanks for figuring this all out. It does not sound easy!

Edie
Edie

Very useful information, Mary, in case we should be inspired as you were! I'm in for October 15th, and of course I've signed and put it on FB. If I can figure out how to get the widget code, I'll also put in ton my site.

Kim Clune
Kim Clune

Mary, thanks for all the hard work you put into this important cause, from factual research, crafting the petition, writing a post for BTC4animals.com, and syncing this how-to post to go live at the same time. Team BTC will give our all to draw attention and rally our members to make a difference. We're all so proud to be part of your team!

Pamela
Pamela

Interesting thoughts on how hard it is to craft a message. Thanks for digging into this. I signed the petition and posted it on FB.

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

Thanks so much, Stephanie - that means a lot coming from you;) And I agree it is helpful to see other people's experience with a process like this. We need more activists, and seeing how simple it is, even if honing the message takes a little time, benefits everyone - they can see it's worth it!

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

Thanks Peggy! So happy to hear you're blogging this change on Saturday:) Wonderful news!

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

You're welcome! It's a funny thing...you work on one thing,it leads to another, and new idea pops up, you tell someone and suddenly there's a new project :) Thanks for stopping by!

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

Hey Kristine! I could not believe the "circle the wagons" mentality of the lower echelons. If the directive came from an exec, that would be unfortunate as it further damages their reputation. There's an incomprehensible stubborn attitude this corporation presents that refuses to see the damage, harm, and deaths their source of "inventory" is causing. Denial can be deep but this is ridiculous; no matter how long their list of claimed good works to animals, they take their lives thoughtlessly as females are killed when around the age of 5 when they can no longer give birth, and are trapped in a cage for that short lifetime, never knowing the joys of feeling grass beneath their feet - of being a dog with a real life outside of a cage. I hope at some point I too can call myself a former cynic, lol;) Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

Thanks Edie! Widget code available once you sign. I know you already signed so I will send you the code. And speaking of code though off topic - did you do your own calendar description over at AC??? Most excellent - I was *stunned* - hee heeeee!

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

Oh, thanks so much Kim and thanks for having such a wonderful platform in BTC4Animals for people to use to reach out for help in getting important work for animals accomplished! It's not easy to be heard and catch people's attention - BTC4Animals is vital for so many causes! Awww - and I am proud to be part of the BTC4Animals team!

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

Thanks Pamela! The "ask" unfortunately is a bit of a complicated road - I wish it were straight-forward, that tens of thousands of signatures would settle the matter, but you can't withhold salient info from a petition. The fact that these are franchises should not make the petition any less valuable as a tool for leverage. And given this corporation's attitude, I think all available tools need to be employed. Oh, and thanks for posting it on your FB too - that's a great way to get it noticed;)

Trackbacks

  1. […] But, despite being a busy woman with many other responsibilities, she has done a wonderful job learning how to petition and getting this entire drive organized. She is joined by Be the Change for Animals in her […]

  2. […] Mary Haight, a self proclaimed unexpected activist,  created a petition and publicized it with the help of Be the Change for Animals and Change.org. Her cause is backed by a lot of community support too (see the link list below). […]

  3. […] Mary Haight of Dancing Dog Blog came up with the idea of partnering with Change.org to petition U.S. stores to emulate the Canadian Petlands’ no-animal-sale policy. She wrote about it here. […]

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