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Pressing for change: working for a pressure group

If you’re looking for a career that makes a difference, a position with a pressure group might suit you. Read on to discover the roles you could take and the employers you might work for.
No matter what position you apply for, pressure groups will look for candidates who share their core values and beliefs.

A pressure group is an organisation that works to persuade the government or an authority to bring about change. As well as the chance to work with like-minded people, you’ll probably have opportunities to get involved in activities, projects and campaigns related to the pressure group’s objectives – even if these aren’t part of your day-to-day job.

Who could you work for?

A good way to choose the employers to apply to is to look at the websites of organisations whose work interests you. Below is a list of some of the most popular pressure groups under different areas of concern.

Human rights

  • Amnesty International
  • JUSTICE
  • Liberty
  • Stonewall.

Environmental

  • Friends of the Earth
  • Greenpeace
  • Surfers Against Sewage
  • The Climate Coalition.

Animal welfare

  • League Against Cruel Sports
  • PETA
  • RSPCA
  • RSPB.

Political activism

  • 38 Degrees
  • Make Votes Matter
  • Compass
  • Bright Blue.

Types of pressure group

It’s also a good idea to consider the type of pressure group you apply for, as this can impact the level of communication your employer has with the government and the kinds of activities they carry out.

Insider groups have close connections with – and are regularly consulted by – the government. This means they work on communicating well-evidenced arguments in a way that persuades the government of their importance, rather than getting involved in activities like demonstrations or rallies. The level of acceptance and mutual understanding between insider groups and the government means they can often make use of ‘official’ channels to bring about change. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) are examples of insider groups.

Outsider groups are either infrequently or never consulted by government. Their impact and funding often stem from mobilising public support, so activities that engage people and secure publicity (like demonstrations) are important. Outsider groups often enjoy fewer limitations in the changes they attempt to bring about. Amnesty International and PETA are examples of outsider groups.

Positions with pressure groups

As well as employees that play a ‘front line’ role by campaigning and lobbying government, pressure groups need people in positions like financial support and marketing – who work behind the scenes and allow for the continued functioning of the organisation. Below is a list of the kinds of jobs available with pressure groups.

  • Communications and campaigns
  • Pressure groups often run campaigns, organised courses of action that contribute towards a common goal. Work in this area often involves developing campaigns by considering the most important/practical ways to bring about the overarching change the organisation is devoted to. For instance, Greenpeace’s goal is to protect the natural world from destruction and it runs campaigns under three different areas of concern: energy, nature and people.

    Work in campaigns is closely linked to work in communications; some pressure groups advertise jobs or internships in ‘communications and campaigns’. In this role, you’ll also work to raise awareness about the campaigns and encourage people to help out. This could be by recruiting volunteers or fundraising. Your responsibilities might include organising and working at events, designing and distributing printed materials (such as leaflets), creating social media content and drafting press releases.

  • Marketing
  • Working in marketing for a pressure group, you’ll be responsible for maintaining and engaging supporters. This might include creating material to be distributed online and offline (such as emails, social media posts and leaflets); helping to frame campaigns and events in a way that will attract the most support and pitching stories to the media. You’ll have to understand your main audiences and adapt the style and type of media you use to attract as many people as possible.

  • Financial support
  • Pressure groups often rely heavily on the financial support of donors. The job titles used for work in this area vary between employers. Often, work as a ‘fundraiser’ will be advertised as a voluntary position and responsibilities for this might include organising and hosting events to raise money for the group. However, you’re more likely to find a paid position in ‘financial support’ or ‘supporter engagement’, in which you’ll generally work to identify and build relationships with more long-term and lucrative sources for donations. These might be other organisations or wealthy donors.

  • Research and investigation
  • In this area of work, you’ll be conducting research to help guide the activity of the pressure group, provide the evidence with which to base their campaigns and marketing material around, and enable the organisation to put strong cases to the authorities and other organisations. Depending on the group and the role, you might spend most of your time carrying out online research in an office or there may be opportunities to work in first-hand investigations. For example, you could conduct surveys to discover people’s perception of climate change or visit battery farms to investigate the treatment of chickens there. The ability to relay your findings and adapt your written and spoken communication to different audiences is crucial.

What skills do you need and how can you attain them?

The specific attributes and skills needed to work for a pressure group vary across different positions and employers. However, pressure groups will often seek out candidates who are:

  1. Committed to the cause – no matter what position you apply for, pressure groups will look for candidates who share their core values and beliefs. If you’ve had any experience of engaging with the causes dealt with by the organisation, this will help you during the recruitment process. It will be particularly useful if you’ve carried out volunteering activities or worked for a student society specific to the pressure group – or for an organisation with closely-related motivations.
  2. Strong and adaptable communicators – when working for a pressure group, you might liaise with experts in the cause and with those who have never engaged with it, so you’ll have to be able to adapt your style of writing and speaking. Particularly in public-facing roles like communications and campaigns, you’ll need to persuade people of the importance of your employer’s cause. Many part-time or voluntary positions – such as a placement in a primary school – will help to build your ability to communicate with different audiences. Practising getting your point across will also be useful. You could do this by carrying out presentations for your university course, petitioning for a cause or joining a debating society.
  3. Aware of the best ways to engage – for marketing, communications and campaigns positions, not only will you have to be able to use the most popular mediums of engagement for your audience, but you’ll have to be able to keep on top of changes in both the type and content of communication that is best suited. Knowing what’s popular when it comes to social media and spending time familiarising yourself with them will help. You could also learn more about the best ways to gain publicity, such as by looking into search engine optimisation (SEO).
  4. Strategic thinkers – for many positions advertised by pressure groups, employees will be responsible for working with evidence and data, considering the best way to go about accumulating it and using it to further their campaigns. Read reports on the organisation’s cause, look at how they use evidence on their websites in a persuasive way and consider whether you’d do anything differently – both in terms of the information found and its presentation.
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