If you're passionate about making the world a better and fairer place then working for a pressure group could be for you. Find out how you can bring about real, positive change and influence those in power

What are pressure groups?

A pressure group is an organisation that aims to influence and affect change in the interest of a particular cause. Causes can cover environmental, human rights, animal welfare or political issues for example.

Made up of people with similar opinions and beliefs, pressure groups don't seek power for themselves, instead they want to influence those in power such as governments or other authorities.

There are two main types of pressure group:

  • Insider groups are frequently consulted by government and use these 'inside' connections to bring about change. They use statistics, reports and well-evidenced arguments to make their point directly to those who can affect change. The British Medical Association (BMA), the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the National Farmers Union (NFU) are all examples of insider pressure groups.
  • Outsider groups are rarely, if ever consulted by the government and don't have any influence at this level. Therefore they tend to use high profile media campaigns and demonstrations to raise awareness and garner support for their cause. Amnesty International, Fathers4Justice, Greenpeace and PETA are examples of outsider pressure groups.

Robin Priestley campaigns director at 38 Degrees, an online political activism organisation says 'working in a campaigns organisation is a really exciting and fulfilling career choice. You get to work on a huge range of issues, supporting people all over the country to create impactful change and make the UK a fairer, kinder and more sustainable place.'

What do pressure groups do?

Pressure groups carry out a number of activates and usually operate through:

  • conducting research
  • writing political briefings (insider groups)
  • lobbying local MPs or national government
  • organising petitions
  • setting up and taking part in demonstrations, protests, rallies and marches
  • leafleting and campaigning, which can sometimes include knocking on doors to drum up support
  • writing letters and emails to influential people such as politicians and newspaper editors
  • securing media attention for their cause through publicity stunts or giving interviews
  • creating and running marketing campaigns.

'You gain a huge range of skills in things from public affairs through to technology and people management,' explains Robin. 'We often compare working at 38 Degrees to something like working in a busy newsroom. Our team is ambitious and hungry to involve millions of people across the UK in creating meaningful impact on the issues we all care about. The best thing about the job of course is that at the end of the day you know that the hard work you've done has gone towards making the world a better place.'

Who can I work for?

Popular, well-known pressure groups include:

  • Amnesty International
  • Article 19
  • Christian Aid
  • Friends of the Earth
  • Greenpeace
  • JUSTICE
  • League Against Cruel Sports         
  • Liberty
  • Make Votes Matter
  • NSPCC
  • PETA
  • RSPB
  • RSPCA
  • Stonewall
  • 38 Degrees.

What jobs could I do?

As Robin points out there's a huge range of careers available to graduates who'd like to get involved, more than you might think. Sure, the frontline work of campaigning, lobbying and shouting about the cause you're trying to promote is important but it's far from your only option. Pressure groups also need 'behind the scenes' staff - those who work in communications, IT, marketing and finance to keep the organisation running smoothly.

'Obviously working directly on a campaigns team means monitoring news, launching campaigns, thinking through political strategy and speaking with politicians and the press, as well as supporting the public directly to create change,' says Robin. 'But for every campaign launched there's also an essential team of tech developers, data analysts, communications teams, public affairs officers, office managers and HR workers.'

As the majority of pressure groups rely on public donations working in a finance role might involve processing payments, managing how the organisation's money is spent and making strategic decisions on which campaigns or projects get funding. Alternatively it could involve managing relationships between lucrative sources of donations or helping with fundraising.

In a marketing or communications role it will be your job to raise awareness of the cause, whip up new support and maintain and engage existing supporters. You could work within content and write copy for printed material such as leaflets and magazines, emails, press releases and social media posts. Another facet of this role may require you to plan and manage events or act as a media liaison.

Working in research is another option. The research and investigations you conduct will help to inform campaigns and guide the activities of the pressure group you work for. You could carry out online research, surveys and polls and present this in the form of essays, reports and statistics. 

Learn more about charity sector jobs.

How do I get a job with a pressure group?

For starters you'll need a genuine and demonstrable passion and belief in the organisations cause. This is incredibly important. Depending on the employer you may need a degree to gain finance, HR, tech or research based roles. It's likely that organisations will require some form of work experience if you'd like to work in communication, marketing or events management. If your first degree is in an unrelated subject you may want to consider a Masters, to give your application a boost.

'Really helpful skills and experience include working in press or public affairs, experience of Parliament or devolved government, public opinion polling, social media expertise, or corporate affairs,' highlights Robin.

One way to gain relevant experience is to complete an internship, voluntary position or period of work shadowing with a pressure group of interest to you. For example Greenpeace and PETA provide internship opportunities and most groups recruit volunteers. Do some research to find hidden opportunities and don't be afraid to send a speculative application asking for experience. If you struggle to get experience with a pressure group don't panic. Any relevant experience is useful so think outside the box. Gain some experience in local government, ask to shadow a marketing or communications officer or volunteer to assist or manage social media campaigns for a local charity.

The majority of organisations advertise job vacancies on their websites so make sure you regularly check for openings. Alternatively utilise your social accounts and follow and engage with pressure groups you'd be interested in working for. This is a great way of gaining knowledge of the latest news and campaigns, with the added bonus of being able to make industry connections and possibly hear of upcoming vacancies.

Learn more about getting a charity sector job.

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