A campaign can make as much noise as it likes, but until it becomes significant to those who have influence over its outcome, it will get nowhere. How is significance constituted? There are two basic conditions which determine whether a subject has significance or not. One is tangibility, the other is agency. Can it touch me and can I do anything about it? Even if I think it can touch me, if I think there's nothing I can do about it, the subject remains academic and will not influence my behaviour. When a subject does become significant, it then enters a competition with other things that compete for my attention. Whether it gets addressed or not depends on how significant I judge it to be and how pressing it has become.

A very useful concept in campaigning is to determine where the threshold of significance lies for a particular audience. Below that threshold a campaign can make very important tactical advances without drawing attention to itself. This is a hugely underestimated facet of campaigning. Below the threshold the campaign should focus on building its foundation and achieving gradual incremental change. But once the threshold is reached and the campaign goes critical, everything changes.

Significance assessment

Diagrams: Significance assessment

Source: adapted from BCG original matrix