Creating your campaign message is the most important task you will perform in a political campaign. Five simple questions voters will have about you, and how you can use your answers to construct a compelling campaign message.
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This is a continuing series on how to prepare for a political campaign. In the previous one, I talked about how to identify those times in your life when something you saw, heard or experienced changed the way you think, the way you behave, or your point of view. This lesson is about how to identify and compile the elements of your campaign message.
Voters have five basic questions about any political candidate.
- Are you qualified?
- What values do your hold sacred?
- What are you going to do for me?
- Why should I trust you?
- What makes you better than your opponent?
It is incumbent on you to answer these questions during the course of a campaign. And to do so in a manner that is easily understood, in clear and compelling language. Using as few words as possible.
Some suggestions on finding answers to those five questions I mentioned to construct your campaign message.
What makes you qualified? Voters want proof that you have done something useful in your life, that you have your feet on the ground, that you have your head on straight. Did you graduate college, start a business, write a book, serve your community, raise a family, win an important award, volunteer in a civic or community organization, advance a cause, hold and keep a job, excel at your profession. Voters do not vote for resumes. But they do want to know that you are real, and that you’ve done something that qualifies you to govern on their behalf. Proof that you are not a fraud, a crook or a con-artist.
What Values do You Hold Sacred? Voters want to know that your values and fundamental notions of right and wrong are in sync with theirs. Examine your own notion of good and evil, the vile and the virtuous. What makes you angry? What do you regard as injustice? Are there lines in your moral code that you will not cross under any circumstance? Do you believe those with means should help those who have none? That children should not go hungry? What are your fundamental principles that guide your own life and conduct? We all have some sort of moral code. It is your job in a campaign to let voters know that what grounds them also grounds you.
What are you going to do for me? Voters don’t care about you. They care about what they are going to get from you.
What wrongs will you right? What injustice will you correct? What evils will you eradicate? How will you improve the quality of life for your constituents? What programs will you establish? What initiatives will you pursue? What policies will you change? What cause will you champion? How do you plan to improve your country, state, city or community? It is your job to tell voters what they get by voting for you.
If you are having trouble coming up with ideas, read the newspapers and you’ll find plenty of problems that need to be fixed. Drive around your jurisdiction and note the problems you see. Form a mastermind group of the smartest people you know and ask them. Talk to civic and community leaders in your jurisdiction.
Why should I trust you? Voters are inherently skeptical of promises made by political candidates. They need proof that they can trust you to do what you say you will. A great way to answer the trust question is the story you tell about why you are running. What happened during your life that made you passionate about having the power to make a difference? What was it that you saw or heard that led you to believe what you do today, and compels you to seek the job you do? What personal experience have you had that drives you to fix the problems and challenges of our time? Those who offer voters a compelling story that explains their “why” are those who attract deeply committed supporters, contributors and volunteers.
What makes you better than your opponent? Voters are busy people. Don’t make them hunt for the answer to this question. In a one-on-one contest, it will be incumbent upon you to tell voters why they should vote for you instead of the person you are running against. It could be a difference on an important policy question. A difference in the story you tell. A difference in your moral code and set of cherished values. A difference of priorities on problems that need to be solved and how.
This exercise is how you identify the elements of your campaign narrative. Once you have them, you can begin building and constructing your campaign message into a crisp, concise, compelling stump speech or video that you can use in your campaign. In the next installment in this series, I’ll talk about how to do that.
Political consultant Jay Townsend works with smart, passionate candidates who want to run for office, win elections and make a difference. He has successfully helped candidates learn how to run for the U.S. Senate, how to run for Congress, how to run for Mayor and develop a winning campaign marketing strategy.
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