Of all the tools available to candidates in political campaigns, nothing is more powerful than your story. In this video, how to use yours to win an election.
Of all the tools and techniques available to candidates in a political campaign, nothing is more powerful than your story. It’s why we call it your secret weapon. Very few candidates know how to do it. Very few candidates do it well. There is a right way, and a wrong way, and most candidates get it completely and utterly wrong.
Since our earliest days on earth, we have communicated through stories. It’s part of our DNA. The Bible is a book of stories. Before humans began to record history through pictures and words, information was passed from one generation to the next through stories. As children we asked our parents to read us stories. As adults, we are conditioned to better understand a subject when it is put in story form.
Why is your story important in a political campaign?
When you put your offer on the table, when you tell voters what you want to do for them, when you have given them the benefits of putting you in office, it does not mean that you have closed the sale. Because voters are skeptical, and suspicious of promises, and because they’ve been lied to, they naturally want to know if they can trust you to keep your promises, and do what you say you are going to do. And it is imperative that you give them a reason they can trust you. There are two ways to do that, the old way, and the new way.
The Old Way versus the New Way
This is the way most candidates try to prove they are qualified and trustworthy:
- They talk without end about everything they’ve done, the awards they’ve received, the jobs they’ve held.
- They cite some endless list of organizations they have been involved with, or volunteered for, to prove they really care.
- They talk about their fidelity to every pet cause and identity group in the land to prove they have something in common with voters.
- They cite some endless list of endorsements they have received in an effort to show you they are trustworthy because a bunch of special interest groups are supporting them.
You can do it this way, but it is a tired, old, stale and boring way to do it. There is a new and much better way, what I call your secret weapon.
Your Story. The New Way to Answer the Trust Question
I’m going to explain this by first busting a myth. And stepping on the face of conventional wisdom.
This is What Your Story is Not.
- It is not the place you were raised or the places you’ve lived.
- It is not the jobs you’ve held, or the awards you won.
- It is not the degrees you earned or where you went to school.
- It is not the service organizations you belong to or volunteered for.
- Nor is it a recitation of facts about your gender, skin color, ethnic or identity group.
This Is Your Story:
- It is about a Major Event in Your Life that Changed Who You Are.
- It is about a Time When Something Happened that Changed the Way You Feel, or What You Believe, or the way you think.
- It is an event in your life that Changed the Way You Behave.
- It is a story that reveals your notions of right and wrong, good and evil, and why you act, feel and think the way you do.
- Done correctly, it is your way of letting voters know what makes you tick, a story that lets them know they never have to worry about your integrity, or whether you’ll keep your promises; a story that lets them know you can be trusted to make important decisions on their behalf.
Meet Christine Krahulic. She once ran for Judge in a county known for its sometimes nasty and highly competitive elections. A single mother with two children, she was rejected by the party establishment, and had few resources to work with. And because she happened to be a single mother who had gone through a difficult divorce, her opponent asserted that she would not be fair to men when it came to disputes over child support and alimony payments.
We told her story: How she had been raised on a farm; how she worked side by side with her brothers digging ditches in the family orchard, making hay in the summertime, changing the oil in the farm machines; how she and her brothers were treated as equals when it came to farm chores; the story of a single mother who had raised a daughter that became a star athlete, and a son who was valedictorian of his high school.
When voters heard the story, they concluded that she was grounded with a work ethic, that she placed special priority on the welfare of children, and most important, they concluded she would treat men and women as equals in family court because of the way she was raised.
Her story answered the trust question, and she went on to win an uphill battle that stunned the political establishment.
Meet Mike Fayo. A contractor that had once had several liens placed again him for being late on payments to some of his suppliers. Mike was running for a job that required him to manage a large jurisdiction, hundreds of employees and a multi-million dollar budget.
Knowing that his opponent would use the liens to assert my client could not be trusted to manage their money, we told his story.
He was a building contractor who had been hired to build an expensive home. The owner of the property fell behind on the payments. Rather than layoff his workers and walk away from a job half done, he continued doing the work on the house until the roof was completed and the house fully protected against the winter weather. Facing a long court battle to collect the money he was owed by the owners, Mike was advised by his lawyer to declare bankruptcy which would have relieved him of all his debts. He refused.
As soon as his successful lawsuit against the owners wound its way through the court system, Mike paid every single one of his suppliers in full, with interest.
When voters heard the story, they quickly concluded that he was a man of integrity, character, one who could be trusted to do the right thing when confronted with a difficult decision.
Told Correctly, this is what your Story Will do For You
- You will connect with voters on an emotional level. When you trigger one of the 7 human emotions, you change the way they feel. When you change the way they feel, you create an emotional bond with them.
- When you tell your story correctly, you prove to voters you are qualified for the job, even if you don’t have a long resume.
- When you tell your story correctly, you prove to voters that you can be trusted to do the right thing, and make decisions on their behalf.
I’ll illustrate this with one final story.
Not long ago I attended a candidate forum where 5 candidates running for office were invited to introduce themselves, and given five minutes to do so.
I was sitting where I could watch both the audience, and the candidates.
Four of the five candidates got up and recited pieces of their life history—where they were born, raised, went to school, the jobs they held, their clubs they joined.
This is what I saw.
Not a single one of them kept the attention of the audience. They were boring, dull, totally uninteresting. And they should have known, because half the audience took out their cells phones to check their email. Those that didn’t were staring at the floor, or up at the ceiling.
The 5th and final speaker did something different. In explaining why she wanted to make it easier for kids to go to college, she told the heart wrenching story of a childhood friend—a friend who had the best grades in her high school class, won tops honors as a star track athlete, but never went to college because her parents couldn’t afford it. The story of a classmate who, because she could not go to college, spent a hard life working in a local factory, never escaped the poverty of her childhood, never lived the potential she had or the promise she showed as a bright young scholar on high school.
It was the why of her message — that all high school students who made a least a B average should have a shot at higher learning at a state college of their choice.
She used her story to illustrate her values, principles, and fundamental beliefs. No one in the audience doubted her sincerity because the story was authentically hers.
From the moment she started speaking she had the audience in the palm of her hand . All eyes were on her the entire time she spoke. And because of the way she told her story, everybody in the audience knew she could be trusted to advance a cause near and dear to them.
After the forum, people stood in line to shake her hand, volunteer in her campaign. Several even pulled out their credit cards to make a campaign contribution.
That is the power of a story. It is your secret weapon, and when you do it right, great things begin to happen in your campaign.
If you are running for office now or plan to soon and would like to talk, I invite you to book a call with me.
During our call we’ll get crystal clear on where you are right now, what you want to accomplish, and how to quickly get your campaign on the road to success.
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.
How to win an election:
Running for office and knowing how to win an election is a challenge, especially for first time political candidates just learning how to run for office. Discerning the fine points of how to campaign, raise political contributions, and execute a political campaign strategy often requires the help of someone who has served as a political strategist or who has experience as a political consultant.