Even smart candidates get this wrong in a political campaign. What voters must know if you want to win an election, before you tell them anything else.

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When you take the stage in the public arena it feels a lot different than it did when you sat in the audience.

You see all eyes focused on you. You wonder how you look. Your clothes. Your hair. Your tie. Your makeup. You think about your body language, when you are going to gesture or move your arms. You’re thinking about how to project your voice.  

And then there is the matter of what you are going to say in your political campaign. How do I let them know I’m qualified to do the job? That I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. That I’ve worked hard.  That I think the way they do? Care about the same things? About all the things I’ve done in my life. All the times I volunteered to help people in my community?

The answer to all those questions is that voters don’t care. To them it is irrelevant chatter until they know the offer you are going put on the table–what you are going to do for them after your political campaign.

Imagine you went into an apple store to buy a new iPhone–and instead of showing you a phone, the sales person starts reciting their biography, their life story, or start talking about how their yoga routine changed their life. You’d probably walk out.

Yet this is a mistake I see candidates make in a political campaign over and over again. They think their campaign is all about them–their great resume and how qualified they are.  They think voters should here their hardship story, what they’ve been through or what they had to overcome. They think they have to mention every good deed they’ve done and every identity group they belong to. Even experienced candidates fall into this trap.

A few years ago I was asked to attend the political campaign announcement speech of a candidate for Governor in the Vermont. Well respected, longtime legislator, self-made businessman who had made a fortune. His speech was a disaster.

By the time he’d reached the two minute mark in his talk he’d used the words I, me, and my more than 50 times. I could see the reaction in the crowd. People started pulling out their cell phones to check their email. By the time he was done everyone in the room was looking at their cell phone instead of him. I also noticed something when the event was over. In an audience of 300 people filled with friends, family and well-wishers, only two people stopped to sign the volunteer sheet on the way out the door. Nobody signed up because his speech was all about him.

So here is a hard truth that all candidates should know:

Voters Don’t Care about You…Until they know you care about them.

Therefore, what voters want to know before you say anything else is what you are going to do for them. Your political campaign is not about you.

It’s about a wrong you are going to right. An injustice you are going to correct.  A problem you are going to fix. How you are going to improve their quality of life; make it easier for kids to go to college, or how you’re going to fix a troubled school, or create new jobs in your community.

Until voters know what you are going to do for them they won’t and don’t care about you.

A few years ago I was helping a young 28 year old who wanted to be Mayor of a city in New York’s Hudson Valley. The city was on its knees, gangs roamed the streets at night, the city coffers were empty, streets were dirty, not even the parks were safe. We crafted a slogan that he used in all of his advertising, and he started every stump speech with these words, “Safer Streets. Cleaner Streets. Better Parks. More Playgrounds.”

That was his agenda. His top priority. He said that it needed to be done first. And he told people how he would do it. Soon he had a lot of people interested in his campaign. People signed up to volunteer, make phone calls, knock on doors and hand out literature. Perfect strangers wanted to contribute to his campaign. Including some wealthy ones who knew that a cleaner city with less crime would mean more business for them. Which illustrates a point:

When Voters Know You Care about Them…

When they see you as someone who can fix their pain…

When they see your commitment to their welfare…

When you connect with their hopes and dreams…

When they see you in a way to improve their quality of life…

Voters Start to Care About You.

And when they do, good things begin to happen to your campaign. 

People volunteer.

They contribute to your cause.

They talk about you to their friends.

They help you win an election.

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.

Schedule Your Breakthrough Session

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.


running for office

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.

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