Keeping Your Campaign on Message

One of the cardinal sins of political campaigning is failing to define your message and drive that message home to the voters.  Choosing and sticking to a well thought out message is key to your political success.

Many first time candidates and campaign managers struggle with defining a “message.”  Simply put, your campaign message is the core concept you want to convey to the voters – it’s the idea you want them to think of when they hear your candidate’s name.  For more information on developing your campaign’s message, check out my recent article How to Craft Your Campaign’s Message.

Once you research, plan, and develop your message, it’s important that every communication your campaign has with the voters centers around that message.  If you expect the voters to know your message and instantly associate it with your candidate, you need to constantly remind them what your message is. 

No matter what your campaign is doing to speak to the voters, use each opportunity to succinctly drive your message home.  Political professionals call this “staying on message.”  Staying on message requires detailed planning and is part of every aspect of your campaign.

Every time your candidate makes a speech, participates in a debate, or conducts an interview, he or she should center the talk on the campaign’s message.  Even if the question the candidate is asked or the speech topic is not related to your message, you should practice ways to bring your answer, or your speech, around to the message your campaign wants to deliver.

Similarly, every communication that comes out of your campaign, whether it is a press release, direct mail, radio or TV ads, or some other communication should focus on reminding the voters what your candidate’s name is and what your campaign’s message is.

Voters have short memories.  Very few voters will be able to remember each of the candidates’ names for every office, what their issues and biographies are, what they’ve done and what they plan to do.  It’s hard enough to get the voters to remember your candidate’s name, much less all of this information.  While your candidate should have substance and present a stand on the issues to the voters and the media, your issues and your communications should revolve around your message.  Your goal is to get the voters to at least remember your candidate’s name and message when they go into the polling booth.

Of course, one of the best ways to get the voters to remember your message is to be able to sum it up in a few words or a short phrase often called a “political slogan.”   Developing a good slogan is an art, but there are a few rules that should make it easier for you:

1.  Keep it true to your message – Don’t try to be too cute, clever, or funny.  Your slogan doesn’t have to rhyme or make people smile.  All it has to do is get your message across.  Make sure that an average voter, hearing your slogan for the first time, knows what your message is just from hearing the slogan.

2.  Keep it short – Slogans need not be whole sentences, and should never be more than one sentence.  Most good slogans are only a phrase or two linked together.  Keep your slogan short.

3.  Use emotions – During campaign season, the voters are bombarded with dozens of slogans from dozens of different candidates.  In order to make yours memorable, use emotional words that make an impact on the voters and cause them to remember your slogan and your message.


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2 comments… add one
  • Thanks for your thoughts, Danny – I think your last point is particularly important: you want to be the one who defines the terms of the campaign. Get out there early, define yourself, and your opponent, before he or she has a chance to do so.

  • Danny L. McDaniel

    I would add #4. “Voters may not be sure what they want, but they are always sure of what they don’t want.” Make sure as a candidate you know what they don’t want and stay clear of that issue or reputation. Voters on election can be fickle. Try to find those issues that will cause you to lose and run away from them. Define yourself before your opponent defines you.

    Danny L. McDaniel
    Lafayette, Indiana

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