Message: The King of All Political Tactics

On a used car lot, cash is king: every decision and discussion revolves around it.  How much car can I afford?  What kind of financing can I get?  Can I do a 1% down payment?

In a consumer products company, market share is king: product, staffing, and budgeting discussions all revolve around it.  What share of the market is ours?  How much do we have to spend to capture another 2%?  What is our sales manager in Topeka doing to up our local market share?

In politics, your campaign’s message is king.  Every tactic you employ must incorporate your campaign’s unified message, and every time you communicate with a voter you must put your message front and center.

What is a “message” anyway?

Simply put, your campaign message is the theme of your campaign.  It’s the big picture answer to that big picture question: Why are you running for this office?  It’s the theme that separates you from your opponents, and the one thing you want the voters to know about your candidate’s position on the issues.  It’s a broad statement of the values that define your candidacy, the values from which every single issue you talk about get their force and substance.

For example some recent, and well known, campaign messages have included:

Change : Barack Obama
Security in a dangerous world : John McCain
America’s best days are ahead of her: Ronald Reagan
A new kind of centrist leadership: Bill Clinton

Why Message is King

I say that message is the king of all political tactics because, like a monarch, your campaign’s message requires tribute and respect from each and every tactic your campaign carries out.  The only way to succeed in winning a hotly contested election is to build a strong, unified message for your campaign.  The only way to get the voters to know your message, to associate the values of your message with your candidate, is to incorporate your message into everything you do.

Every aspect of your campaign, from fundraising to door to door campaigning to your volunteer program, must revolve around your message.  Every communication you send out must relate back to your message.  Every event, every activity, every project your campaign undertakes must relate to your message, spread your message, and incorporate your message.  Your goal, at the end of the campaign, is to make sure that every voter walks into that voting booth thinking about your campaign message.

Want an example?  Let’s say you’re running for mayor in a hotly contested municipal election in Whoville.  Your opponent is the incumbent mayor, and she has held that post for the past twenty years.  During that time, businesses have left your town, taxes have gone up, and the mayor’s cronies have gotten rich.  Your campaign team has decided that the cutting issue of this campaign is honest and open government.  You campaign message?  “Honest Government for Whoville.  We Deserve It.”

Everything your campaign does must relate back to your message, or it will never stick in voters’ minds.  When you hold a press conference, it ties back to your message by noting all of the no-bid contracts given to the mayor’s friends.  You hold “Take back our government!” rallies, and your fundraising events are called “Open Government Happy Hours.”  You get endorsements from local businesspeople shut out of the process, and you pledge to hold open office hours, as mayor, two days per week to allow any citizen to address your policies directly.  Each and every tactic revolves around your message.

Don’t get me wrong… Keeping your message front and center won’t be easy.  Your supporters, your opponents, and the media will all be encouraging you to go “off message” to address their pet concerns.  Don’t do it!  Stick to the script you developed, and when Election Day comes, those voters in Whoville are going to be so upset about the mayor and her flunkies that they’ll go into the polling place saying “Honest government for Whoville?  We DO deserve it!!!”

Have you read The Top 5 Political Promises to Make to Yourself?


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