Archives for communications

Issues Win Campaigns

Whether you’re running a grassroots organization, a lobbying campaign or an election campaign, issues matter.

As legendary South Carolina political consultant Lee Atwater used to say “Issues win campaigns”, and he was exactly right. Issues win campaigns because campaigns are about people…and people are moved by issues.

Issues can be used to unite voters behind a cause or candidate, or divide them away from a cause or candidate that they may currently support. They can also be used to compliment a candidate or group’s image, if they’re consistent with the image that you want to portray.

Choose the Right Issues

Most people hate politics. They don’t typically get involved because they’ve got too much spare time on their hands. Something motivates them. They care about something. Find out what that is.

Find issues that are relevant to the people whose support you need and that are important enough to move them to take action. The kind that not only motivate people, but that sometimes may even divide your supporters from your opponents – passionately.

In many cases it can even work to your advantage to make an election, a vote you’re lobbying, or even a PR campaign, into a “referendum” on a specific issue or group of issues. In other words, you can piggy-back on public support for an issue that people care about by equating support for your cause or campaign with support for that issue.

Highlight Your Issues

Don’t try to talk about every issue under the sun. It’s one thing to have a lot of issue positions as part of a platform, but that doesn’t mean that you spend all of your time and resources talking about all of them. Focus on YOUR issues.

Remember that in order for issues to have an impact, people must be aware of the differences between you and the opposition. They have to be highlighted aggressively and repeatedly.

Zoom in on the few issues that will do your cause or campaign the most good…and then wear them out like a rented mule.

How to Create a Simple Communications Plan

0 MTEtMTUwLmpwZw==A huge part of having an impact in politics is being able to communicate a message that resonates with people. That means that you need to have “something to say” about things that people care about. But it also means that you need to have a plan for being be able to “say it” as often – and in as many “places” – as it takes to penetrate people’s minds, impact the way that they think and cause them to take action.

If you can’t do that then you’re wasting your time.

There are several simple steps to a good communications plan, but one of the first things to remember is that you need to WRITE IT DOWN. It doesn’t help you to spend time figuring out what, where, how and when to say something and then not have it written down so that you can refer to it later and make sure that you’re staying on track.

Think of it as a road-map. Without it, it’s easy to get lost and waste a lot of time and resources.

Key Elements of a Simple Communications Plan:

Think about and determine each of these separately, then put them together and you’ve got a simple but effective communications plan for any campaign, organization or lobbying effort. If you need to adapt and change it later as you go along, fine. Just be sure to keep it written down and easy to understand.

Follow the links above to get some simple tips on how to use many of the most common tools for communicating your message.

Remember: fail to plan, plan to fail!

How to Push Your Message

Whether you’re pushing a single issue, a lobbying campaign, or working for a candidate (or you are a candidate), it doesn’t make much sense to develop and package a message and then not try to push it out the door. It’s sort of like having a better mouse-trap and not letting anyone know about it. The world will pass you by.

Here are some rules to remember for effectively communicating your message:

Have a Purpose for Every Message

Don’t put anything out without knowing exactly “why” you’re doing it. Don’t flood supporters or the press with content just for the sake of it. Know what you want to accomplish and how it relates to your goals.

Target Your Audience

Before you push out a message, make sure that you know “who” you want to hear it. This will help make sure that you craft the message in a way that speaks to them and that you distribute it in a way that reaches them.

Saturate All Relevant Outlets

Make sure that you saturate the outlets where your target audience is most likely to receive it. That includes all of the relevant communications tools and venues at your disposal, such as websites, Email, social network messages (and promotional image sharing), hashtags, direct mail, meetings, networking, fact sheets, talking points, letters-to-the-editor, op-ed columns, press releases and interviews (even advertising).

Be Proactive

If you want to get people or the press interested in something, than you have to speak up. With potential supporters, that means using all of the means at your disposal to let them know what you’re doing and why. If you’re working to get media attention, when a story breaks that’s relevant to your issue (or campaign), actively make yourself available to them. Contact whoever is covering the story and tell them how you’re involved with the issue and ask if they would like a quote. Follow it up with a fact sheet and/or a press release.

Have an Angle

Your messages should always feature an “angle”, meaning an interesting hook that you can “hang it on” that would interest people (and the media) in finding out more about it. That doesn’t mean that you develop a new primary message, but rather that you find a way to relate your primary message to something interesting or timely, (current events for example). It’s a way to keep your primary message relevant and interesting – and more likely to be opened, clicked, shared, reported on, etc.

Never try to promote more than one angle at a time – it only muddles your message. Find one angle and stick with it in each communication. This also helps give you better control over what actually gets shared or reported.

Keep it Simple and Clear

Keep things direct and focused on whatever angle opens the door for your “primary” message. Use simple language and terms. Don’t try to impress everyone with a barrage of information. If you want to make further details available, add a link to it.

Use Key Phrases

Create short phrases (or sound bites) that drive your primary message that you can use repeatedly in any messaging environment. Phrases that use bold, descriptive words that amplify your point. For example, the kind of phrases that you could shorten even further into a social media #hashtag.

Be Quotable

One way to increase the odds that what you promote will get more attention is to be quotable. Find ways to express your opinion on the current “angle” in a way that supports your primary message, and is pithy and to the point. Spend time putting such quotes together ahead of time; some serious and some humorous. Use them for your social media efforts, and work them into quotes that you give the media. Just be careful not to be quotable in a way that would frustrate your efforts.

Stay on Message

Once you’re confident with what you want to talk about, remember to stay ON message. What good does it do to prepare a message and then get distracted from delivering it? No matter what the question or the subject, either find a way to relate it back to your primary message or answer it quickly and then move back to what you want to talk about.

Repeat and Multiply Your Efforts

If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there, does it make a noise? If you develop and package a message, but nobody sees or hears it, does it have an impact? And does it have more of an impact if people just encounter it once, or repeatedly?

You need to remember that people are constantly bombarded with messages competing for their attention. The only way to cut through the clutter is to consistently hit people repeatedly and in as many venues that are relevant to your targets as you can. If they continue to receive the same message over and over from multiple directions, it’s more likely to sink in.

Remember, when it comes to messaging, REPETITION + MULTIPLICATION = IMPACT.

If you don’t care enough about your message to invest in making sure that it penetrates, then you need a new message.

There are plenty of venues and opportunities to share your message. Just remember that it needs to be relevant, simple, clear, packaged properly and pushed repeatedly to have an impact.