Archives for communications

How to Package Your Message

package 1In politics, it’s one thing to know what you want to say, but it’s another to put it all together in a way that helps you have an impact. And that means message packaging. It’s all about different techniques of “How” you will distribute your message in different formats for different purposes and mediums.

Here are some of the basic ways to package your message.

Create an Elevator Pitch

When it comes to effectively communicating a message, there are a lot of great lessons from the business world that we can apply to politics. One of them is known as the “elevator pitch”. It’s a condensed way to communicate what you’re doing, why, and what you want people to do – all in about the time that it takes to ride in an elevator. And it’s one of the ways that you should “package” your message.

Start from the outline in your “message map” and work to reduce it down to a thirty second pitch.

Remember to describe what you’re doing, why it’s important and relevant, and what people need to do. Be passionate and use “benefit” focused terms. Be concise and clear. Write it down. Read it. Then delete anything that’s not critical. (Wash, rinse, repeat…)

If you can’t communicate your message quickly, then you haven’t finished refining it.

Just as every business needs to “sell” something, politics and public policy is about sales too. And people respond (or not) to political messages in the same way that they do to any other sales pitch. Developing a good elevator pitch will make it easier for you (and supporters) to summarize your issue (or campaign) to others.

Fact Sheets

This is where you can add some more meat to the bones. Take your “message map” and build it out with more exhaustive information on each of the points. Find all of the relevant examples and statistics that you want to include, and even add links and references to outside sources. Add quotes from any recognizable people who are supporting the effort.

This is the type of information that becomes part “reference” for yourself, but is put together in such a way that you can make it available to people who want further information on any particular points, (including the press). You could make it available on a website, social-media, as handouts, or use it in press packets with other information that you ever make available to the media. (Remember, reporters are usually pretty lazy…this is a way of doing work for them).

Talking Points

This is a more summarized version of your fact sheets. It should be a series of the key “bullet points” (just a few sentences) that you want supporters to communicate to others. They should be like little “elevator pitches” for each point, communicating why it’s important and relevant in a succinct way, using bold and benefit focused language. It’s also a great way to help maintain some message discipline. If you actually write down what you want to say (and have others say), it’s more likely to be said. (Profound, huh?)

Support Letters

If you’re in a lobbying campaign and you’re trying to get supporters to speak out, it helps if you do a good bit of the work for them, like locating the contact information for the people they need to get in touch with. But this can also mean putting together a letter/email “template” of what they should say. Of course you don’t want a slew of identical form letters, but you can put together a basic, properly addressed, letter format for them, with your main message along with some key talking points, and encourage them to put things into their own words. The more helpful you can be, the more results you’ll see.

Also, remember that when it comes to lobbying, legislative offices are usually flooded with paper. That’s why you should always try to keep everything down to one page in length.

If it takes forever to follow an argument, then you’ve lost it.

Letters to the Editor

Just as with support letters, suggested LTRs are a great way to make it easy for supporters to help promote your message. But again, the more work you can do on the front end, the more people will participate. Let people know what media outlets you would like them to send letters to (along with contact information), and then give them access to your “fact sheets” and “talking points”. Again, encourage them to put things into their own words.

NOTE: Make your information easy to share with others, (such as with PDFs that are easy to link to, download, email, print, etc.).

Press Releases

The better written and formatted a press release is, the more likely it will get used by the media. See the tips and the example given in the chapter on “How to Write a Press Release”

Websites

A good website is your digital home base and a hub for your messaging. See the tips given in the chapter on “Online and Activities” to make sure yours is in shape if you create one.

Social Media

Now that you have put more detailed information together, use it as a resource to cherry pick key points you want to use for distribution on social media, (ex. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.), and reduce them down in length suitable to the site you’re posting on. Further, you can create graphs or images that demonstrate your points (even overlaying message text on the images), posting them and encouraging others to share them.

If you have a website, online petition or other online name “capture” for supporters, be sure to share a link to it along with what you post on social media. And of course, don’t forget to share links to any downloadable PDFs you’ve created. Remember that you can also turn Facebook posts into advertisements by paying to “boost” a post.

Broadcast

If you will be doing anything as sophisticated (and expensive) as TV or radio advertising, you’ll want to get some professional help. But keep in mind that the message should be the same. Meaning that you should be able to build off of your “message map” and any fact sheets or talking points to develop your ads.

***

The point is to make it easy for anyone – whether a supporter, potential supporter, elected official or the media – to know what you’re doing and why it’s important.

If it’s well packaged, it’s easier to “push”!

Religious Liberty and Republican Opportunity

church and stateThe recent battles over religious liberty in Indiana and Arkansas demonstrate an ironic truth: that we are actually debating whether or not you can be forced to violate your faith in a country originally settled by people looking for the freedom to practice their faith.

Let that soak in for a minute.

The hysteria was truly something to behold. Liberals descended on Indiana and its politicians like flying monkeys from The Wizard of Oz. Protesters stormed the state capital. Reporters ambushed flat-footed politicians and business owners. Corporations pontificated. Democrats huffed and puffed. Social media melted.

The source of all the fuss was passage of state-level versions of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, simply mandating that government must have a “compelling interest” to infringe on religion (a higher legal standard), and that it must use the “least restrictive” means possible whenever it does.

The federal version was probably the most bi-partisan, (nearly) unanimously passed law in modern American history (435-0 in the House and 97-3 in the Senate) and signed by Bill Clinton no less in 1993. Congress can’t generate that much bipartisan support for a resolution declaring water to be wet, but there it is, in all of its “hate mongering” glory.

The liberal claim is that such laws are just a tool to discriminate against gays, but the unavoidable fact is that allowing people of faith to decline to participate in something that violates their faith (like a gay wedding) in a country whose First Amendment guarantees the free exercise of religion is NOT discrimination. (And just how do you “discriminate” against an activity?)

As usual, the liberal hypocrisy was delicious. Democrat Governor Dan Malloy of Connecticut jumped to criticize and join a “boycott Indiana” movement despite having the same law in his own state. Many of the corporations who jeered the loudest do business in countries that not only lack religious freedom, but where women and homosexuals have NO rights whatsoever.

The Forces of Intolerance

Of course the media knew this, but chose to ignore it. Scalps had to be taken. The forces of “tolerance” now demand that government enforce their views on everyone else, and they eagerly engage in the public-relations lynching of anyone who disagrees. They have no “tolerance” for unconformity.

As Pat Buchanan put it years ago, “If we’re going to have tolerance in this country, then there has to be tolerance for the views of the majority”. But it’s truly amazing how far and how quickly things have degenerated. On the issue of gay marriage, we have gone from “just civil unions”, to so-called “marriage equality”, to “you WILL celebrate and serve” and “You will NOT publicly object”

Christian businesses are being sought out for legal retribution. Employees and even CEOs have lost their jobs simply because they contributed to referendums calling for the traditional definition of marriage. Individual supporters have even had their home addresses posted online to make organized harassment even easier.

It’s all straight out of Saul Alinksy’s “Rules for Radicals” liberal play-book: “Rule 12 – Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.”

Sound familiar? They’re working to isolate religious conservatives – particularly evangelical Christians – and marginalize them and make them toxic to others in order to chill public advocacy and philanthropy on their behalf. To make it difficult for them to live their faith and openly operate in polite society or even earn a living.

Republican Opportunities

You really have to wonder when Democrat leaders will get a little worried about their minions taking this whole anti-religion thing too far, considering the fact that religious Americans have been leaving their party for years (most recently including white Catholics). But if the party whose national delegates booed having a reference to God in their platform in 2012 wants to officially become the anti-religion party, Republicans should help them by reminding pro-faith Americans every chance they get.

The point is that religious liberty is an incredible political opportunity for Republicans, if we will learn how to make the most of it. Lesson one is to know how to talk about the issue. And lesson two is to actually talk about it. Often.

We need to recognize that liberals have won their major political battles by turning someone into a victim and winning the sympathy of Americans in the political mushy-middle. The media pounces, businesses cringe and politicians cave. It’s a familiar pattern. But now we have the opportunity to turn the tables and use the same tactic to great effect by framing the debate around our own victims.

Republicans should remember that polls show a clear majority (over 70% in the latest Rasmussen poll) favoring the rights of Christian business people to live out their faith in the course of their business and not be made to choose between their faith and their livelihood.

They should remember that tens of thousands of Americans responded with over $840,000 in less than 48 hours for a small pizzeria when it was threatened by the liberal grievance machine. How many politicians who trip over themselves to chase donors are paying attention?

They should remember that religious conservatives are their most loyal supporters, and that the estimated forty to fifty million unregistered and/or nonvoting evangelicals on the sidelines are the largest untapped reservoir in American politics. But they have to be engaged on an emotional level.

The Republican platform should continue to stand for traditional values and liberty, and grassroots conservatives should organize to reject the certain coming attempts to water down its support for the traditional definition of marriage. If that happens, we lose. Which is precisely why the liberal media will beat the drum for it next year

Elections are about math. They’re about addition and the leverage (or multiplication) you get when your base is fully engaged and truly energized. In 2008 and 2012 that wasn’t the case. The opportunity for Republicans in 2016 is clear. If religious liberty isn’t a political hill for Republicans to fight and win on, then no such hill exists.

***

Let’s be clear, for people of faith, “religious liberty” is quickly becoming the “OK, take the culture and the country and just leave me alone” position. It’s the last stand. There’s really nothing else to lose after that. It’s the terms of our surrender in the culture war. The place where we hope to make a stand and then grow and regroup for the future.

In a way, it’s kind of the same position that the original American pilgrims had. They gave up trying to live their faith at home, so they left home and came here. And several hundred years later, here we are, but with no “new world” to go to.

The other side will never accommodate. It’s time to fight or else.

How to Develop a Message

message1When you’re trying to have an impact on pretty much anything in politics it usually involves a need to communicate a clear message – whether to a group of people, the media, or both. But in order to cut through the clutter of competing messages and communicate in a way that will make a difference, you need to do a little preparation.

Before You Begin…

Before you develop a message, you really need to be able to address the following points:

  • Know your Goal: “Why” are you saying something? What are you trying to accomplish?
  • Know your Target: “Who” are you going to say it to?
  • Know your Message: “What” are you going to say. Before you develop and refine your message, you need to make sure that you know the subject matter. Are you passionate about it?

When you know the answers to those questions, you’re ready to get started.

Create a Message Map

Creating a “message map” is a simple three-step way to build your overall message.

  1. Gather all the information that’s relevant to your issue (or campaign) and distill your concerns down into bullet points. This will help you think through the process and focus your arguments.
  2. Develop a short headline that describes the essence of your issue (or campaign). Try to make it short enough to be “Twitter friendly”.
  3. Add three or four supporting points, and then some extended points to each of those, (such as including some examples, statistics, stories or news items). A good rule of thumb is to say “three things about three things”…or less if you can!

The result is that all of your content after the main headline (or message) supports that message. The process helps you create an outline (or “map”) for your overall message and will help you further refine it as you go. It will also be a resource later if you need to develop a “theme” for your effort, or as you “package” your message for supporters, the media, print-material or even speeches.

Once you’ve got a good initial draft, then review and refine in in terms of the remaining points in this chapter.

Make it Resonate

Make sure that you describe “why” your message is important in a way that is compelling and relevant to people and fits their value system. People will support an idea (or candidate) that they think can make a difference – or someone who speaks to their values and cares about the things they care about. Remember, a shared concern plus your unique proposal (or qualities) can equal an emotional connection with the audience.

Describe the Key Benefits

Make sure that people understand the key benefits of your position (or the “qualifications” of a candidate). How will your ideas (or candidate) make a difference? What’s in it for them?

Define the Problem to Fit Your Solution

Make sure that you define the problem that your message addresses in such a way that people can easily see how it will be “solved” by the solution or outcome that you’re calling for (or by the unique qualifications of a candidate, if it’s an election situation).

Make it a Choice

A good message will force people to make a choice. It should be framed in such a way that they have only one acceptable choice – yours. Don’t give them an alternative.

Make it Personal

Abstract arguments are not as good as explaining how an issue really impacts people’s lives. Find a victim or a success story that people can relate to and humanize the issue. A victim is a “poster child” who illustrates the problems you want addressed, and a success story illustrates the good things that will happen if your position is successful.

Make it Actionable

Be sure that the message is “actionable” by defining what specific action you want people to take. What do they do after they’ve heard you? And make sure that they can see how the action that you ask them to take will help “fix” the problem.

Keep it Simple and Clear

Muddled messages don’t move people. Keep it simple, clear and to the point so people have absolutely no doubt what it’s about and why it’s important.

Short-Circuit the Opposition’s Arguments

If you understand what your opposition is saying, you will know how to communicate your own message in a way that counters their arguments and undermines their credibility.

***

If you’re going to go to the trouble of speaking out for a policy or proposal that you believe in, (or even run a campaign), then you may as well go to the (slightly more) trouble of developing a relevant, clear and concise message that can help you be more successful.

Otherwise, what’s the point?