Archives for communications

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.