Stay on Message: A Good Campaign Message Helps Campaign and Advocacy Goals.
Is Your campaign message ready for 2022? You may be wondering how to stay on message in the new year in order to meet your goals. The new year will bring with it plenty of forums, debates, and other public speaking events that will serve as opportunities to share your campaign message with diverse audiences. Maintaining a strong, consistent message will prove crucial as we inch closer to primaries and Election Day. Read on for some ways to help yourself stay on message, whether in politics, advocacy, or otherwise.
1. Know your time from the start.
When sharing your message, the goal is to share it all. Being cut off mid-sentence or mid-thought can throw you and doesn’t serve to convey the most important points to your audience. To reduce this risk, prepare your message at various lengths. Mingling at a fundraiser with the busiest person there? A 30 second “elevator pitch” style delivery works perfectly. Speaking with a voter who has plenty to share themselves? They are much more likely to have 2 or 3 minutes to hear your message. If you find yourself struggling to whittle down your message to just 30 seconds, pause and evaluate. Are you unknowingly including issues as part of your campaign message? Are you unsure of the difference? To make this distinction, take a look at this helpful blog post which highlights the differences between the two. Once you have that settled, start by listing your essential talking points and then add a brief intro and conclusion sentence. Practice that until you get it down to about 30 seconds. From there, add a brief sentence to each talking point that elaborates on your message. Aim to get this to about a minute and a half or two minutes, which is often the limit for personal intros or closing statements at speaking events and is also brief enough for many interactions with voters. If you are unsure how much time you will have, ask the organizer or moderator. Feeling prepared not only helps you organize messaging but can also boost your confidence.
2. The art of the pivot.
Pivoting is a communications tactic that serves to move from a particular question back to your core theme and message. Like many things, the more you practice pivoting, the better you will be at it. Think of it like answering the question you wish you were asked versus the question you were asked. You will successfully stay on message if you can tie virtually any question back to one of your core principles, campaign issues, or priorities. This is also helpful for questions you may not have specific answers to in the moment. Instead of a lackluster “I don’t know,” ensure you will find out, follow up, and then link the question thematically to another pillar of your campaign that you can speak confidently about. To be prepared to redirect questions about opponents, it is useful to create a Tully message box to help organize thoughts. Read more about the Tully message box here.
3. Repeat the message, not the question.
Repetition helps audiences remember your message. Be intentional about what you repeat. The impulse to repeat the question you were asked is natural, but it costs you the ability to frame the question on your own terms and precious time that could have been spent repeating your message instead. Have an arsenal of examples ready so you can reframe questions, stay on message, and illustrate key points of your platform.
4. Don’t overdo it.
The way in which you say something matters just as much as what you say. Although you want to stay on message, remember to avoid coming across as one-track minded. Avoid being so focused on getting talking points across that others interpret you as overly intense, uptight, or that you’ve ignored what they have to say. Remember: conversational interactions, banter, pleasantries, and staying on message are not mutually exclusive.
5. Watch your body language & tone.
Since you will be repeating your campaign themes over the course of weeks and months, it is only natural that they become second nature. After all, lots of repetition and practice is needed to help you stay on message. It may prove difficult to maintain the same level of enthusiasm for your talking points as your campaign progresses. Keep in mind that an upbeat tone and positive body language will help convey your enthusiasm to any audience and eliminate the risk of coming across bored, negative, or run of the mill. Don’t be afraid to record yourself delivering your campaign message at each length (30 seconds, 2 minutes, etc.) so that you can look back and see how you come across to others. You may notice gestures or speaking patterns you were unaware of—adjust accordingly. Check out this article for more insight on the importance of body language.
6. Know your audience.
Different messages and different approaches work for different audiences. Your overall message should stay consistent throughout your campaign, but you can and should customize your message and delivery depending on who you’re talking to. Whenever possible, learn who your audience will be ahead of the speaking engagement. Plan your talking points around specific examples that are contextually relevant and support the elements of your broader campaign message.
7. Be authentic.
Don’t try to be something you're not. Voters like people who are true to who they are, and your authenticity is an extension of your message. The more you craft your message in a way that authentically represents you, the more personable and memorable you will be to your audience.
These best practices are not the end all be all of staying on message. They serve as a starting point and will help maximize opportunities to share your ideas and gain the support needed for a victorious outcome. So, what are you waiting for? Time to get practicing!
Have more questions about keeping your campaign on message? Contact us—we look forward to hearing from you!