How Does Speechwriting Fit into My Political Communication Strategy?
Every Political Communication Strategy Needs a Speechwriting Plan
Every good political communication strategy should include a plan for speechwriting. Even if your campaign doesn’t anticipate churning out a ton of speeches, make sure you have a process ready to go for writing and finalizing speeches. If you’re running for office even at the local level, chances are you’ll want to have a speech prepared at least for Election night. If you’re intimidated by the speechwriting process, don’t panic—you can follow a simple formula to write a good speech.
First off, here are some basic tips for writing a solid speech that will fit into your overall political communication strategy:
Be concise. Don’t fear simplicity in your language. Aim to be understood by, not impressive to, your audience. Emulate Hemingway—a sentence shouldn’t drag on for multiple lines on paper.
Be brief. No matter who you are, you can bet that people will lose interest in your speech if it goes on for too long (this is not a specific reference to Bill Clinton’s 2000 State of the Union address, but it’s not not a reference either).
Have a clear call to action. What is it you want to accomplish through this speech? Keep in mind that your speech topic is different from its takeaway.
Structure is king. When it comes to speechwriting, there’s no such thing as “voice.” A good speech is a function of structure and organization—have a clear beginning, middle, and end.
Don’t tell people how to feel. Write your speech in a way that evokes feeling, but don’t tell people exactly what it is they should feel or how they should react to your words. Let them get there themselves.
Don’t be afraid to self-deprecate. Make yourself relatable to the people you’re talking to. Don’t be afraid to make fun of yourself.
Speechwriting Formula for Your Political Communication Strategy
There are many different political speechwriting approaches you can take, but a lot of folks rely on Monroe’s Motivated Sequence (whether they realize it or not). Using the five components of the Monroe Sequence, you can develop a persuasive argument to communicate just about any ask—voting, donating, volunteering, supporting a policy, you name it.
While this is the most standard sequence used in political speeches, feel free to play around with the order of the steps. Just remember that ultimately, each of these steps is helping you prove a point. Don’t be afraid to break minor grammar rules, either. Writing for the ear is different than writing for the eye. If you spoke in the same style as most great writing, you would probably come off sounding a little distant or robotic to your audience. Make sure you read what you write out loud to ensure it’ll please the ears.
1. Attention: Draw the audience in at the start of your speech. It’s often necessary to welcome people and thank certain members of your audience right away, but try to keep that part short. Instead, focus on engaging your listeners. An attention grabber could be anything from a short personal anecdote to a rhetorical question. It allows the audience to connect with you and settle in for the rest of the speech.
2. Need: The “need step” could also be known as the “problem step.” This is where your argument truly begins. In the context of a political communication strategy, the “need step” often lays out how a certain elected official or policy isn’t doing the best job. In this phase of the speech, you want to invite the audience to question the status quo and imagine a brighter future.
3. Satisfaction: Satisfaction comes when you provide a solution to a problem laid out in the “need step.” You want to calm the audience’s anxieties by sharing how you’ll eradicate the problem to make their lives better. Is the problem that small businesses in the district are struggling? Lay out your plan to strengthen the local economy.
4. Visualization: Invite your audience to imagine what their lives would look like if your proposed solution (e.g. you getting elected) came to be. Paint a clear picture that the audience can tangibly grasp—what changes for them with the vision you’ve floated?
5. Action: Ask your audience to actually DO something about the problem to achieve your solution. In a political communication strategy, this often means asking for a vote or a campaign contribution. The most strategic action steps are clear and simple. You want the audience to understand exactly what it is that they can do to help, and then feel compelled to do it. The action step should be clear, summing up the purpose of your speech. Don’t have multiple actions/asks—your audience will feel overwhelmed and walk away without a clear sense of next steps.
Do you have more questions about building a political communication strategy? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Writing a Stump Speech.