How To Stay On Campaign Message
How to stay on message
With the first Democratic debate quickly approaching, let's discuss the importance of a strong campaign message. Presidential debates are a great way to learn what to do and what not to do. Staying on message is an art form, whether you are in politics, advocacy or in business. Below are a few best practices for staying on message.
Pivot, pivot, pivot:
When you look at candidates for office, a common communications tactic is the pivot. This is the practice of moving from a question back to your core theme and message. Pivoting to your message is usually a good thing and can be done effortlessly with enough practice. Without practice, however, it can be awkward and set off alarm bells. The more experience you have, the easier it will be.
Repeat the message:
Repeating your message is a good practice. Generally, you can repeat the same theme using different issues as examples. This is something candidates can do really well when they are disciplined.
Don’t repeat the question:
Repeating the question a reporter asks in your answer can cause you to lose control of the interview and in many case will put you on defense. Stay on offense and frame the question the way you want.
Answering a question vs. responding to a question:
When working with first time candidates, many want to answer the question they have been asked verbatim. I try and get candidates to respond to a question, rather than answer it. Responding means putting the question in your words and in your frame.
There’s a fine line between focus and angry:
The way in which you say something matters just as much as what you say. You may think you're focused, but other people might misinterpret your behavior as being angry.
Watch your body language:
There are many classic examples of body language saying things that the candidate didn't actually mean to. You may be giving off a negative impression, so always be mindful of the message you are sending with your body language.
Know your strengths:
Once you know what your strengths are, you can match that to the needs of your community.
Know your weaknesses:
Your weaknesses are likely what you will be attacked for, so understanding your weaknesses early on can help prepare and therefore minimize the damage. Being prepared and honest will allow you to overcome a lot. Voters will ignore a lot of flaws if they see competence in other areas. Being clear about what makes you the right choice can make all the difference.
Know your audience:
Different messages and different approaches work for different audiences. Be cognizant, however, that these will be tweaks to your message and the way you deliver it, but not a completely different message. Your overall message phonetic should stay consistent throughout your campaign.
Don’t try and be something you're not. Voters like people who are true to who they are. And your authenticity is an extension of your message. If people tell you you need to change to be successful, they’re doing it wrong.
Joe Fuld is the president of The Campaign Workshop; a DC based political advertising and consulting firm. He is the co-author of four e-books on campaign and advocacy tactics.