A Checklist for a Winning Campaign Message

Dr. Louis Perron
blog post louis

A good campaign message should be short and simple. But there is more to it. If you look at political campaign ads and other materials, they are often conceptually the same. “Look at how great I am,” the candidates all seem to be saying. I regularly notice this when I work in countries where I don’t understand the local language. By simply looking at the visuals and by listening to the voice over, I can feel that somebody is trying to sell me something. The entire point about message development is to focus on the voters and to tell them what’s in it for them. Now, in every campaign, there is talk about slogans, issues and messages. Few campaigns communicate a message the way I learned it many years ago from my professor at the Graduate School of Political Management in Washington D.C., Dr. Ronald Faucheux, and have applied it ever since: the message is a coherent reason and narrative why voters should vote for your side and not one of the other sides. In that sense, a good message is more than a slogan, yet less than a party platform. It’s the application of the party program or platform to the current situation, given the political demand of the time, your strengths and weaknesses and your opponent(s) strengths and weaknesses. A good message is also more than a mission statement – there has to be urgency. Why vote for my side this time? According to Faucheux, and I agree, a winning campaign message should be:

  • Short (because people have other worries)
  • Simple (the least educated voter should understand it)
  • Relevant to people’s daily concerns (not ideological theory)
  • Believable (this is a big challenge in developing countries!)
  • Show contrast between your side and your opponent(s) (in a way that is favorable to you)
  • A coherent narrative
  • Written down in a campaign plan
  • Tested (meaning through public opinion research)
  • Be repeated over and over again (use pictures to communicate the message)
  • Fully communicated (again, public opinion research should be used to check and track that)

How many of those criteria do you and your party meet?

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