How to make your campaign message work harder.

Election campaigns Screen shot 2013-05-22 at 3.57.58 PMare much like fundraising campaigns. Just over a week ago, British Columbians went to the polls, and I was reminded of the power of the message. For those of you who don’t follow BC politics, six weeks before to the election, the NDP (New Democratic Party) commanded such a significant lead pundits and pollsters said it would be next to impossible for the governing Liberal Party to close the gap. We were expecting an easy NDP majority and an utterly obliterated Liberal Party. The results: a Liberal majority. What happened?

Many factors contributed to the election results, clearly one of them was the message.

The Liberal Party’s (winning) message: The economy. Jobs. Not burdening our children with our dept.

The NDP’s message: Change for the better. One practical step at a time.

The winning message was simple, meaningful, precise and clear, and built right into the message were the Premier’s speaking points. Beautiful.

The message that lost was vague. It left me wondering precisely what changes the Party wanted to make and what they meant by better. Is being practical so important it earned a place in the headline?

Now, which of the two messages sounds like it could be used for a fundraising campaign? Sadly. The message that lost. (A google search revealed that the exact phrase, change for the better, has been used multiple times as a campaign name.)

Broad, vague messages are safe in that they are unlikely to offend anyone. They often have a nice ring to them or are often clever in someway. Mission Critical, Embracing the Future, Vision 2020 are examples of that kind of messaging.

A message that works hard is simple, meaningful, precise and clear. It communicates your most important message–the change you are working to achieve. It is the big idea you want to leave with the donor. Make it count and work for you. Help build a bigger, better ER may not have the ring of Embracing the Future, but it communicates. It identifies the ER as the project. It says the current ER is too small and too lacking, and it invites the reader to be part of a solution.

Don’t be afraid to go long. Campaign names and slogans are getting longer and longer and more and more descriptive.

Try to come up with a message that is sticky. By that I mean one that will be easy to remember. Sticky messages often surprise the hearer somehow, tie into a strong emotion, are visual, or present a tired idea in a fresh and new way.

And lastly, while we want to stay positive most of the time, it is okay to go negative if you think that message is stronger and more effective. BC Children’s Hospital has re-messaged it’s campaign and gone negative in a soft and effective way. Take a look.

It may seem like all the rules are changing. That’s because they are. The point is to make sure your campaign message communicates clearly and works for you.

Febe Galvez-Voth

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