The candidate who wins an election isn’t always the candidate with the most money, most endorsements, or most volunteers.
The winning candidate is quite often the person who has the best message.
If you’re serious about winning your election, then your campaign must have a winning message.
But what makes for a winning message?
First off, don’t think of your message as talking points – though you will get your points from your message.
Think of your message as a story.
It’s the story of your campaign and why you’re running for office.
And a winning message, like a good movie or book, always has essential elements that help the story teller connect.
For political campaigns, there are 7 elements of a message that are needed to have a winning message.
1. The Hero
Every story needs a hero.
A story without a hero is nonsense.
Now you may think the hero of your campaign story is you the candidate. It’s not.
The hero of a winning campaign story is the voters.
This may sound counter-intuitive, but it’s not.
To motivate voters to cast a ballot for you, you first must reach them where they are at
So where are the voters when you come campaigning into their lives?
They’re living their lives just like you’re living yours.
And everyone is the hero of their own stories.
You must acknowledge this and make it part of your campaign.
If you’re the hero of the story, the voters don’t have a single reason to pay attention to you.
But if they’re the heroes of the story you’re telling, then they have reason to sit up and take notice.
2. The Problems
A story without problems to solve is BORING.
Every great story has a problem that the hero needs to overcome.
The problem of your campaign story however isn’t about how you’re going to get elected.
Remember, you’re not the hero of the story.
What are the problems the voters want solved?
Identify those issues and state them clearly.
3. The Mentor
This is where you come in.
You’re the mentor to the hero of the story.
Luke Skywalker had Obi-Wan Kenobi. Frodo had Gandalf. Harry Potter had Dumbledore. Catniss had Hamich.
It’s your job to give the hero (the voters) the plan to solve the problems being faced.
What plan you ask?
Well, that’s the next element of the winning message.
4. The Plan
After you’ve identified the problems that are on the minds of the voters, you need to present a solution.
You need to specifically lay out a plan to fix the problem that’s troubling them.
Your plan should be clear and specific, stated in words the voters won’t need a dictionary to understand.
Whatever you plan you present is, it needs to be reasonable and believable.
Voters are highly skeptical of politicians and campaign promises.
Your solution to the problem doesn’t need to be simple, but it must make sense to the voters.
5. The Opposition
The opposition is the villain that is standing in the way of the problems being solved.
It’s probably the person you are running against.
There’s nothing wrong with that.
If you’re challenging an incumbent, you definitely need to cast that person in the role of the villain.
But the opposition doesn’t always have to be another candidate.
It doesn’t even need to be a specific person.
It can be something intangible like the government or corporations or unions or special interests or the mysterious Surf Nazis of Ridgemont High.
Donald Trump did an exceptional job in 2016 of casting not only his opponents but also the federal government and special interests as villains working hard to undermine the American Dream for the voters who were the heroes of the story he was telling during his campaign.
6. The Stakes
In any story you pick up and read or movie you watch, there has to be something at stake.
The stakes are this: what will happen if you win the election, but what will happen should you lose?
If the voters cast a ballot for you, then you can go to work on their behalf to implement their plan and solve their problems.
But if they don’t vote for you, or worse fail to vote, what will happen then?
It the opposition prevails, what will happen to the problems facing the voters?
7. The Big Ask
As soon as you put the stakes out there for the voters to consider, then you must make the Big Ask.
If you want to win, you must ask the voters for their vote.
You cannot be shy about this.
There is no reason for them to mark your name on their ballot if you’re afraid to ask people for their vote.
This must be in every part of your messaging.
In your mail or commercials you can say straight forward to vote for or elect you.
In person, you can ask, “Can I count on your vote?” or humbly state, “I’d be honored to have your vote.”
If they say yes, thank them, get them to sign an endorsement card, then see if you can put a sign in their yard.
When a voter publicly lets you use their name or displays your campaign sign at their home, this is a secondary commitment that demonstrates they believe your story and that you are the guide with the plan to fix the problem that’s bothering them.
Now that you know the seven key elements of a winning campaign message, think about these elements and how they apply to your race.
Take the time to think deeply about these seven elements then write down your campaign’s messaging
Know each of the following:
1. Which voters do you need on your side to win?
2. What problems are they facing?
3. What qualifies you to be their mentor?
4. What’s the plan to fix the problems?
5. Who is the opposition?
6. What’s at stake in this election?
7. Always always always make the Big Ask for votes in all your messaging