9 out of 10 times the candidate with the best message wins the election. This is true even if the candidate does not have the most money to spend or doesn’t have the most stellar resume. One of the reasons this happens is that the other candidate in the race, frequently the person the insiders view as the favorite, doesn’t have a solid campaign message. Instead they talk only about themselves.
While political campaigning at it’s essences is about self-promotion, it’s much more nuanced than that. And if all you’re doing on your campaign is talking about yourself, you’re probably going to lose.
Election after election I see good candidates lose because they make their whole campaign about them. They talk about themselves, their past accomplishments, and the incredible array of support they’ve lined up for their candidacy.
All of those things are good, but they are not the essence of a winning campaign message. In fact, if you’re only talking about yourself as you campaign, you don’t really have a message at all.
A winning campaign message isn’t about you the candidate — it’s about the voters.
When candidates spend all their time talking about how awesome they are (and they may in fact be) the voters don’t connect with the candidate. After all, it’s hard for any of us to connect with someone who seems like all they do is brag.
Here’s something you need to pay attention to you if you are serious about winning.
Voters don’t want it to be all about you. Voters want to know what’s in it for them.
They need to know (and you need to tell them clearly) why they should give you their vote.
Voters are not going to cast their ballot for you if the only reason you seem to be telling them to do so is because getting elected will stroke your already over-inflated ego or look good on your resume for the next office you seek.
There needs to be substance to your campaign. That substance is your campaign message.
If your campaign doesn’t have a solid message, then in all likelihood you don’t have a winning campaign.
Here’s an example of a candidate who should have won his race, but didn’t have a message and therefore lost.
In 2012 a former client of mine, John Tavaglione, ran for a newly formed open seat in the United States House of Representatives.
At the time John had served for 18 years on the Riverside County Board of Supervisors. He came from a prominent local family with a long history throughout the district. And he was a monster fundraiser.
Yet John got his clock cleaned in a race that he was allegedly a shoe in for. How did this happen?
The main reason was because John Tavaglione didn’t have a message.
He hadn’t had a competitive race since 1994 and was quite rusty when it came to campaigning. Even in 2010 when my company handled John’s successful re-election bid, he didn’t face much of a challenge.
In stepping up for Congress though, he did. But John Tavaglione didn’t have a message and he lost.
Rather than creating a winning message that would resonate with the voters, John ran on his experience and his endorsements. He touted his 18 years on the Board of Supervisors and the long list of elected officials who were supporting his candidates.
The voters didn’t care as the results demonstrate.
John’s campaign had inadvertently painted him as a career politician and never effectively told the voters why he was running and how he could make a difference in their lives in Washington.
There’s an important lesson that candidates can learn from John Tavaglione’s unexpected loss.
If you make the campaign all about you then you don’t have a message.
You need a solid message to win an election.
A winning message is always about the voters. It always focuses on issues that frustrate the voters. And it always offers them a solution.
Find your message. Don’t make it about you. Connect with the voters and win your election.