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 precisely 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 campaign;s message as it’s story.
It’s the why you’re running for this particular office at this particular time.
A winning message, like a good movie or book, always contains certain essential elements that are universal and timeless to the human experience.
It’s why your favorite movie remains your favorite movie and continues to move and entertain you no matter how many times you’ve seen it.
It’s why The Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series continue fill book shelves in Barnes and Noble despite book stores cutting back on inventory and how long those novels have been out.
What are these essential elements that go into creating a great story for the page, the stage, the screen, and even the political campaign?
A winning political campaign message has seven essential story elements that help connect with the voters and make impact.
Here’s a run down of them
1. The Hero
Every story needs a hero.
A story without a hero is nonsense.
Your initial instinct will be to think that the hero of your campaign message is you the candidate.
It is not.
The hero of a winning campaign message 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 were living yours before you go the crazy idea to run for office.
And just like you (and me), everyone else in the world is the hero of their own story.
You must acknowledge this, remember it, and always 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.
And if the voters aren’t paying attention to you, they certainly won’t be marking their ballot next to your name.
But if you make sure the voters are the heroes of the story your campaign is telling, then they have reason to sit up, stop scrolling their social feeds, and take notice of you.
2. The Problems
A story without a problem (or problems) to solve is BORING.
Every great story has a major problem that the hero needs to overcome.
The problem in your campaign story however isn’t about how you’re going to get elected.
That’s your problem to solve, not the one the voters want solved.
Remember, you’re not the hero of the story. They are.
What are the problems the voters want solved then?
They are the things that concern, worry, or anger the voters in your community.
Identify those issues that are the problems that need to be overcome and state them clearly.
Conducting a legitimate poll of the voters in your district is the best way to learn what these problems might be.
3. The Mentor
This is the part you’ve been waiting for.
This is where you come in.
You the candidate are the mentor to the hero/heroes of the story.
Luke Skywalker had Obi-Wan Kenobi then Yoda, Frodo had Gandalf. Harry Potter had Dumbledore. Catniss had Hamich. Peter Parker had Tony Stark (at least in the MCU version), Cinderella had her Fairy Godmother.
It’s your job to give the hero (the voters) the plan to solve the problems standing in their way.
What plan you ask?
Well, that’s the next essential element of a winning campaign message.
4. The Plan
After you’ve identified the problems that are on the minds of the voters, you need to present solutions.
You must specifically lay out a plan to fix the problem (or problems) that currently trouble the voters.
Your plan should be clear and specific, stated in words the voters won’t need to ask Siri or Alexa to define.
Whatever the plan is that you present, it needs to be reasonable, realistic, and believable.
Voters are highly skeptical of politicians and campaign promises — even if it seems they buy into a line of BS way too often.
Your solutions may seem simple, but that doesn’t mean they are simplistic.
Most solutions to troubling problems often are simple even if implementing those solutions is difficult.
If you complicate your plan with too many details, you will confuse then lose the voters.
Keep the description of your plan simple, clear, and concise for the voters to understand — and so they can repeat it to their neighbors when talking about why they will be voting for you.
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 tech companies or right wing extremists or left wing radicals or the Matrix.
6. The Stakes
In every story you love there’s something at stake.
That’s true in a political campaign too.
The stakes for you are obvious. You will either win or you will lose.
But what is at stake for the voters if you don’t win your election.
You define the stakes for the voters in a two-part question:
A) what will happen if you win the election?
B) 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 the plan you’ve presented to solve the problems they want fixed.
But if they don’t vote for you (or fail to vote) what will happen then?
You need to state what will negatively happen with the problems facing the voters if the opposition prevails.
Those problems will grow worse. Much much worse.
That can’t be risked, which is why they need to vote for you so you can implement your plan that will make their lives better.
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, commercials, and digital ads you need to be straight forward and ask the people to elect you to the office you are seeking.
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 in your message and that you are the candidate with the plan to fix the problem that’s bothering them.
Now you might be wondering where “the big ask” fits into books and movies.
It’s the call to action that the mentor character makes of the hero. It’s the first step on the path known as “the hero’s journey” that actually begins the transformation of a character into a hero.
The hero steps out on the journey with the mentor who has the plan that will enable to fledgling hero to face the opposition and solve the story’s problem, then return in glory with the elixir.
Take your Messaging to the Next Level
This quick overview should give any candidate a solid start of crafting a campaign message that resonates with the voters.
But it’s only a high level overview of the messaging process I use with the candidates and campaigns I work with.
If you’re ready to go in depth and learn the secret to craft a winning message for your campaign, you can gain instant access to The Winning Message premium course by tapping this link.