When we last left off, I was answering a friend who asked, “How would a first-time candidate – or even one who’s lost a campaign or two – know how to hire the kind of campaign manager that would likely lead to a win.”
We’ve already covered that the best campaign managers are essentially apolitical, and they generally work with candidates who think like winners. So, let’s continue with our third point:
3. The best campaign managers know how to frame a message and reframe an attack
And that always starts with the understanding that the average American voter has the attention span of an off-meds ADHD sixth-grader coming off a three-day sugar and videogaming binge.
Think about the best political slogans: “Yes we can,” “Hope and change,” “It’s morning again in America,” “It’s the economy, stupid” and “All the way with LBJ.” They’re short, simple, sweet and memorable.
And that core message should always be based on the candidate’s easily identifiable core strength.
For example, we helped an Aurora, Illinois, mayoral candidate who clearly was “the preacher,” by building his entire messaging strategy around that persona. A Geneva, Illinois, alderman was “The Voice of Reason,” which we used as his slogan. An Elgin, Illinois City Council candidate was, indeed, “the likeable guy,” and a thoughtful school board candidate was “a fresh voice.”
With that central truth in hand, generate three pithy bullet points that will be plastered on every piece of campaign literature because, apart from the candidate’s name, that’s all the voter will read on their way from the mailbox or front door to the recycling bin.
Conversely, the trend towards four-page mailers is outright political insanity, not to mention a vast waste of precious campaign resources.
But while coming up with that core campaign message is crucial, when you consider the escalating contentiousness of local campaigns, where great campaign managers really shine is in their capacity to reframe attacks on their candidates.
Going back to our Aurora mayoral candidate, the campaign got word his opponent was going to go after him for being a defense attorney. And sure enough, that attack came in the form of a mailer claiming the candidate defended “rapists and domestic abusers.” So here’s how we reframed that message:
The American justice system is based on the proposition that every defendant is presumed innocent. It’s a fundamental assertion that sets us apart from dictatorships, repressive regimes, and even the European Union.
My opponent forgets that I was also a prosecutor. And it takes a prosecutor to understand exactly what it means to bring the full weight of “The People” to bear against one defendant. Everyone charged is entitled to a zealous defense. Without it, trials would become mere theater. Illinois abandoned the death penalty because so many post-trial death-row inmates were proven innocent
Abraham Lincoln was a defense attorney. Clarence Darrow was a defense attorney. John Adams was a defense attorney. I’m proud to count myself among their company and I do my best to live up to that standard every day.
I’m surprised and disappointed my opponent fails to grasp this very basic American principle.
Not only did we blunt the attempted ambush, but we turned it around on the campaign team that issued it.
Broken down to brass tacks
Broken down to brass tacks, a political campaign is simply an exercise in effective communication. Thus, smart candidates always want to choose a campaign manager who has a great messaging track record. That includes the capacity to come up with a core message that not only resonates with the candidate, but with district voters.
Add the capacity to reframe an attack and you’re halfway to an election day win!
In our final part-three installment, we’ll explain how the best campaign managers anticipate and prevent campaign problems before they occur!
If you’re considering running for office, have a conversation with the professionals at Forward Communication. We help first-time and experienced candidates craft the kind of messaging that wins elections. Contact Us