It’s June – 5 Things You Should Be Doing Now

Political Campaign schedule june

June is the eye of the political hurricane in most parts of the country.  Up to now, it probably feels as though your campaign’s momentum has been steadily building, excitement is bubbling, the volunteer list is growing, and campaign funds are beginning to flow.  After the thrill of Memorial Day, however, many communities experience a lull in activities, since July and August are the hot and happening summer months, kids are still wrapping up school, and there aren’t any major holidays to celebrate.  Your campaign, too, will have a sort of plateau in June.  So what do you do?

  1. Family first – take advantage of the break in events and plan a couple of long weekends with your spouse and kids.  Take off early on a Thursday and escape everything for just a few days before crazy time in July, especially if you started to feel the heat with all the hoopla at the end of May.
  2. Door-to-door – You should still be pounding the pavement!  Go talk to voters.  It’s lots of fun, and keeps you in tune with what issues resonate in your community.
  3. Fairs and Festivals – In some parts of the country, county fairs and 4-H events are in full swing in June.  Your local Republican Party will likely have a booth where you can hang out and greet voters, and you may even be able to participate in some publicity – goat milking contest, anyone???  In other parts of the country, festivals are big fundraisers and there’s a new one every weekend, all summer long.  If there’s an opportunity to meet and greet voters at any in your district, you should be there.
  4. Fundraising -The need for campaign cash grows ever greater as Election Day looms.  Fundraising is something you’ll have to continue throughout the duration of your run for office, so you might as well get used to it.
  5. Start working your PR.  That’s Public Relations, in case you didn’t know.  This can be as simple as writing a letter to the editor of the local newspaper (or newspapers if your district is big enough to cover multiple papers’ areas) about current issues, or it can mean holding an official press conference to “kick-off” your campaign and layout your agenda for the media and the public.  Whatever fits the bill in your district, you need to get started on it to build name recognition and lay the groundwork with reporters for future communications.

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10 Speech Writing Rules for Political Candidates

speech writing for political campaigns

In my experience, most candidates think they are already fantastic speakers.  They assume they convey their platform eloquently, speaking quite extemporaneously, just straight out of their head. The truth is, however, they really suck at it.

Typically candidates are so intimate with their own ideas that listening to them speak in depth about an issue is like trying to start a movie halfway through.  They often forget to ‘set up’ the audience before delving into the meat of the issues. This is where having a speechwriter is terribly handy.

I love writing speeches.  To me, it’s just as much like getting into the head of a character as writing a play or novel would be.  Of course, the character we’re talking about is an actual person, which brings me to my first rule:

1. Write in the candidate’s true voice.

Sounds good, right?  But what exactly is the “candidate’s true voice” and how does one capture it?  A candidate’s voice is defined not only by the tenor and tone of it, but also the regional accent he may affect, and the small idiosyncrasies in his personality that come through in the way he talks to people.

To know the candidate’s voice, the speech writer needs to be someone who is either relatively close to the candidate personally, or someone who’s intuitive enough to pick up on a candidate’s unique voice over the course of shadowing and interviewing him for a few days.

2.  Write in the local dialect.

Do the people in your candidate’s part of the country say soda or pop?  Or is it all just Coke?  How about lollipop versus sucker?  It may not seem like a big deal, but misplaced colloquialisms can trigger suspicion, consciously or otherwise, in the mind of the voters.

3.  Don’t write over the candidate’s head.

It’s important that your candidate knows the issues.  It’s not necessary to make him sound like he’s got a PhD in each one.  Newspapers and other written media are purposely written at about a 4th grade comprehension level so that they can be digested by the largest audience.  In the same way, you should write speeches so that the average Joe can easily hear and understand them.

4.  Don’t write below the candidate, either.

If your candidate really does have a PhD that favors your campaign issues – don’t dumb him down!  The key is to capture the true nature of the candidate and then put that into words on paper.  A political candidate must be genuine above all else, and a speech is simply a vehicle for delivering the campaign message in its purist form.  A well-written speech should give as clear a picture of the candidate’s platform as a snapshot would give of his face.  Does that make sense?

5.  Don’t try to change your candidate.

I’ve never worked with a candidate I 100% agree with, and I suspect I never will, thankfully.  It’s tempting to lean into your own ideological beliefs when you’re on a role, typing away, but be sure to keep the speech true to the character of your candidate in the end.  That’s what re-writes are for.

6.  Know the local taboos.

I once worked with a political consultant who want to drop President Bush’s name about 17 times in a speech given in Harlem.  You don’t have to be a genius (she really wasn’t) to figure out that one is a turn off.

7.  Stick to the structure.

If you were required to take a basic speech or communications class in high school or college, you already know the basic structure of a speech: introduction, body, conclusion.  But a political speech has its own structure within the traditional set up that takes a certain amount of wit and strategy to pull off well.  While you have plenty of room to get your point across clearly and succinctly, you should remain within the boundaries of the classic political speech.  It’s classic, after all, because it’s been proven to work.

8.  Consider creative delivery methods.

I’ll demonstrate this rule with two stories.

I once worked with a brand-spankin’ new candidate (my favorite kind) running for a county level elected office.  He was a likable guy, but stiff and awkward in front of a crowd.  I tried to get him to loosen up and walk around during speeches; he remained tethered to the podium.  I tried to get him to interact with the audience; the idea of speaking unscripted terrified him.

I worked with another brand-spankin’ new candidate the next election cycle who was running for a state representative seat.  This guy was gregarious, and had a huge presence in front of a crowd, but he was impossible to reign in!  Stay on message?  This guy was everywhere.

I learned to write well for both of these political candidates.  One needed every word – of not only speeches but also answers to potential questions – written out and rehearsed.  The other worked well with bullet points of the key campaign topics, and nothing more.

The point is, you’ve got to figure out early where your own candidate lies on that spectrum and adapt early.  You can change your writing style.  You can’t change your candidate.

9.  Don’t take criticism personally.

If you write for others for any length of time, you’ll likely get your work ripped to shreds at least a few times.  You simply can’t take it personally.  Maybe your writing doesn’t jibe with the candidate’s speaking style yet.  Maybe you don’t fully grasp his position on a particular issue.  More often the case, things ‘read’ better than they actually sound out loud (it’s a must to read your work out loud to yourself before you hand it over to anyone else).  And most times it’s just a couple of words, or a single awkward transitional sentence that throws the whole speech off kilter.  Whatever the case, take the criticism, resolve to fix it, and then do.  The only way to get better at writing is re-writing.

10.  Know your role. 

You are one player on a campaign made of many.  Speech writing is one (albeit very important) piece of the campaign communications strategy.  Take yourself seriously.  But don’t take yourself too seriously.  Candidates will mispronounce words, jump on applause, and poorly deliver joke lines.  Role with it, learn, and become better for it.

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When Your Wife Is A Better Candidate Than You

When your wife is a better candidate than you

Yay!  A gratuitous candidate’s wife post!

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, or scoured some of the older content, you know that I love candidates’ wives.  They make dealing with their husbands a little less like banging your head against a wall.  And if you’ve got my Campaign Planbook, you know that getting the full support of the candidate’s wife is always my number one priority.  So I like to give them a shout out every now and then.

So what’s this post about?  Oh that’s right, your wife is a better politician than you are.

Let’s face it.  The Republican Party is not famous for touting tons of female candidates (neither is the Democrat Party, for that matter).  And that’s not changing any time soon.  We don’t want all that drama!

Ipso facto, most candidates for political office, and elected officials, are men.  And those men, if they’re smart, have wives.  And more often than not, those women are pretty awesome.  Not only are Republican women inherently pretty, but women are physiologically programmed to have engaging, attracting (flirtatious?) personalities.  It’s no wonder you’ll often hear a campaign manager  say, “Have Mrs. Candidate do the fundraising calls, she always closes twice as many.”  And yeah, I’ve actually heard that.

So what does that mean for the candidate?

Well mostly, it’s good news!  If your spouse is an outgoing, personable, and supportive individual, you can essentially count her as another you – doubling your efforts as candidate.  Personal contact with the candidate is the most effective way to win votes, and with a wife pulling equal weight representing you, you can essentially cover twice as much ground.

Think about it: a spouse’s endorsement is critical.  Who knows the candidate better than his wife?  When a candidate’s wife knocks on a swing voter’s door and can speak eloquently and passionately about her husband’s platform, qualifications and accomplishments, you can virtually consider that vote won.

So how do you leverage your awesome wife?


Door-knocking, parade-walking, public events, and everything in between, make sure she’s there, and always mention her in your speeches (when appropriate, like talking about your background).

Campaign Communications 

One of the first and most effective ‘wife tactics’ I came across in my political career was the use of “the wife letter.”  The wife letter was usually on pretty stationary, always handwritten, and only slightly overly sentimental. 

It’s sent out as a direct mail piece, timed to hit mailboxes within 2 or 3 days of election day, and addressed to the female voters in the household.  Designed to look like a ‘real,’ personal letter from the candidate’s wife, this mail piece always gets a huge, vocal, positive response.

I’ve seen the ‘wife letter’ concept translated to radio for local and state candidates, and to television for congressional candidates.  The idea remains the same – a romanticized, personal ‘sneak peak’ into the life of the candidate.  Works like a charm.


Being in Two Places at Once

Two important events in one night?  No problem!  Send the Mrs. in your stead.  Wives are ideal representatives at local Republican Party events and public/community events like fairs, festivals, or any sort of event where your campaign or the party might have a table set up.

Enticing Volunteers

Meeting/spending time with the candidate’s wife is pretty much just as exciting as spending time with the candidate himself for a young volunteer.  It makes them feel like they’re not just part of the team, they’re part of the family.

There are numerous ways your wife can be your campaign sidekick.  Get creative.  And remember, the family that campaigns together, stays together.

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Reacting to Negative Campaigning: The “Stop, Drop & Roll” Approach

My candidate’s opponent just announced he’s dropping out of the primary race. He was caught in a couple lies and then claimed a conspiracy between my candidate and the Democrat incumbent. After going public with his conspiracy theory he decided he did not like the person he had become and dropped out of the race.
First, how do we unite the Party after such an event? Second, we still have a primary to win; both names will be on the ballot. How do we tactfully handle the issue of our opponent forfeiting the race?

This is a fantastic, specific example of a typical PR problem you may approach on the campaign trail.  Special thanks to the commenter who posted it so that I could share the answer with everyone.  In this situation, we’re dealing with what seems to be a flighty primary competitor now, and anticipating taking on an incumbent in the general.  So it’s a double whammy.

Let’s deal with this question one part at a time.  The first issue is that your primary opponent has sunk his own ship and is trying to do as much damage to your campaign while he tanks.  He’s thrown out some negative information in accusation.  How do you handle that?


First thing’s first.  If someone points to you and yells “LIAR! LIAR! PANTS ON FIRE!” Stop and look at your pants before you do anything else.

Did you in fact have any role in what happened to your primary opponent?  If not, relax.  Your opponent has already been established as a liar, and no one will be surprised if he’s lying about you, too.

When someone throws negative accusations at you, WAIT and see if the story “has legs.”  If you give a knee-jerk reaction and hurriedly put out a press release rebutting the accusation, you’ve just signalled the media that this story may be worth looking into.  Don’t shoot yourself in the foot!  If your opponent wants to throw out a couple of false accusations before his campaign breathes it’s last, let him.  Don’t assume anyone else will pick the story up until it actually happens.


What if you get a call from a journalist wanting your response to the accusations?

This is where we can learn a good lesson from Herman Cain’s PR faux pas.  Here’s my recommendation:  Tell the truth as fully as possible.  Always.

In Cain’s case, there was a grain of truth in the accusation leveled, and denying it completely or not addressing it with the full truth right away allowed the public’s imagination to go wild.  If you don’t fill in the blanks, the press or the public will do it for you.  I promise.

We’re going to assume that you had nothing to do with your opponent’s flop and aren’t involved in a conspiracy with the Democrat incumbent.  I would say the chances are FAR GREATER that no recurring stories will pop up and people will forget the accusations or brush them off as yet another lie completely, especially if it sounds concocted and fake to begin with, which it probably does.  The public will DROP the story, and you should too.

Should the press call you up, explain that you aren’t in contact at all with the Democrat incumbent and that you have no knowledge of the events your opponent’s accusations mention.  Just drop it.


Now, if you’re on the phone with a media person about the issue, you do have to ROLL with the punches.  This is actually an opportunity.  You must follow your ‘drop’ response up with the message you want the press to write about.

You could:

  1. Site the failures of your opponent and point out how you are different.
  2. Redirect the conversation completely.  Brush off the primary opponent as yesterday’s news, and outline your campaign message for the general against your Democrat opponent.  This is where you can start your effort to reunite the party.
Now let’s address the other parts of your question:  “How do we reunite the party?”
The party divides and reunites itself all the time.  And if you’re the only Republican candidate, they certainly aren’t going to work against you.  The most that they will do is just not help you much, which isn’t that big of a loss, because the ‘help’ the county/state parties usually give is rarely ever worth much.
You need to focus on voters.  And 95% of voters are completely unaware of what ‘the party’ thinks or does.  Don’t waste any money or time on ‘reuniting’ the party.  Just be sure at party fundraisers and events that you make your support for the party clear and openly express your desire to work together with them.  Talk the talk, ya know.
It really sucks that your primary opponent will still be on the ballot.  But since he’s no longer campaigning, you just need to make sure that you still do all the work you planned to do to get your name out there.  When voters go to the polls and see your signs everywhere and have heard your message through the GOTV effort you’ve already been working on, they are going to vote for you.
And the final part:  “How do we handle the issue of our opponent forfeiting the race?”
I’ve seen campaigns that have had to handle similar issues and usually when a campaign tries to explain the issue to voters, it just confuses them, and doesn’t really change the outcome.  I say deal with the issue as minimally as possible and shift your focus to being the Republican candidate and running against the democrat incumbent.  Go ahead and start your general campaign messaging now.  That way you’ll have a strong head start when the incumbent is only just starting his campaign.
Hope this helps – let us know how things shake out!



















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How The Internet Has Changed Politics

internet campaign politics

The more things change, the more they stay the same.  The Internet has drastically changed the tactics and strategies many campaigns use to communicate to their constituencies.  But it hasn’t really changed politics.  If anything, it has simply amplified politics, making it a more commonplace part of the average American’s daily life.  The changes that have occurred, however, have made it much easier for Mr. Smith to get to Washington, and much more likely to get prematurely kicked out, as well.

The Dawn of Retail PR in Politics

Thanks to campaign websites, email, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, smartphones, and a host of other web 2.0 creations, political communications folks have amassed a wide variety of online tools to bring their campaign message directly to the voters.

Gone are the days that you have to wine and dine reporters in order to get favorable coverage, crossing your fingers that they don’t mangle your press releases.  Gone, too, are the days of brazenly having DC mistresses while your wife maintains your seemingly perfect family life back in Smalltown, USA, or of making excuses and accusations like “That was clearly taken out of context,” or, “I was misquoted,” because chances are the event or speech in question will be posted to YouTube moments after it happens. The Internet has given politicians the raw power to make or break their own reputations.

Everything in Real Time

The Internet has exponentially sped up the process of getting messages from sender to receiver, and back again.  In the blink of an eye, the whole world can – and will – find out about how you goofed up an important speech, dropped the F-bomb at a somber ceremony, or dialed 900 numbers from your cell phone.  Additionally, a candidate or politician that wants to have real communication with their constituents can do so much easier, faster and cheaper than ever before through social media, live chats, email and blogs.

Journalism Is Weakened

Since the dawn of our nation (and before) journalism has been the leading shaper of public opinion.  But thanks to the internet, journalism as we know it is fundamentally changed.  As evidenced by websites like the Drudge Report, Conservative Blogs Central and many more, it’s no longer necessary to get a degree in English and work for a paper and ink newspaper to have a dramatic impact on public opinion.  Average American citizens everywhere have the opportunity to at least make their voices heard by writing blogs, commenting on major news outlets’ online articles, microblogging through Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr, and even connecting with each other in person via Meetup.

Politics Is Still Politics

Despite all of the changes we’ve seen since the dawn of the Internet age, politics is still the same.  It’s about people.  And not just any people, your people.  The people that you represent, a.k.a. your constituency.  And it’s about maintaining an open dialog, being true to yourself and true to the needs and wants of your district.  While there are many new ways to facilitate open communication, the core meaning of politics will never change.


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Political Communications: What Is Social Media?

Social-Media-Collage political communications

What is “social media?”  Good question.  There are social media experts who write entire books on the topic without really answering anything.  But that is neither here nor there.  The real question is, what is social media for you, the candidate?

Social media refers to online interaction and networking through sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.  There are tons of other social media outlets that you could utilize, but for the purposes of a political campaign, those are really the only three that really need cultivating (someday FourSquare might be included in that list, but not now).

Facebook – is a very personal platform where people interact, usually with people they actually know in real life.  Therefore, there’s a good chance that ‘friends’ are also geographically close, and therefore in the same political districts.

Twitter – is a ‘micro-blogging’ site – you express opinions or relay information in pithy sentences on this network.

YouTube – is an excellent place to host videos for your website and to share and make available to the community.

The best way to learn about these tools, if you’re not already familiar, is to hop online and start your own account and mess around with it.

Should you have a campaign Facebook page or Twitter or YouTube account?  Sure!  If you can find a competent volunteer to maintain these tools for you, I highly recommend using these free resources.  I wouldn’t stress out, however, if you have no clue what social media is about and don’t have the time or the people to devote to it.  A lot of political consultants and even news media folk are making a big hay about social networking in politics, but it has yet to produce any real fruit for political campaigns.  ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ do not equal voters.

If you include social media as a part of your communications strategy, use it as a reinforcement of the messages you are already producing for traditional political communications methods.  You can tweet and post on Facebook your most recent press release, or a news clip of you speaking with channel 8 news, and you should thoroughly integrate social media into your website and email subscription efforts, but don’t break a sweat over social media.  It simply hasn’t proven to have the teeth that politico techies would like you to believe it has.




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Political Communications: What Is Earned Media?

Hat with Press tag political campaign earned media

“Earned media” is the campaign equivalent of public relations.  Getting earned media simply means attracting the attention of reporters and journalists and getting your name or a story in the papers or news.  The best ways to attract earned media is to create media opportunities within your campaign.  This can be done through:

  • Press releases – a one-page document distributed to local news outlets outlining whatever information you wish to impart.
  • Press conferences – an event held specifically for the press, inviting them to cover information you’ll announce at the event, usually a candidacy announcement, a major platform initiative, a response to an opponent’s attack or a bomb-drop of negative information about your opponent.
  • Campaign events – you can send political beat reporters your schedule and hope that they’ll cover things like town halls, meet & greets and the like.
  • Attending community events – often times TV or radio news-folk will attend major community events and give you an opportunity to give a sound bite.  They may or may not use it.
  • Participating in civic organization events – things like debates or ‘meet the candidate’ events are often well-attended by the press.
All of these should be seen as opportunities to get your message out to the voter through a trusted, credible source – the news.  It’s terribly important, however, to be ready for absolutely any question a reporter may throw at you.  You never want to lose your temper or stumble over your message while the cameras are rolling.  Make sure you are prepared and ready to flash a winning smile and your 30 second campaign ‘elevator pitch’ at the drop of a hat.
Also make an effort to be friendly and get to know the journalists that cover politics in your area.  The idea behind public relations is to build relationships with these people.  You will reap dividends by being exceedingly sweet to reporters.

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How to Get Anyone to Wear Your Campaign Sticker

campaign lapel sticker

I first realized I had a ‘gift’ for political campaign strategy about *cough, cough* years ago when I was volunteering for a congressional candidate at a County Lincoln Day Dinner somewhere in northern Indiana.  I was distributing campaign lapel stickers at the entrance of the event, and as part of the pseudo-friendly banter when they awkwardly shake hands and acknowledge each other, the opposing candidate mentioned me to my candidate saying, “If that girl can’t get a sticker on somebody, I tell ya, nobody can.”  He was kinda bitter to see his candidate’s name on like 75% of the attendees, and I recall my candidate smirking at this comment.

Now chances are great that I was just supporting the more awesome candidate, as I also have a knack for choosing winners, but I have to brag that I’ve always been a very convincing stickerer.

So, do lapel stickers at a Lincoln Day Dinner really matter?  Hell yes!  And here’s why:

  • It gives the appearance of massive support
  • Donors are at these events, and are more likely to sign checks with the name they see the most
  • Running for office really is a popularity contest

Here are some of the tips I’ve picked up on event sticker distribution over the years:

  1. Positioning – there will be a line of volunteers passing out campaign stickers, position in this line is critical; you want to be both first and last.
  2. Surround the target – have four volunteers stickering, two at the very front on either side of the entrance and two 10-15 feet back for a second ambush in case the first was unsuccessful.
  3. Block the way – don’t stand in the middle of the entrance but be in far enough that people will have to at least acknowledge the offer of a sticker with a ‘yes’ or ‘no.’  Don’t ever be so far back that a person would have to walk off the main pathway to retrieve a sticker from your volunteer.
  4. Use female volunteers – girls are better at stickering than boys.  It’s not about being flirtatious or attractive, it doesn’t matter if the female volunteer is 9, 19 or 90, it’s just harder to say ‘no’ to a woman.  I’m sure there’s some deep psychology behind that.
  5. Dress professionally – Most campaigns will have their volunteers in campaign t-shirts.  At an event where the attendees are wearing business casual, you should have your volunteers in business dress attire – suits, preferably.  If you don’t want to ask them to wear a suit or think they won’t have equivalent clothes, have them wear khakis or a nice skirt and provide them with a campaign logo polo shirt.
  6. Have the candidate greet – It’s a lot harder to say ‘no’ to your candidate’s sticker if he’s right there within ear shot.  Unless the event has specifically asked candidates not to, position him in the middle of the entrance area where he can smilingly shake hands with all the attendees as they come in.  Acting like a Walmart greeter, so to speak, gives your candidate ownership over the audience and boosts the impression of popularity.

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Political Communications – A breakdown

obama press conference political communications public relations paid media

There are basically two types of political communication: the kind you pay for (paid media) and the kind you don’t (earned media). Paid media refers to things like direct mail, flyers, campaign literature, TV and radio commercials and newspaper ads that you might buy in the days leading up to Election Day.  I would also include websites and email newsletters to this list.  Earned media are things like news coverage, which may appear in the newspaper, on local radio or television news broadcasts.  You garner that sort of attention through press releases and press conferences.  Let’s look at the pros and cons of each:

Paid Media Pros:

  • You control your own message
  • You speak directly to the voters
  • You determine medium, content and quality of the finished product
Paid Media Cons:
  • It’s costly
  • It can be discounted as junk mail or campaign propaganda by the recipient
  • It’s difficult to pinpoint and ensure delivery to your intended target audience
Earned Media Pros:
  • It gives you credibility
  • It’s free
  • It is distributed through channels (newspaper, talk radio, TV news) that tends to have a higher voting audience (more likely to hit your target)
Earned Media Cons:
  • Your message is filtered through (probably liberal) reporters and journalists
  • It’s difficult and never a guarantee you’ll even be covered
  • It takes time more in relationship building and planning
These are the traditional political communications channels.  However, a new, third channel has been developing for the past decade or so with the dawn of the internet: Social Media.  Social Media refers to relatively new forms of communication like blogging, Twitter (micro-blogging) and Facebook (social networking) that have come about as part of the new information age we are currently swimming in.
For major political candidates, like the current GOP presidential hopefuls, for example, it can spur a meteoric rise to the top of the ‘polls,’ and just as quickly tear that star right out of the sky.  For local candidates it still really hasn’t had an impact, but that doesn’t mean its not worth investing some time in.  We’ll add Social media pros and cons for good measure.
Social Media Pros:
  • Cheap/free
  • Control your own message
  • Encourages interaction with users
  • Encourages users to share your message with others, thus providing some credibility
  • Wildly unknown audience – there’s really no way to determine if users are actually voters or in your district
  • They talk back (and not always nicely)
  • Requires significant effort to maintain
In the coming few posts, we’ll dig deeper into each of these three areas.  For this very moment, however, take some time to think about each one, and ask yourself:
  • Am I addressing all of these communication channels in my campaign plan?
  • Which should I pursue first/most?
  • Which will be the most useful in my particular district and voter make up?
  • Do I have budget lines for each of these?
  • Do I know people who can help me craft and deliver messages in each of these channels, or how do I find that kind of help?

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12 Lessons Learned: A Critique of the 2012 Presidential Campaign Slogans

rick perry campaign slogan humor

Campaign Slogans.  How much do they matter really?  Let me tell you, a TON!

If you only spend three whole days working out your written campaign plan (which you could conceivably do with my Campaign Planbook), you should spend at least a day and a half of that coming up with your campaign slogan.  Why?  Because chances are no matter how many words you say, the most you’re ever going to get a voter to remember is this one, 5-10 word phrase – and that’s only if you repeated it a GAZILLION, MILLION TIMES.

With that in mind, I thought we’d take a look today at the 2012 GOP presidential hopefuls and see what they came up with.  I’m hoping through this constructive criticism, you’ll be able to glean some idea of what *works* in a campaign slogan, and what doesn’t.


First, let’s review the 2008 general, in which, as is ever the case, messaging was everything.

country-first john mccain campaign slogan

“Country First.”  Dull.  Vague.  Much like absolutely everything he said during the campaign.  Sorry, it’s the truth.  Dare I even say, too short?

obama campaign slogan
“Change We Can Believe In.” Woah, what’s this???  Where did this word ‘change‘ come from?  Oh, that’s right, everyone in America was already saying it!  All the democrats had to do was LISTEN!

Lesson 1: Put your ear to the railroad tracks and listen to what the voters want.  They will tell you what they want to hear!

So, on to 2012, yay!  This is going to be exciting.

rick perry campaign slogan

“It’s time to get America back to work again.”  Let’s see, where shall we start?  First of all, *duh.*  I think everybody knows it’s time to get America working again, but what the hell does it say about you Rick Perry?  Nothing about this sentence automatically makes me think of Rick Perry.  Also, he’s seriously pushing the word limit.  9 wordy words?  Couldn’t you have made it something pithier?  And how about inciting some action?  This sounds like he’s making a casual observation, not trying to call people to action.  Maybe something like “Let’s get back to work.”  Even better, find a way to say ‘jobs’ instead of ‘work’ – it’s more concrete.

Lesson 2:  Always choose concrete words over conceptual words.  

Lesson 3:  Always use active rather than passive voice.

bachmann michele campaign slogan

“American Jobs Right Now.”  It’s short.  It’s concrete.  It’s simple and singular.  I’d wager ‘American’ and ‘right’ are unnecessary.  The Bachmann team could have given more strength and motivation for action with some other choice.  In general, however, it’s really not bad.  Everybody likes to throw in ‘America’ at the national level. but it’s a little cliché.  She has room for more words and could tweak this to make this a more direct call to action: “Let’s Create American Jobs, Right Now.” or something like that.

Lesson 4:  Your slogan should be a strong call-to-action.

herman cain campaign slogan

“It’s Time to Renew the U.S.A.”  Hmm, ‘U.S.A.’ might be worse than ‘America.’  And ‘renew,’ while a fresh and interesting word choice, is still kinda vague and conceptual.  When you think of Herman Cain, you’re more likely to recall: “9-9-9,” a freakin’ brilliant unofficial slogan that pulls everything together.  Yes, it takes a little bit of explaining, but once you’ve heard it one time, you’ll never forget that ‘9-9-9′ means 9% flat income tax, 9% corporate tax, and 9% sales tax.  And nobody can forget it belongs to Herman Cain.  It really doesn’t get any more concrete and action-oriented than ‘9-9-9′ this campaign season.

Lesson 5:  Numbers sky-rocket your credibility and understandability.
Lesson 6:  New and different = High risk, high reward.

gingrich- campaign slogan 

“Win the Future.”  This campaign slogan actually riled up several commentators since Newt stole this phrase from Obama himself, and it can be abbreviated WTF.  Who doesn’t love that?  This country could use a little winning.  I’m still mulling this one over.  I’m torn between this slogan falling into the ‘too abstract’ category or the  ‘high risk, high reward’ category.  I guess we’ll wait and see.

Lesson 7:  If you’re the wittiest candidate of the year, you can get away with more.

jon huntsman campaign slogan

“Be A Part of The Solution.”  It’s a call to action.  I like that part of it.  But it doesn’t address a single issue, nor a single character trait of the candidate.  This could be anyone’s slogan, running for anything, anywhere.

Lesson 8:  Your campaign slogan is first and foremost about you.
Lesson 9:  Close #2 priority (after YOU) is mentioning your most resonant issue.

ron paul campaign slogan

“Restore America Now.”  I love three word slogans.  They just stick.  And if you choose the perfect three words, you have the most perfect slogan for your campaign.  This particular campaign slogan is perfect for Ron Paul.  It wouldn’t necessarily work for other candidates, and it wouldn’t necessarily resonate with a different voting base, but it certainly rings loud and clear with his base.

‘Restore.’  Everything that comes out of Ron Paul’s mouth ties back to the belief that America needs to go back to its constitutional roots and get rid of the piles and piles of legislation that has junked it up, and his supporters eat that up like candy – so ‘restore’ is very fitting.

‘America.’  This is the only use of ‘America’ that is not superfluous.  Other people said it to be patriotic; Paul is saying it because he’s talking about America.  He could have said ‘our nation’ or ‘our country’ but America is one word – more concise – and therefore the best choice.

‘Now.’  Well, he needed a third word.  ‘Now’ adds a sense of urgency that the public is desperately searching for right now.

Lesson 10:  Three word slogans stick.


“Believe in America.”  Another gratuitous ‘America.’  ‘Believe’ is worn out, thanks, Barack.  The fact that it’s lifted from John Kerry’s 2004 campaign is irrelevant because the voters didn’t remember it when he used it, either.  So if you haven’t gathered this already…


rick santorum campaign slogan

“The Courage to Fight for America.” Ah!  Enough ‘America’ already, guys!  Anyway,  ‘courage’ and ‘fight’ are great word choices – they both evoke strong imagery and emotion, and they’re kinda manly, don’t you think?  Which is a quality voters look for in a Republican candidate.  I like the direction Santorum is going, he just needs to get there more directly.  It’s not enough to insinuate positive qualities, you have to shove it in the voters’ faces.

Lesson 12:  Be brutally blunt with your audience.


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