It’s Election Time: Got Your “Campaign Message”?

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Like it or not, it’s here. We’re roughly 450 days away from the 2016 Presidential Election and a couple dozen campaigns are already up, moving, and fiercely unavoidable.

Right now the 20-some candidates running for President and their respective campaigns are in the midst of a vital piece of the political process: Developing a Campaign Message.

The Political Campaign Planning Manual: A Step by Step Guide to Winning Elections, written by J. Brian O’Day, discusses this and many other fascinating campaign-related topics at length. The more I read this book the more I notice how much political campaign strategy resembles modern content marketing best practices.

Let’s delve into a few excerpts:

“Once you have decided who your target audience is, you need to decide what you will say to persuade them to vote for you. This is your campaign message.”

Notice campaign messaging creation occurs only after the target audience is defined. Similarly, marketing messaging should be built upon established buyer personas created with extensive data, research and analysis of your audience.

If you’re doing this correctly, every initiative and campaign you deploy as a marketer from discovery through to sales enablement is created with your buyer in mind. Therefore, accuracy of your buyer analysis is fundamental. If you’re wrong about your buyer, and everything you deploy is aligned to that inaccurate buyer, your message won’t elicit and action from your audience.

Next excerpt:

“A campaign message is not the candidate’s program of what they will do if elected, it is not a list of the issues the candidate will address…”

Translation in B2B marketing? No matter how tempting it may be, avoid being product-focused. Let’s not make this about you. Let’s talk about how you’re going to improve your constituents’ lives.

But candidates for President get a national stage to present their ideas and platform in front of millions of viewers. You’re competing in a digital hailstorm of information. Right? Not so fast.

“…voters are being bombarded with information every day. They get news on television and the radio, they get reports at work, they get advertisements all the time… Candidates think that their competition is the other person running for the same office, when in reality their competition for the voter’s attention is all the other sources of information the voter receives every day. Your campaign message has to break through that thick wall of other information.”

You had better be nodding by this point. In marketing, oftentimes your competition isn’t just your competition. It’s noise. It’s the rest of your audience’s lives. It’s other business tasks, their boss, meetings, their spouse and family, unpaid bills, the leaky faucet, and most importantly the hundreds of emails your potential customers receive each day, many of which contain their own compelling offer or download. This isn’t about beating your competition. It’s about convincing someone to do something based on the solutions to their problems that you are offering.

And once you do that:

“…voters will give you a minute or two of their precious time and attention. You must not waste it.”

Marketers create multi-step maps and drip campaigns of content under the assumption potential clients will engage with several of them, but this isn’t often the case. It’s hard enough to stand out once. If that first email, content asset or offer doesn’t hit their sweet spot, you’ve likely lost them. There’s just too much else out there to worry about.

All of this can be summarized by this useful metaphor:

“You may think of your campaign’s message as the trunk of a large oak tree, strong, stable and well rooted in your candidate’s values…The campaign issues that you will discuss are the tree branches, covering a wide area but all firmly connected to your message tree trunk. Similarly, your campaign must cover a broad range of issues that concern your target audience. However, in order to address these issues effectively…you must tie all of your issues to your campaign message.”

This further reinforces the key takeaway: In marketing, no matter what you’re presenting, regardless of the format, issue addressed, the campaign, or intended stage of the buyer’s journey, everything that emerges from your realm should be tied to your messaging. And if that messaging was, in fact, created with an accurate assessment of the buyer as the foundation, it will resonate.

That places a load of pressure on developing this fundamental messaging. The success of a campaign hinges on it, and for most candidates, replacing their political advisers and campaign managers is a first course of action when they sense their efforts are failing.

Luckily, B2B marketing isn’t nearly as cutthroat. And, there are some great models and best practices (not to mention, organizations like us) to help guide the way and help assure success.

In the meantime, happy campaigning!

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