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This blog offers an international look at the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. Indeed, campaigners worldwide are fascinated with American election campaigns. We observe relentless paid television advertising, straight-forward attack spots, sophisticated targeting and record-breaking fundraising. One cannot – and should not – simply copy paste American campaign techniques. However, campaigners out there in Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia can get a lot of inspiration and specific takeaways from the most professional campaign in the world. This is the purpose of this blog.

Checklist for a Winning Campaign Message

In my last post, I wrote that a good campaign message should be simple and understandable. While this is a necessary pre-condition, it takes more for a winning campaign message. Here's a checklist for a winning campaign message I learned from Dr. Ronald Faucheux's book Running for Office. A good message should be:

•    Short
•    Relevant
•    Believable
•    Show contrast
•    A coherent narrative
•    Written down in a campaign plan
•    Tested
•    Be repeated over and over again
•    Fully communicated

A Winning Campaign Message

In every campaign, there is talk about slogans, issues and messages. Few campaigns communicate a message the way I understand it: The message is a coherent reason and narrative why voters should vote for your side and not one of the other sides. I always tell my clients: A good message is more than a slogan, yet less than a party platform. To begin with, a good message has to be simple. This doesn’t mean that it should be empty of content (I would never advocate that!), but it should be understandable.

In that respect, a recent study by Daniel Bischof and Roman Senninger is very interesting. The two authors analyzed 175 party manifestos of German and Austrian parties. It covered a time period from 1945-2013. They found out that, on the average, the language the parties used was more complicated than the language used in the German newspaper Die Zeit (measured by counting the number of words per sentence and by assessing the complexity of the words used). Heck, the party language was more complex than literature written by German authors such as Franz Kafka or Thomas Mann. No wonder voters look for an alternative that is easier to understand.

Austrian Elections: Center-Right and Populist Right Grow Simultaneously

The Austrian people has spoken pretty clearly last Sunday. Two parties, the center-right OEVP and the populist right FPOE, who both campaigned on the issue of immigration, have won the elections. It is noteworthy that the two parties grew at the same time. The OEVP won a stunning additional 7.6% while the FPOE added 5.5%. to its previous score. In the past, it would usually be either the OEVP or the FPOE that would win voters. As a general rule, it is also dangerous for a center-right party to campaign on the issues of the far right. As French Jean-Marie Le Pen famously said, French voters vote for the original. In the case of Sebastian Kurz, however, campaigning on the traditional issue of the FPOE didn’t backfire. One of the reasons for this is that as a foreign minister who was instrumental in closing the so-called Balkan route, Kurz had his very own and personal credibility as a messenger on the issue.