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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.

James Carville: “Don’t let the little crap get in the way of the big shit”

During election campaigns, we spend numerous hours discussing details that actually don’t matter. Should the candidate wear a different tie? What give-away should the campaign produce? Does the candidate smile nicely on the picture? I can’t think of any candidate who has lost an election because of the tie he was wearing. James Carville, an American political consultant, famously said: “Don’t let the little crap get in the way of the big shit.” Indeed, it’s the big shit that decides elections, usually there is one defining issue. Election campaigns are a communication process and usually get lost when the people you are trying to reach don’t get what you are trying to tell them, or forget about it, or don’t want to hear it, or if it doesn’t connect with them at an emotional level. Sometimes we all get caught up in the daily business, but the end of the year and the beginning of the new year is always a good moment to spend some time thinking about the upcoming challenges: What are the big, basic decisions in your next campaign? Happy New Year to all of you. Thank you for reading and sharing my blog posts and all the best for 2018!

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.