By Ed Stephenson - July 6, 2017
ALDC exists to provide the advice, resources and training you need to get elected and make a difference for your community. As well as the information you can get from our advice line or from our development officers, we also offer an FAQ section on our website with over 200 of the most common questions answered. Below we’ve included our FAQ answer about messaging which is one of the keys to a successful campaign. Without relevant messages the electorate simply won’t care about our campaigns or our candidates.
Remember you can get help with your message at our Kickstart weekends. You can book now for the November Kickstart.
Here’s our advice article on messaging…
Key messages are a short and simple list of points that we want electors to know by the end of an election campaign.
They need to be short and simple, and repeated throughout the campaign if they are to stand any chance of getting through to the wider electorate. Most successful campaigns will have three key messages. One way of thinking about what you want your key messages to be is to ask the question: “What are the three things I want a voter to be thinking as they walk into the polling station?”
Your key messages must have integrity or they will quickly be found out by voters. This integrity needs to be demonstrated over the course of a campaign so that by the last few weeks the electorate know them to be true. This means using examples in stories to demonstrate the truth. For example, a candidate whose message is about how they work hard all year round must show the electorate their work/action/success through regular news updates.
It is worth involving the core team in the discussion about what your key messages are going to be – they will be helping to deliver your message and will do so more enthusiastically if they feel they’ve had a say.
You should also work out your key messages as early in the campaign as possible. Messages get through to the wider electorate by regular repetition, and the earlier you start, the more likely you are to get your messages across. Your mantra should be – on message, in volume, over time.
Here are two simple ways to work out your key messages:
One way of working out your messages is to use a message grid. A message grid asks not just about your messages but makes you think about how those will play against opposition messages too. A blank message grid is available to download.
‘Three things to remember’:
Another common way of setting out your key messages is to come up with ‘three things to remember’ based on the answers to these three questions:
As an example you might come up with:
You should make sure that a copy of your key messages is pinned to the wall in your party office, print room, above the computer where leaflets are artworked, or anywhere else where campaigners work. This helps to remind all party activists of the messages you are trying to get across.
There are a number of ways you can make your key messages more successful:
Over time you will run campaigns where you have too many good ideas for messages and those were you have too few. Don’t worry, go out and knock on doors and test them. Don’t be afraid to change, but give them time to get through too. It will take an absolute minimum of three leaflets to get a message across so be patient.
You should make sure these messages are known as widely in your campaign team as possible, and run through every piece of literature that you do. The messages can be put across by campaigning on the issues that are crucial in the ward that is being contested. They can also be put across through appropriate photos, as well as through graphics such as bar charts.
What is clear though is that the messages only work if they are used consistently in every piece of literature, which you should be producing regularly throughout the ward all year round.
It is worth reviewing your messages at regular intervals. Although they should not change wholesale, you may wish to tweak them based on new issues that emerge or if you find out from public feedback that certain ones are not working. It can also often be clear that a message is working well if the opposition parties feel the need to respond to your messages in their leaflets, such as trying to rebut them or if they start campaigning on an issue that you picked up first. During the election campaign itself you can format your key messages as ‘three things to remember’ and repeat them on as many items of literature as possible.
Key messages are aimed at persuading swing voters to switch to us, to encourage our weaker supporters to turn out and to persuade third and fourth party supporters to vote for us tactically. If your messages do this successfully then you will help maximise the Lib Dem vote.
When deciding your key messages it is worth thinking about this and asking these questions:
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