Last week, we continued our article series with talk of banking gotchas and campaign finance compliance. This week, we’re covering messaging – how to shape your message and how to get it out to the public in the broadest way.
As we have in each prior article, we strongly encourage you to find knowledgeable legal counsel to help you avoid trouble. We also recommend that you consider looking outside of your immediate area for such an attorney to minimize the influence of local politics, personal conflicts or working entanglements on their advice.
How do I craft my message when talking about my cause or position?
Be honest, direct, concise and accurate. The voting public is already tired of being lied to, treated like a pack of fools and stampeded into reacting to drama and hyperbole. What stands out is being sincere, getting to the point quickly and speaking like one of them because you are one of them.
- Stick to a single, simply defined topic with each ad. Being blunt is not a bad thing so long as you avoid coming across as rude or aggressive. Too many words confuse the point and too many points confuse the message. If more than one point needs to be made, make a second ad.
- Hide nothing, research everything, be able to cite source for anything. If a damaging quote is long, it’s fine to truncate it to remove the irrelevant parts but don’t twist words or make it sound like something it isn’t. Citations from sources that don’t support your side are best.
- Be passionate, not crazy. You wouldn’t be involved if you didn’t care and it’s okay to let fellow citizens know how you feel because you want them to connect on that same emotional level. However, if you come across as raving, your points will be ignored no matter how logical or valid they are. Find the line.
- Do not contradict previous messages. This is especially true for internet-based messaging, which is archived and easily searchable. The internet truly is forever. Post accordingly.
- Do not lie or slander. “The people that wrote X are Communist traitors, so is anyone that votes yes on it and, if it passes, we’re all on the way to the gas chamber,” will win you no friends and may get you sued. “X restricts a fundamental civil right and its passage would provide legal precedent for limiting other fundamental rights,” is likely to resonate more and talks about the issue, not the supporters.
How do I start getting my message heard by the public?
The most accessible and affordable method is using internet-based outlets. While some still consider them frivolous, the fact remains that they are widely used in our society and very powerful. Social media allows voters to revisit the message on their schedule, provides access as many times as viewers wish to reexamine it, allows your message to be shared by those you initially target, expanding your potential reach – and all at no cost to you.
- Start with “captive audiences” like issue-related web forums. Most readers there will likely be as concerned as you, allowing you to focus on garnering support without needing to first convince them of the rightness of your cause.
- Establish a Facebook presence and drive your supporters to it. Make sure your content is timely and meaningful, and always have an eye on how it might be shared by friend and foe alike.
- Your page shouldn’t be barren but it also shouldn’t be cluttered. Shoot for three to four meaningful updates each day so any significant communication won’t go unnoticed. Take advantage of the visual aspect by developing and posting relevant memes for sharing. You may also create Facebook events – also shareable – to draw attention to rallies or deadlines.
- Determine whether you will allow anyone to be able to post their own content on your page without your moderation. It may be useful to allow open posting to encourage positive posts and to give your opponents an opportunity to share something that may be used against them. However, you may also find yourself overwhelmed with distracting comments, derailing your actual message.
- Establish a Twitter account with a name that is concise and meaningful to your cause. Develop a distinct hashtag (#mycatchycause) for use with every tweet to develop “brand recognition.” Tweets are limited to 140 characters so choose your words, spacing and abbreviations with care. You will also want to convert long URLs to short aliases via www.tinyURL.com.
- Connect your Twitter and Facebook accounts. Tweets can automatically post to your Facebook page providing new content. Lengthier communications on Facebook can be referenced with a tweet as simple as, “Read our latest press release at www.mycause.com/press! #mycause” to drive traffic.
- Identify and include the hashtags of potential allies as well as media outlets and personalities when tweeting as a means of CCing them and bringing yourself to their attention.
- Follow the Facebook pages and Twitter accounts of your opposition so you know what’s being said by them, giving you the opportunity to exploit or counter it.
- Collect email contacts and use free mailing list services like www.YMLP.com to regularly update subscribers. DO NOT abuse them with excessive communication or you risk being ignored as “spam.”
- Remember that email lists are considered currency in politics and are treated like gold. Have integrity – do not sell your lists or even share them with allies without permission. Also remember that a recipient of an email list must declare it as a donation in kind.
Next week, we’ll talk about focused communications options as well as regulations surrounding the content and timing of them.
The Board of Directors
Colorado Second Amendment Association