Campaign Lesson #6 – Messaging is paramount – Part 2!

Campaign Lesson #6 – Messaging is paramount – Part 2!

Just to be sure we’re still on the same page, let’s review two of our three part one stipulations.

1. “The average American voter has the attention span of an off-meds ADHD sixth grader coming off a three-day sugar and video gaming binge.”

2. “There’s only one way to win an election and a thousand ways to lose it!” Unless your opponent is even worse than you are, poor messaging will lose it every time!

So, for, we’ve generally discussed bad or badly misdirected messaging, and even though it’s not nearly as problematic, conflicting and incongruous messages aren’t helpful, either. Here’s what I mean!


Corinne Pierog is the “status quo!”

It makes me laugh out loud whenever an Illinois Democratic insists they’re gonna “change the status quo!” Illinois Democrats ARE the status quo! They have a Springfield supermajority and even the formerly Republican Kane County Board is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.

So, not only is the whole “anti-status quo” blather just another baseless political platitude, but if your message makes voters simply scratch their heads, then it’s not working.

To make matters worse, County Chair candidate Pierog is also co-opting an “Independent Leadership” slogan which falls far flatter than the whole “status quo” thing. A candidate clearly can’t declare their “independence” after they’ve taken 12 grand from Michael Madigan and far more from Illinois labor unions.

And those kinds of campaign contributions are fraught with all sorts of attached strings.

Again, those messages aren’t terrible, but since they’re not going to get Pierog one vote she doesn’t already have, what’s the point? Your basic message has to be meaningful on a number of levels in order for it to resonate with the voters, and if it isn’t, you’re starting ten steps behind your opponent.


Kane County is already “transparent”

Mainly as a result of Auditor Terry Hunt’s efforts, Kane is the only county in Illinois to win the non-profit Sunshine Review’s 100 percent transparency rating. So, not only does that make challenger Penny Wegman’s spurious “I’ll bring more transparency to the Auditor’s Office” messaging patently pointless, but it provides the incumbent with a perfect counterpoint.

All he has to say at any debate, forum, or newspaper interview is “We already 100 percent transparency rating” and that kinda slams the door on that one and Wegman looks like an idiot.

Choosing a mendacious message simply because it sounds good will always come around to bite you in the butt!


The not-so-subtle art of misdirection

The fact that the Circuit Clerk’s Office has absolutely NOTHING to do with the distribution of Kane County COVID relief funds hasn’t stopped challenger Teresa Barriero from trying to pin that perilous proposition on incumbent Tom Hartwell.

It almost never works, but that doesn’t stop candidates from regularly applying this lazy throw-the-entire-pot-of-spaghetti-against-the-wall-to-see-what-sticks messaging strategy

Barriero took this messaging tack because the local newspapers love to create controversy and she thought she could capitalize on a story that turned out not to be a story. And how many times can a candidate cry “wolf” before they completely lose what’s left of their hard-earned credibility?

First, taking a round message and trying to force it into square hole never works with anyone but the choir. And second, it gives Hartwell a perfect counter messaging opportunity – “My office has absolutely no power over the county board!”

That counterpoint worked particularly well when Hartwell also noted that Barriero actually WAS a county board member who actually had the power to affect the fund distribution process.


That’s the best you can say about yourself?

Democrat Kate Monteleone’s 50th District State Rep race ain’t exactly settin’ the world on fire to begin with, but even if it was, her messaging is weaker than a two-year-old can of Bud Light!

Granted, it applies the necessary brevity, but if “Accessible – Responsive – Truthful” are the best adjectives you can come with then you probably shouldn’t run. “Accessible” and “responsive” mean the same thing, and if you have to make a point of pointing out you’re honest, that immediately always calls your character into question.


Tie ‘em to Trump!

This message only works in predominantly blue districts, but that hasn’t stopped the Kane County Central Democrats from applying it here in this still-red district.

In a truly bizarre campaign twist, Democratic Judicial candidate Brittany Pedersen tried to use it against opponent and long-time Associate Judge Elizabeth Flood. But not only is it a violation of the Judicial Canon of Campaign Ethics, when you add that implausible stretch to Pedersen’s basic campaign message of “Elect me because I’m black,” this may well be our best case of bad messaging yet!


“But Jeff! All you’ve done here is nail the local Democrats! You mean to tell me their Republican counterparts’ messaging is generally sound?”

Yes! That’s exact what I mean to tell you! Bill Maher regularly laments how the Republicans overwhelmingly destroy the Dems in the messaging game, and with the exception of state’s attorney candidate Jamie Mosser, that dynamic certainly rings true right here in Kane County.

Dave Rickert’s (Chairman), Tom Hartwell’s (Circuit Clerk), and Terry Hunt’s (Auditor) two-word “Proven Leadership” motto is about as good as it gets. Oberweis is using “Let’s Win Together,” Judge Flood calls on us to “Flood the Polls,” and Keith Wheeler’s “Turn Illinois Around” resonates quite nicely in the sad state of this sad State

Considering the vast amount of effort required to mount even a mediocre political campaign, it’s truly tragic when a bad or ineffective message sinks a candidate right out of the gate. And we’re not talking rocket science, here either. All it takes to craft the kind of core message that puts your candidacy on a firm footing right out of the gate is a little due diligence, creativity, and a reasonable sense of the political landscape.

Put more simply, there’s no excuse for bad messaging!


The professionals at Forward Communication can help you craft the perfect campaign message. Please Contact Us for a free consultation.

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