7 principles on how to build a strong political brand in an election year
“We do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.” Thomas Jefferson’s quote is still a solid response to the question of how to build a strong political brand.
In the winner takes all and zero sum game of politics and electioneering, here are 7 principles of political branding and public relations:
Consistency is the new name of the game
One of the most successful teams in NBA history, The San Antonio Spurs, have a famous quote in their locker room: “When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow, it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it— but all that had gone before.”
Taking lessons from the life of a Chinese bamboo tree which takes five years to grow. It has to be watered and fertilized in the ground where it has been planted every day. There is no immediate or visible result for all that consistent input for five years.
After five years, once it breaks through the ground, it will grow 90 feet tall in five weeks! Call it overnight success. Or better still, the power and magic of consistency.
As politicians jostle for share of voice, share of mind and ultimately share of our precious votes, they must take these two priceless lessons to heart.
Perception is reality
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
Here, William Shakespeare speaks to the need for aspiring political and their public relations strategists leaders to understand the need to own up to whatever they choose to stand for.
Every brand constitutes of two essential components – the peripheral and the core. The peripheral is ever-changing with its multiple layers of excitement. But the core or the soul of the brand should remain unchanged.
That’s how endearing perception is shaped.
Dare to campaign differently
It takes a lot of courage to do things differently, but this is what sets you apart from the deluge of posters, messaging, and other materials that are commonly associated with election/campaign seasons.
Running campaigns traditionally, with money as the dominant weapon, the same way as “it has always been done,” may turn out a defeatist strategy.
Every great political campaign rewrites the rules and devices a new way to win. This is also the essence of good public relations and political branding.
Message in a bottle
Your core message is not just a tagline, It should express something about you and your opponents, you have to give voters a reason why they should vote for you, Ideally, not by talking about yourself but by telling them what’s in it for them.
The 2008 Obama campaign slogan “Change we can believe in” and the chant “Yes We Can” played a vital role in making the Obama campaign one of the most successful in modern-day democracy.
As simple as it sounds, being human is one of the most difficult things politicians aiming for leadership positions face. People want to know that you are a part of them and relate to their common reality. Have human moments but be strategic about it.
If you think that elections are cerebral affairs decided by logic and facts, I have bad news for you.
As psychologist Drew Westen explained, “Two-thirds of voters’ decisions to support one candidate or another could be accounted for by two simple variables: their partisan feelings and their feelings towards the candidates. Candidates’ positions on the issues had only a modest effect on their electoral preferences.”
This is what good public relations and political branding is made of.
Don’t just show me the money
One of the most difficult tasks for anyone in politics is to inspire the public. Many people believe that money is the most essential aspect of campaigning, but money is not the master of all languages.
Creativity, depth of strategic thinking and deep emotional connection with the voters are tangibles that transcend cash.
Lastly, thou shall commit no blunders
You may be wondering how it is possible to avoid making a mistake when it is human nature to do so, but through consultation and strategy, you can avoid making major mistakes.
Flawed messaging, blatant piggy banking, campaign falsification, are just a few examples of blunders that could be avoided in political branding.
These concepts form the framework for any successful political campaign, so use them, expand them, and build a campaign that unifies and excites. That’s the whole essence of good public relations and political branding.
By Charles O’Tudor,
Group Principal Consultant, ADSTRAT BMC and Alumni, The School of Politics, Policy & Governance [SPPG].