Update > Using a Message

Using a Message


A Message Must Be Repeated

It is also very important to keep repeating the central message. Voters are not paying attention to every single event and communication that a campaign organises. Just because the campaign says something does not mean they are listening or will remember what it said. For a message to be fully understood by the voters, they have to hear the same message many times in many different ways. So, if a campaign changes its message, it will confuse the voters (NDI 2009: 26).

If a message is going to help the party, it must be used often and effectively. Once the campaign team has determined what message will persuade their target voters to vote for their candidate, then it must repeat that same message at every opportunity. All party members should be educated about the message and should talk about it during the campaign. The party should organize events and activities to talk about its message with people who are not party members. And the party’s leaders should make sure their words and actions support the message.

For example, if the message will be “We are dedicated to improving the lives of children in Myanmar”: The party’s MP’s could introduce a new law in the Assembly to help make sure that all children can receive education. The party President could give a speech on the importance of children to Myanmar’s future. Other party leaders could visit schools and play grounds. Party Organizers in every province could organize a meeting between mothers and the local party leaders to discuss the problems facing children and the party’s ideas for solving them. The party could produce a pamphlet on its ideas for helping children.

The central message is useful here in providing a fixed point which everyone related to the campaign should come back to again and again in speeches and interviews. It can be phrased in different ways for different target groups, as long as the central import remains the same. This is sometimes described as “one message, a thousand voices”: the central message is fixed and unequivocal, but it can be expressed in different ways depending on the target group who is being addressed (van den Boomen 2009:16).

Staying on Message

Once a party or campaign team has developed a strong message it is important that it uses that message at every opportunity and not deviate from it throughout the campaign. This is called “staying on message.”

It is important that every method that a campaign uses incorporates the same message. Often one type of voter contact will reinforce the message delivered using a different type of voter contact. By using the same message in all voter contact, the campaign are less likely to confuse voters who may not be paying close attention. It is often said that voters have to hear the same message as many as seven times for them to fully understand and remember it.

Often the opposition or the press will do something or say something that will drag the candidate and the campaign “off message”. If they respond, they will not be talking about the issues they want to talk about but will be talking about the issues their opponent wants to talk about. In most cases, they should respond to any charges quickly but then shift the conversation back to the issues and the message they want to address.

It is also important that the campaign does not distract voters from the message by providing them with too much information. After talking to supporters, candidates and political activists often wrongly believe that voters want more information. One should not confuse ordinary voters who may still need to be persuaded with supporters who are probably already convinced to vote for a candidate or party and want more information.

The campaign team can often supply this need for more information in the form of position papers (documents that outline a party’s position on an issue) or articles but the campaign team must summarize the main points in a one page press release that delivers the message in the first sentence. They should further summarize the message in a quality piece of literature that attracts the voter’s attention with pictures and headlines and keeps their attention until the message is delivered.