A reference in American politics states a fundamental premise: not only do you have to be the ideal candidate, you must worry that others – especially readers – realize this too.
When Abraham Lincoln wanted to become a presidential candidate for the Republican Party he was little known; he had not chaired any public position and didn’t have many connections on the press or inside the GOP’s* elites, so he made public two debates he had held years before where he spoke about slavery. For this, he was invited to New York and received press coverage that enhanced his reputation until he was finally nominated as a candidate. In 1860 he won the U.S. Presidency.
Political communication is nothing new; it has at least a couple of centuries and since its conception, it has focused on giving candidates and their team’s coverage from news channels, TV ad appearances and, with the evolution of social media, keeping a presence in digital conversations. Why it helps candidates have a digital and media presence? Because the abilities a candidate has to convey his/her ideas define the probabilities of winning an election.
During the 90’s, giving a candidate visibility became a necessity. Let’s see some facts:
- 50% of citizens read material issued by the parties
- 20% had contact with the candidate and with the campaign
- Only 10% went to a political rally
- More than 70% of those interviewed claimed to have contact with multimedia information issued by candidates.1
I want to share three areas that I consider important to work on, for the visibility of a candidate in front of voters.
Strategy is the beginning of all political campaigns. There might be good strategies that lose the elections but it’s very unlikely that a bad strategy will make a candidate win. An electoral strategy is a road that must be traced to reach the voter, and in this case, it defines what is communicated, how to do it and through which channels will this be done.
Donald Trump was, from the beginning of his campaign in 2016, the candidate that represented the American working class that has seen its life conditions decrease in the last years. In all his rallies he exposed the topics that were important to this niche; he behaved as a big part of his electors would and made as his some of the arguments that middle class defended over the years.
The Image: In other articles, I have mentioned that people take political decisions based on the perception they have of a candidate according to their personal image. Appearances matter a lot in politics. In the past Mexican elections, 88% of married Mexican women said they would cheat on their husbands with Enrique Peña Nieto. His physical attractive gave him an advantage over other candidates and finally got him the Mexican presidency.
But physical appearance must be conceived beyond the physical appeal. An example of this is the case of Pepe Mujica, former President of Uruguay, who drove a blue beetle and took people on the street for carpooling. His humble look, his simple speech and his unorthodox policies earned him the title “The World’s Humblest President”.
In an electoral campaign, a candidate must have a presence in three spaces: TV, the digital world, and the street. Television is still the most representative mass channel for broadcasting political information. In it, perceptions are created and a higher percentage of information flows. However, Social Media has a stronger influence; it opens up a space for dialogue and allows to deliver the message in a close, direct and fast way. The street is the basic premise of any communication and politics is no exception. Talking to others in a personal way is the most effective form of communication and it must always be a part of the political strategy.
I would imagine that if Abraham Lincoln wanted to be a Republican candidate today, he would put together his strategy carrying the abolitionist message to Social Media, making noise until reaching a community that positions him as a political influencer and then on television, on debates and talk shows, he would speak about liberty, the main value behind abolition. His headquarters would be based out of Chicago or Florida, he would speak Spanish and would surround himself with Latinos, African-Americans, women and immigrants and – spite of not being good looking – he would always have an impeccable look.
Do you see how easy it is to project the candidate?
(*) Grand Ole Party. Alternate name given to Republican Party.