Five lessons from the 2010 election season

Election day is almost here, and it can’t come soon enough, can it? Democrat, Republican, independent, Whig, Tory…whatever your political preference, we’ve been bombarded by political ads on radio, TV and in print that are only slightly less annoying than they are insulting.

What are the lessons to be learned for communicators, whether you’re a journalist, writer or marketing manager? These five stand out to me:

  1. Don’t assume I’m stupid. Today’s media consumer has access to more information at their fingertips. If you’re going to cite “facts,” make sure they’re correct. Better yet, include your source. On a related note…
  2. Keep things in context. Don’t bend quotes, misquote, or cherry pick from quotes to try to make up something that just isn’t true. Remember the recent Andrew Breitbart-Shirley Sherrod dust up, involving a Dept. of Agriculture employee fired for supposed racial comments that were posted by a blogger? That was the result of quoting someone out of context. Don’t let this happen to you.
  3. Stay positive. Our mothers told us that if we couldn’t say something nice…you know the rest. Your message will always resonate better with its audience if you point out the positive aspects of your product or service, and not the negative aspects of your competitor’s. Going negative only reflects poorly on you.
  4. Keep it simple. Don’t try to cram too much information into your message. Readers and media consumers will only remember a few items from anything they read or watch. Focus on a few key themes and save the rest for another time. Remember to key in on benefits and answer the question, “What will it do for me?”
  5. Be different. Don’t write the same piece over and over again. Your audience will get five words into it, remember it as old news, and their brains will mentally check out.

Yes, these political ads are awful. But maybe if we can learn something from these 30-second glimpses into the worst of America, we can start making the media a little better place on Wednesday, Nov. 3.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *