Political Campaign Volunteers Sharpen PR Skills


Sylvie Sadarnac

Here we are, in the midst of another political campaign. It’s easy to be blasé about the process, but if you’re a communicator looking to hone your skills, and you have some time to spare, consider volunteering for your favorite politician to gain some valuable insight and techniques.

A political campaign is a fast-moving, exhilarating milieu. The hours can be long, and the outcome upsetting, depending on which side you are on. One thing is sure: the winner is the candidate who can best articulate what he or she can do for the constituents. 

Regardless of the results of your candidate’s campaign, the journey will make you a sharper, edgier, and more versatile communicator, putting in practice these seven golden rules of communications:

1. The message is the thing
If you lose track of the message, you lose the fight. Messaging shapes the way staffers and volunteers communicate with constituents. When the delivery gets sloppy, constituents disengage. This applies to politics as well as business.

2. The most effective message is short and unequivocal
According to a study released last year, we are bombarded every day by information the equivalent of 174 newspapers. Yet our attention span has shrunk to 140 characters and 2.7 seconds. Keeping it short and clear on the campaign trail is a gift that will keep on giving in every job you hold.

3. Make use of the best communication tactics available
YouTube, Facebook, Twitter are ubiquitous to successful political campaigns today, with some starting to use Tumblr as well. If you want to “test” the latest technological tools in the field, a political campaign is the perfect place to be.

4. Understand your opponent’s frame of mind
You cannot be successful unless you understand the other side’s point of view. Being able to get into the opposition’s mind frame–to listen–allows you to develop better talking points for your side. Conservative strategist Frank Luntz,  and progressive Professor of Cognitive Science George Lakoff  show us how.

5. Adjust your language so as to resonate with those who disagree with you and communicate with them on their terms
Once you understand where the other side is coming from, you cannot continue to use the same language you have been using all along. Communicating effectively means you have to match your vernacular to theirs. This skill comes very handy in a corporate world full of jargon and acronyms.

6. Be respectful of a different point of view  
Politics, religion, children, and pets are four hot buttons that spell trouble for communicators. Learning to show respect—regardless of beliefs and stances—is an asset to a campaign, and any organization.

7. Just say it
It takes practice to become the most effective communicator. Visit www.democrats.org, www.gop.com, or contact your local party headquarters to get started. There is plenty of work to be done.

Sylvie Sadarnac Sylvie@kedrika.com is principal of Kedrika Communications, a strategic communications practice specializing in messaging, positioning, and Web strategies. She served as a volunteer communications specialist for Obama for America in 2008.

3 thoughts on “Political Campaign Volunteers Sharpen PR Skills

  1. Sylvie, excellent article! And we know this is true: “One thing is sure: the winner is the candidate who can best articulate what he or she can do for the constituents. ”
    Great job in clarity and ideas!

  2. As you so aptly point out, these are valuable ground rules not just for the political playing field, but for business…and, in fact, life, as well.

  3. Great article. I want to go volunteer now; it sounds like great experience. I’m assuming volunteer work for a political campaign would be good to put on your resume. Is it possible though, that it could hurt you with a future employer if they side with the party you did not work with?

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