Earlier this week I read “Evangelia Souris’s Political Image Strategy advice to upcoming candidates.” She listed four areas of concern but did not elaborate on them, so allow me.
Over the years I have had the opportunity of meeting many politicians, from city council to the President of the United States. Those who are successful have one thing in common; they have developed an image in their personal appearance, written material and speeches that elevates them above the competition. They are not only better communicators, but maintain their image to the constituency with little variation. This holds true for business leaders as well.
I have highlighted Souris’s statement in italics, adding my own commentary to each. Her company looks at the physical imagery of the person, yet imagery is more than that. It also includes how you present yourself in speech and written material.
1) Your Political Image must match your message. Voters are looking for authenticity. This is not only how you look but the image you give while elaborating on your positions. If you are a liberal candidate, then speak to liberal issues; take the left-wing positions. I have read campaign material and heard too many candidates trying to placate their audience by hemming and hawing on their political positions, confusing the voting public and not differentiating themselves from the opposition.
Imagery is the overall impression you give the general public and the press. If you wish to express the “nice guy” image, then make sure all of your campaign material shows you in that vein. What you do not want is a confusing message to surface, perplexing the voters of your positions and image.
2) Every aspect of your image must authentically display your principles and your political platform. In world of written and oral communication that means stick to your guns even if the position you are taking is contrary to the position of the questioner or the audience. Compromise is what you do when you have won the seat and trying to get a bill passed (more about negotiations in another essay).
For example, if you are against the legalization of marijuana, stick to that position. Don’t hedge your bets by saying something like “I have to see what the studies say first.”
As important is if you do not know the answer, say so. Have a staffer get that person’s contact information and get the answer to her or him as soon as possible. The only reason you do not get back to that person is your own death. Your sole purpose here is the win over one voter. Remember, an election is won with 50 percent plus one vote; a simple majority.
3) Maximize every opportunity to connect with your audience in every step of your campaign with what you wear, how you behave and what you say, and how you say it. Physical imagery is as important as the words you speak. I always suggest to my candidates that they should dress as the audience would expect them to appear. In Iowa, most of the presidential candidates will visit a farm or two. They will either wear a button down shirt with the sleeves rolled up, a polo shirt or flannel shirt. Many will wear a pair of blue jeans; Wranglers if they want to fit in with the farming crowd.
Senator Rand Paul is susually seen in a pair of blue jeans and a sports jacket. His physical image is matching his rhetoric, his libertarian stance on many issues. His “people” expect him to dress as they do, not to put on the image that he happens to be a doctor and senator. He is presenting himself in both image and language as the libertarian candidate for President.
4) Effectively practice reputation management. Negative and good press need to be acknowledged. In other words, if you screwed up admit to it. I will be writing more on the issue of crisis management in an upcoming essay.
Recently in Missouri, a number of successful mayors and members of city council have missed the deadline concerning final financial filings with the state’s Ethics Commission. The new mayor of Jefferson City held an immediate press conference and told the public what had happened, why there was some confusion in the law and that she reconciled the error immediately. By doing so, she controlled the media and gave her opponents little fodder to feed their disapproval. In fact, it was her campaign that may be changing the law to make it easier to follow in the upcoming election cycle.
Having a good campaign manager and communication manager or consultant is important, especially in a hotly contested race. InkandVoice Communication can provide the consulting and management services your campaign will require. Contact us either by email at Dave@InkandVoice.com, by phone at 573-999-0982 or by Skype at SageDave1.