Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Lessons From Ben Carson's Opening Salvo Stumble

As I wrote in my most recent blog, Dr. Ben Carson's initial post-announcement email to potential supporters had four small problems and one deal-killer.  Hopefully, he'll recognize and learn from his mistakes, but this blog isn't for him - it is about how to avoid those mistakes in your own campaigns, or in the campaigns of candidates you support.

1. Be careful who you choose (and trust) in your campaign advisers and campaign outreach team (fund-raising, messaging, social media, news media).  Dr. Carson put the cart before the horse when he started appealing for funds before he gave anybody a reason to support him (beyond is intelligence and polished speaking style - both plusses, but not enough to carry a candidate into office).  They must work as a team, not as independent silos, each going in its own direction.

2. Whether you're making your case for why people should support you (which, as noted below, must come first) or raising funds, personalize your appeals.  Do not send out email blitzes addressed to "to whom it may concern" as Dr. Carson did.  "Dear Americans" does nothing to build a relationship between the candidate and the potential supporters/voters.  In the age of social media, building a perceived relationship is vital, and it starts with addressing each potential supporter by name.  The tech is there, all that's lacking (in Carson's case) was the insight that this was important.

3.  If you have a slogan (as Carson does - HEAL  INSPIRE  REVIVE - or Obama did with "Hope and Change") make sure that you explain what it really means.  In Carson's case, he didn't say what needed healed, who needed inspired, or what needed revived.  As an aside, I think those are particularly lame, especially in comparison to Obama's "Hope and Change."  Those are beautifully effective, because each voter has his or her own hopes, and everybody wants some kind of change. With that slogan, Obama inspired his supporters while allowing them to fill in the blanks.  Remember on inauguration day 2009, the woman interviewed on the Washington Mall saying "I won't have to make my mortgage payments now that Obama is President."  She had self-defined her hope (free housing) and the change she expected (Obama would take care of her mortgage for her).  The HEAL  INSPIRE  REVIVE slogan does none of those things.  Don't make the mistakes here that Dr. Carson's making.

4.  Don't make fatuous statements that are blatantly false on the face of it.  When he said that we were more closely connected than ever before, that's nonsense.  Every study I've seen - every news report you've seen - points to the increasing isolation of America, and the replacement of real connections with social networking "connections" which gain the patina of connectivity without any real personal connection.

 Even worse, though, was his statement that "our country had never been more divided."  Two points here.  First, setting up an obvious contradiction like this does nothing to position you as an expert - it makes you look like you're playing word games, or trying to pander to both optimists and pessimists.  However, even worse, that statement about America divided is factually incorrect.  We fought a civil war - that was America divided, for sure, and 600,000 people died putting the pieces back together.  More recently - and in Dr. Carson's lifetime - we had race riots in Watts and Detroit, civil rights marches in Selma and political marches in Chicago that turned bloody. We had Kent State, and million-man marches against the war.  In the mid 60s through the end of Vietnam, America was more divided than at any time since the civil war - and any thinking individual knows that, even if they're too young to remember the Chicago Seven, the Symbioneses Liberation Army or Kent State.

This is nothing less than talking down to your audience - they will not thank you for that.  Perhaps liberals can get away with that reaching out to their poverty-line constituents, but conservatives tend to be better educated and better informed on the reality of political issues.

5.  Don't succumb to political catch phrases.  As an example, Dr. Carson closed with "... and God Bless the United States of America."  There's nothing wrong with that sentiment, but that is exactly the same word-choice used by both Clintons and by Obama in virtually every speech they give.  If you want to invoke God's blessings on America, find a better and more inherently honest way of doing it.  This should be applied broadly, to every political cliche.  Avoid them and be original - voters will thank you, and respect you.

6.  Now for the really major lesson to be learned from Dr. Carson's first email pitch (see my blog for the text, as well as for my analysis).  Dr. Carson committed the unpardonable political sin of putting the cart before the horse. Before he'd done anything (in that email, at least) to create a connection with the recipient - or to provide that recipient to easy access to the dynamic political positions Dr. Carson embraces - that email "put the arm on the supporters."  He asked them to open their wallets without giving them any reason to do so (beyond the hollow platitudes noted above).

This is insulting on a deep, and perhaps subconscious level.  On the more conscious level, politically active and aware potential supporters will recognize this and ask themselves, "with our crowded field of candidates, which just keeps growing, why should I pour my hard-earned dollars into the campaign of someone who - as far as I can tell - has no positions, and has no more respect for me than to see me as a walking, talking wallet."

Keep in mind that of the four links in that one short email, all of them went to the same fund-raising page (he didn't even bother to make four different pages), and neither the email itself nor the fund-raising page had any links to Dr. Carson's positions.

DO NOT do that yourself, or on behalf of your candidate.  Allow potential supporters to learn all about your positions - make it easy, and make it clear - before you ask them to support you.  If they are impressed with your issue positions, they'll eagerly support you.  If not, they'd never have been on "your team" anyway.

In professional public relations, gaining support has four distinct steps.  These should be followed in politics - whether it's in a fund-raising email, or social networking, or in media public relations. These steps are always in the same order:

First, create awareness. Assume potential supporters don't know you (or at least they don't know your issues), and give them the information they need to begin figuring out who you are and - perhaps - why they should support you.

Next, generate interest.  Once they know who you are, it's time to give them real reasons why they should support you. This applies to the local school board as much as it does the White House.  People must be aware of  you - and interested in you - before they take the next step.

Once they're aware and interested ... and not a moment before that ... motivate action.  This means getting them to walk their neighborhoods, or put up yard signs, or open their checkbooks. Any action can only be successfully supported after the potential supporters know who you are - and know why they should care about your candidacy.  Doctor Carson jumped to Step Three before even touching on Steps One and Two.  If he continues on this path, it will ultimately be a very short path.

You don't have to make that mistake.

The fourth step is usually overlooked, but it's essential.  Once you've created awareness, generated interest and motivated action ... evaluate that three step process. Identify what works - and what didn't work.  Instead of trying to fix something that didn't work - reinforce those steps which did work.  Let potential voters tell you HOW to reach them.  Given the chance, they're eager to help you refine your campaign - but only if they believe you're on their side.

Following these guidelines - and especially the four-step process borrowed from media public relations - you'll be light-years ahead (in terms of voter/supporter loyalty) of candidates like Dr. Carson who have no personal experience with politics, and who put their trust in consultants who ignore these rules in favor of (often) lining their own pockets.

How Ben Carson Blew His Campaign Launch - A Cautionary Tale

 I like Ben Carson.  I think he's got sound, pragmatic conservative principles, and I think he's incredibly powerful on the speaker's platform.  I worry that he's had no experience in governing - or in being CEO of a major corporation, non-profit foundation or any other organization that would give him executive leadership experience.  After eight years under a President who'd never run any organization (and proved incapable of running USA, Inc.), I'm not sure we need another President who'll need OJT (On-the-Job-Training).

Still, I've been willing to give him a fair hearing, and have visualized myself voting for him, and living in a country led by a man of his intellect and principles.

But now, not so much.  


I think he blew his campaign launch.

Worse, I think he did so in a way to suggest to me that, when it comes to politics, he's either tone-deaf or he's listening to a "Junior Varsity" campaign manager or consultant.  Since a President can't be politically tone-deaf, nor can he afford to listen to second-rate advisers.

In his first post-launch email to potential supporters, Dr. Carson made several vital mistakes, but one in particular stands out.  I'm going to republish that first post-announcement campaign email, then I'm going to ask you if you see what he did wrong. 

Then I'll tell you what I think he did wrong.


Dear American, I've got a big announcement that I'd like to share with you.

I am running for President of the United States, and I ask for your support.

If this great nation is to survive the challenges of the modern world, we need to heal, we need to be inspired, and we need to revive the exceptional spirit that built America.

Working with you and all of our fellow citizens, I want to lead that revival.

I am not a politician, nor am I politically correct.

But I believe my values, my life experience, and my willingness to speak the truth and seek solutions prepares me well to lead our nation toward more prosperity, security, and freedom for every American.

So I ask for your commitment, right now, to this campaign. If you will be among the first to make a secure contribution to Carson America, I will be forever grateful.

Never before have we been so closely connected to each other, but more divided as a country.

Our political class has failed us, and as a nation we must work to reestablish what Abraham Lincoln once called a government of, by and for the people.

While I know it won't be easy, I truly look forward to the journey ahead, and I hope that you will join me.

Thank you, and God Bless America.


Ben Carson
Ben Carson


OK - there's his message.  Think a minute - what did he do wrong (or, what could he have done better - even a lot better)?  Don't rush to judgment, just read it again.  BTW - there are several problems with this email, but there is only one really big problem, one sure to set his campaign off to a faltering start.


I'm going to start with some of the smaller problems, then work my way up to the campaign-killing whopper of a blunder.

1.  The email is addressed to " Dear American."  Not "Dear Fellow American."  Not "Dear Patriotic American."  Just ...  "Dear American."  

This is a problem for two reasons. First, the technology to allow a mass email to be personalized has been around for going on two decades.  An impersonal email is not necessary, and it is certainly not welcoming.  Next, by not qualifying what kind of American, the salutation falls flat on its face.  It does nothing to motivate.

2.  His campaign slogan is "HEAL  INSPIRE   REVIVE" ... and in general, that makes sense. However, in this letter, he affirms that he wants heal, inspire and revive America in one throw-away line, but he never says what we must heal from, in what way we need to be inspired, or why (or how) we should revive our country.  Without substance, those are empty words, no more meaningful than Obama's "hope and change" campaign slogan from 2008.  

If Dr. Carson wants to lead his party and our country, he's going to have to do better than an empty slogan.  At the very least, he should have spent a short paragraph on each one (heal, inspire, revive) saying what he means, and more important, why he's the only (or best) candidate to heal, inspire and revive America.  At best, this is a lost opportunity.  At worst, the sheer banality of the words might lead some to consider him yet one more cookie-cutter candidate.

3. He included a very provocative sentence - "Never have we been more closely connected to each other, but more divided as a country."  Not only is that a poorly constructed sentence (hey, I used to be an editor), but without explaining what he means, it seems false on its face.  Consider:

"Never have we been so closely connected ..."   What does that mean?  For myself, I feel America (and Americans) have never been so isolated, one from the other.  I do not feel connected, and many people I know have expressed to me the same isolated lack of connectedness.  Perhaps he means the mindless drivel that substitutes for real connectivity on Facebook and Twitter - but if so, he should say that.

Now consider:  "but more divided as a country."  I guess he can be excused for overlooking the American Civil War, but I really can't believe a man - especially a black man - who's on the far side of 60 could say that with a straight face.  After all, he lived through the anti-war and civil-rights movements of the 60s and early 70s.  I remember the marches (Selma, Washington), the riots (Watts, Detroit), the police crack-down (Chicago '68), and he does, too.  In that seminal ten-year period, America was divided in a way she hadn't been since our Civil War, a full century before, That tumultuous ten years of riots and marches, draft-card burning and brutal police crack-downs, certainly reflected an America that is far more divided than it is today.  

Dr. Carson should know better. He graduated in '69 at the peak of those movements, and would have been in his first year at college when the Kent State shooting, the riots and marches, and follow-up massive college closings all took place.  How could he have forgotten that?  All of which suggests that this line, too, is just a "thow-away" line with no substance beyond the fact that maybe it sounds good.

 4.  I'm not going to nit-pick here, except to say that "and God Bless America" is really tired, hackneyed and trite.  Dr. Carson, if you want God's blessing on America, don't use the same line that the two Clintons - and even Obama - repeat every time they say anything more than "good-morning."

OK, those are the small, but easily-avoidable mistakes that were made in this email.  Now let's get to the big one, what I'm calling the "campaign killer."  Sure, one email won't kill a campaign, but if the pattern follows through to other emails, it will surely make Dr. Carson look irrelevant, at least to potential supporters.

What is this campaign killer?

Before he did anything to win prospective voters to his side - before he gave any meaningful reason why Republicans and conservatives should support his candidacy - he asks for money.  He has four links embedded in that email, and all four lead to the same fund-raising page.  There is not - neither in the email nor on that fund-raising page - any link to Dr. Carson's positions on issues.  It is those positions that have the potential to attract or repel potential voters - but just try to find them. I dare you.

This makes him look grasping, and perhaps a little desperate. Worse, it sends a clear message to potential voters:  "all you're good for is cash - just "trust me" and send me lots of money and everything will be fine."

That may have once worked (though I doubt it), but with conservatives being deluged daily by appeals from candidates, and from causes, and from independent special-issue advocacy groups, one more blatant dollar appeal, made without any justification as to how effective he might be as president isn't going to work.  Worse, it's going to drive thinking voters who want information, not superficial sloganeering, away from the campaign.

Really bad initial email.  You should have given me a reason to support you electorally before you put the arm on me for bucks.  Right now, I’m like, “why should I support Ben Carson?  What does a neurosurgeon know about running the country?   After eight years of a guy learning how to run our country "on the job," don’t we need experience?"

I’m sure you can answer all of these, Dr. Carson – I imagine that I if you’d tried, you’d have easily won me over. But instead, you lunged for my wallet – and frankly, I resent that.  Worse, that dollar-grab has gone a long way toward making me even more convinced that a candidate that doesn’t understand this basic bit of politics is probably not the best one to run my country.

Nice try – grade, C- (and that’s charitable).

Well, that's the "campaign killer" that inspired this blog.  Ben Carson might be a good President, and he most assuredly is a superb neurosurgeon, but he apparently has no idea why people might choose to support him - or why he needs to win their intellectual and emotional support before they'll open their wallets to him.  A man that "tone deaf" toward his supporters does not strike me as the best man to lead our country.  

Sure, he's got time to turn this around, and I hope he reads this blog and takes it to heart - but I'm not holding my breath.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Judicial Candidate and the Book of Mormon - Case Study in How to Not Raise Campaign Funds

This lesson in political fund-raising is about what NOT to do when trying to raise funds is not about the Mormons. It's not about this conservative and godly judicial candidate who's not a Mormon.  Instead, this lesson's about what can happen when you accidentally - or, worse, intentionally - mix religion and politics. It's also at least tangentially what else can happen when you're too proud to admit a mistake and dig yourself out of a hole.

This lesson is about the disaster that can occur when you mix piety and precincts, faith and fund-raising.  Even more important, this lesson is about how IMAGE trumps REALITY ... every time.

In fact, if there's one lesson every political candidate should have tattooed onto the inside of his eyelids (so he can't help but see it), it's this: in politics, perception IS reality. If voters believe that something is the case, the "truth" is no defense.

It never has been, and it never will be.

And this political fact-of-life goes all the way back.  When Pontius Pilate decided to execute Jesus, he saw standing before him a man with no fault within him. That was a fact, and Pilate even commented on it.   But he also saw the Jerusalem mob, and the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin.  He could see the impact a riot would have on his governorship and his career - maybe even his life.  He could also see the impact of even a complaint from "peaceful" religious leaders - if that complaint claimed that Pilate supported a heretic and a traitor.  Pilate saw the perception official Rome would have - in the face of that perception, the truth about Jesus was irrelevant.  Jesus the innocent man was also irrelevant, when pitted against the likely perception of the Emperor and his Empire.

Though Pilate knew him to be innocent, Jesus never stood a chance.  Perception became reality.

Of course, I just mixed religion and politics - which I'm warning against in this blog - but then again, I'm not running for anything.  This is an object lesson, not a fund-raising campaign. Considering the subject matter, I could think of no better example to make my point about perception and reality.

Here's the reality.  Note that no names are mentioned here, because this isn't about names, or people, but instead it's about bad choices made with good intentions, then clung to in the face of Cassandra-like warnings from experts - and not just me.

A conservative candidate for Judge in Clark County Nevada – a good man (and not a Mormon) has made a potentially election-killing decision.  He’s tied a major campaign fund-raiser to the Book of Mormon, widely known as the premiere sacred text of the group known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

More on that in a minute.

But this isn't really about Mormons, members of that faith - and the perception about them - is indeed front-and-center in this issue.

There are more Mormons in Clark County Nevada (home to Las Vegas) than you can shake a stick at.  For a century and more, local casino owners have been glad to hire Mormons and Jack Mormons as dealers – they’re honest with their employers, and (the word is) they have no compunction about cheating the heathens.  That may be apocryphal or real - but it's the perception that matters.  The perception is that casinos are Mormon-friendly employers.

However, even without casinos, Clark County would be Mormon Central. Located just down I-15 from Utah, Clark County was first settled (other than by the native Paiutes) by Mormon settlers who built the Old Mormon Fort.  It still stands today, not a half-mile from what is now Las Vegas’s Fremont Street Experience.

However, for every Mormon in Clark County, you’ll find at least one non-Mormon who’s all but fed up with some aspect of that faith.  Some resent their door-to-door evangelism – not to mention the arrogance of mere children who actually seem to believe that they can teach their elders something about life - a life they have not yet begun to live. 

Some honestly live in fear of Mormon bosses – one of my closest friends has a Mormon boss, and he lives in fear of - he's the only executive in his department who isn’t at least nominally a Mormon.  Harassment isn’t too strong a word, and while I doubt if this is “official” LDS policy, it happens.

Some have experienced - as I have done - “shunning.” This is what can happen to non-Mormons  in heavily-Mormon communities.  As I said, that I can speak to from personal experience, from my time living in Southern Utah.

But that’s not really the point.  In fact, the Mormon faith isn’t even the point.

The point is that politics and religion don’t mix – they never have. 

This unhappy mixture only gets worse when the religion is controversial.

Any religious faith, if pushed hard in a political campaign, can become polarizing.  Even a fairly neutral belief -  such as conservative or reformed Judaism, or mainstream protestant Christianity - can become polarizing in a political campaign.  Add in a controversial faith – be it the late Jerry Falwell’s “Moral Majority,” or pretty much anything having to do with Islam, the Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses (to name a few), and you’re going to seriously polarize at least one segment of the political electorate.

Polarizing the political electorate means driving potential voters away – and driving them away for reasons having nothing to do with the qualification of the candidate.   

  • Jack Kennedy lost votes because he was a public and believing Catholic. 
  • Mitt Romney lost votes because he was so closely identified with his Mormon faith.   
  • Joe Lieberman, a great and good man (for a liberal), lost votes because he was well-known to be a faithful Orthodox Jew.  In an election that close, his faith might have been the difference between President Bush and President Gore.

Is any of that right?  Of course not.  Even, “Hell, no!” 

But it is very much an aspect of human nature, which is why every savvy politician who wants to win tries to avoid “taking sides” in a religious debate. They recognize that any such debate will only hurt them, at least with some voters. 

Of course, if it’s the candidate’s own faith, most candidates actually do better by embracing their faith than to being seen running from it.  Integrity does matter, at least some of the time.

But when a candidate makes religion an issue – and especially when the faith at issue isn’t his own – that’s just a bad political choice.

Now, let's consider what's going on, right now, right here in Clark County Nevada.

And for this morality tale, enter a strong conservative candidate for judge, a good man who’s not even a Mormon.

Today (April 30, 2014) he posted on a Clark County politics Facebook discussion group the following fund-raising promotion.  It reads:

“Donate to ____ 4 Judge between now and May 15, 2014, and WIN 2 BOX SEAT TICKETS FOR THE PRIMARY ELECTION NIGHT SHOWING OF THE BOOK OF MORMON.  Support ____4Judge and win a chance to see the most popular show of the year with him on Primary Election night.”

Ignoring the poor grammar and punctuation - then also ignore the implied promise that every donor wins - and here’s the kicker.  Apparently, THE BOOK OF MORMON this candidate is referring to is not a religious tract. No, it's a Broadway stage show, and a touring company of the play will be in Las Vegas on primary election night.   

Not being a fan of Broadway shows, this was all news to me, and I never even considered it when I saw the fund-raising pitch on the Facebook group's page.  But if I’d known that it was a play and not a religious tract, that mere fact wouldn’t change my negative reaction to this.  My perception had already been formed, and truth wasn't about to change it.

Not just me, but everybody who saw or sees this promotion is likely to come away with a perception at odds with this judicial candidate's hope.  Some will see it as I did, and turn away in disgust or frustration or just disbelief. 

Others, Mormons for instance, who then gave to this candidate thinking they're supporting a fellow Mormon - they will be outraged to find that, instead of a religious book, they'd be getting seats to a play that apparently mocks their faith.  With the play being written by the creators of South Park, could it be anything else?  Were I a Mormon who won these seats and attended the play, not knowing what was coming, I'd be furious.

Then there are those who believe that The Book of Mormon is a play written by liberals to make it harder for Mitt Romney to win in 2012.  A conservative candidate for office here in Nevada saw the same Facebook group link I did, and immediately (and publicly) drew that conclusion.

The only people who might be happy to win are unlikely to give, because they're not conservatives. Liberals - who don't routinely donate to conservative candidates - would love to attend a play that mocks both religion and the Republican's Presidential candidate.

However, when I first saw this, all I knew was when I saw the promotion on the website. There, I saw title: THE BOOK OF MORMON along with a photo of one of the Mormon teen-boy missionaries. You could tell what he was - he had the nametag, the short-sleeved white shirt, white socks and black tie – book in hand. All that was missing was the bicycle and the other Mormon teen-aged boy.  They always come in pairs.  

That was what I saw. That was the perception that became my reality.  Of course, not caring about getting a copy of The Book of Mormon for my very own, I didn’t read the fine print about it actually being a Broadway show, not a book.

When I saw this message, my reaction was immediate and visceral. Seeing the promotion but not really reading it (yet), the “incentive” offered nothing to me - but it did turn me off as being bone-deep stupid.

 I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what a non-Mormon and otherwise reasonable and conservative candidate for judge was doing pushing a minority and clearly controversial faith – let alone doing so in the midst of a purely secular election.

So I asked him.  Very civilly, he explained that THIS Book of Mormon was a popular Broadway show, and - in his mind - a good fund-raising incentive.   

But this good and decent man is a political novice, and frankly, I wasn’t buying his explanation or justification.

Then, as noted above, another conservative climbed into the conversation, noting that (quote) “this big hit Broadway play was prepared by liberal play producers in anticipation of Mitt Romney’s presidential run in 2012 – I’m surprised that you are not sensitive to the derogatory impact …” 

I know know that the creators of South Park came up with this play - but as for their real reason don’t know if that’s true.  But the perception of a liberal elite media mogul creating a put-down of Mormons as a take-down for Romney is at least plausible. 

Imagine – liberals wanting to mock a Republican presidential candidate – hard to believe, isn’t it? 

However, whatever the play is supposed to do or say or be, I do know this.  If two conservatives – well-known local activists who both were prepared to support this candidate’s run for judge reacted this badly, and for completely different reasons – then this has to be a bad idea.

But for you, who may have never been to Las Vegas nor heard of the play The Book of Mormon, there is still a lesson to be learned.  Some controversy is good.  For instance, taking on John Kerry for calling Israel an apartheid state is "good controversy," even if it drags religions (two of them) into a political debate.

But dragging Mormons into a campaign because of the name of a play - or for any non-political reason - that's just a bad idea.

If you're running for office, planning on running for office, or helping someone who's running for office, beware.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Selling Campaign Bio – Your Key To Election Success

Why Do So Few Website Visitors Become Supporters?
 Ned Barnett

What does it take to “sell” a prospective voter on your candidacy?  It takes a few things – but only a few.  In fact, if you consider it closely, there are just four elements that turn a prospective supporter into a voter, volunteer or contributor.  And that last element in particular is absolutely vital to “closing the sale” with a prospective supporter – yet that’s the one selling factor that is most often overlooked by candidates and their campaign staffs.

What are those four voter selling factors?

First, you have to be running for a position the prospective supporter cares about – one where he feels that his support can make a real difference.

Having attracted her interest, to make a “sale” takes a voter who is in the market for the kinds of positions you stand for.  That interest in what you offer to stand for is what makes her a prospective supporter.

Next, he wants to see some indication that you can actually deliver on what you promise. He’s looking here for other elected, appointed or volunteer positions you’ve held – and what you did while you were in office. He’s looking closely for specific actions you’ve taken in support of those positions – or perhaps for support testimonials on those issues. Bottom line, he’s looking for some believable indication that you can and will meet his needs as a candidate now, and as an office-holder later on.

Finally, having gotten to that point, this is where the lack of the deal-closer “sales” tool causes most potential supporter “sales” to fail.  You have a prospective supporter, you offer what she’s looking for, and you are believable in your support for issues that matter to her.  But she doesn’t become your supporter – your voter, volunteer or even contributor.  Why?  Because you haven’t given her a reason to select you, to trust you, to literally put her city’s, county’s, state’s or country’s future in your capable hands.

When a prospect goes to your website, the first thing he looks for are those few key indicators which tell him that you have the potential to become her city councilman, her judge, her state assemblywoman, your governor, your Congressman or Senator. 

Then, after having browsed through your track record, your voter testimonials on key issues, your detailed explanations of the difference between legal and illegal, pre-viable vs. post-viable, or the difference between a tax increase and a spending cut, he goes finally to your bio.  That’s the deal-closer.  And all too often, the deal-breaker

By this time, she’s looking to be sold. She’s impressed with what you offer, where you stand and how you propose to make a difference.  She wants to trust you.  She wants to believe in you.  But have you given her a reason to?

Take your campaign bio and look at it for a minute.  What do you give him?  The bare facts.  Where you went to school.  If you served in the military, and if so, in what branch. The business and civic awards you’ve earned, and the organizational endorsements you’ve received.  The books or articles you’ve written. Maybe even something about your wife, your kids, and their pet Pomeranian. 

As Sergeant Joe Friday used to say on Dragnet, you’re giving her “just the facts, ma’am, just the facts.”

But the facts aren’t enough for him to make a deal-closing decision.  Not by a long chalk.

If she’s like most voters, she doesn’t know the difference between Johns Hopkins University and Cartagena Community College – at least in terms of what you can do once elected.  She can’t make heads or tails of your business honors, and doesn’t know the difference between a political endorsement by the Heritage Foundation and the John Birch Society.  You’ve given her facts about yourself, but you’ve done so without putting them in context.  What you’ve told her about yourself and your live-experience tells her nothing about what you can do for her – or, even more important – why you’re better for her than any other candidate for the same office.

Instead of motivating him by inspiring confidence in your ability to help him with his political needs, wants and desires, you’ve either put him off or actually scared him – maybe just a little bit.  Yes, a prospective supporter becomes afraid of a candidate when too many technical or business or inside-the-beltway terms he can’t possibly understand get thrown his way.

In short, you didn’t create for her a “Selling Bio,” a deal-closing campaign voter-loyalty marketing tool. A Selling Bio takes your accomplishments and abilities, and presents them in a way that wins confidence, engenders trust, and motivates her to pick up the phone or drop in your election headquarters, eager to volunteer, or contribute, or just to vote for you.

And that’s not at all surprising.  No professor at business school – or even a Poly-Sci professor – ever taught you how to write a selling bio.  It’s not in most how-to guides for aspiring candidates.  Nobody along your road to becoming a candidate ever explained the importance of winning a prospective voter’s trust, instead of just giving him raw information and encouraging him to make up his own mind.

Effective politics requires a professional candidate – not necessarily a professional politician, but one who sees his campaign as a solo-practitioner business that is his entire future.  And successful campaigns require a professional campaign staff, men and women who’ve run fund-raisers and Get Out The Vote efforts – in other words, people who know what GOTV means, and it’s not a new Cable Network. 

So why shouldn’t a candidate’s selling bio require a professional?  In fact, it does. 

A “selling bio” has to be much more than mere facts.  It’s got to be compelling and motivating, as well as believable. Each sentence has to help “make the case” for the candidate, the campaign and his positions.  Each paragraph has to make a difference.  And a lot of “conventional wisdom” needs to be thrown by the boards, because it is just all wrong.

For example – I worked with one candidate who had a large family – six or seven kids, all of them under high school ate.  He proudly put his family forward as an advantage, a positive indicator of his commitment to family values.  Sure to win the woman’s vote, he thought, right up until the research came in.  Soccer Moms – a key demographic – actually felt sorry for his kids. Knowing the hours an elected official has to put in, they saw this candidate’s success as just shy of child neglect. 

This is not to say that large families are a liability – they’re not.  But they may not be the slam-dunk advantage that candidates assume.  And this applies to every “conventional wisdom” advantage that you can imagine.  Ask yourself:
·      How many decorated combat veterans get elected in Portland, Oregon or San Francisco?

·      How many “women’s studies” professors get elected to a Bible Belt State Legislature?
Men and women who have honorably served have a leg up in many districts – but not all.  And someone who’s a respected college professor got elected in my home Congressional District, District One, but she would not have succeeded in the far more conservative District Four.
Don’t assume that you know what advantages to play up, or that you are word-smith enough to put those advantages down in a compelling, motivating fashion.

Unless your undergraduate degree was in marketing and promotion, you are going to be far better off turning the creation of this vital selling tool – along with all of your selling tools – over to a professional.  You wouldn’t try to write, produce, direct and star in your own television commercial, would you?  If you want a truly high-quality campaign website, you aren’t going to turn that over to your out-of-work brother-in-law, are you? 

So why would you want to try writing your own selling bio?

In the right hands, the right selling bio can make a significant difference in the conversion rate from prospective supporters who visit your otherwise professionally-created website into passionate voters, volunteers and campaign financial supporters. 

If you want to convert more prospects into supporters, make sure your website has all four of those elements – prospects looking for and finding a candidate for an office they care about, a mix of political positions that meets their own political needs, a believable case that you can deliver on your promises, and most of all, a selling bio that closes the deal for you.