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.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Your Campaign's Selling Message

Making the Most Of Your Website And Literature

By Ned Barnett

Missed Messages:  Recently, I had the opportunity to review the websites of every Republican Party candidate registered to run for political office in Clark County, Nevada – that’s Las Vegas to the rest of the world.  In doing so, I noticed that far too many of these candidates traded the opportunity for actually moving and motivating voters, replacing those compelling messages with worthy platitudes that no voter really cares about. 

On a good day, someone who clicks through to your website will stay 10 seconds – or less – before deciding to either stay and read, or move on.  By offering platitudes instead of compelling messages, the website was all but asking potential voters to – as the police say at crime scenes – “move along, there’s nothing to see here.”

Missing out on that kind of opportunity to present your “selling message” is tantamount to missing out on perhaps his one opportunity to deliver a dynamic message that will persuade voters to support you, with their ballots, their time and their contributions.

In explaining this to one candidate for a judicial seat, I realized that most candidates need the same guidance I gave this potential judge. This is particularly important in Nevada, because people can’t vote “straight party” when they cast their ballots. In Nevada, as in many other states, judicial candidates appear on the ballot without partisan reference, making it even more important for them to generate favorable name recognition.

His platform – which, unfortunately, could be any judicial candidate’s platform – makes what would seem to be a strong case for his candidacy.  However, because any judicial candidate could say (and probably would say) the same thing, these messages do not generate voter interest. 

Paraphrasing, these were:
·      Ensure timely justice by avoiding unnecessary delays by attorneys – or by the judge himself
·      Demand civility and respect in the courtroom
·      Promote fair advocacy, ensuring each person receives his or her day in court
·      Enforce decorum and the rules of the court
·      Uphold the Nevada and US Constitutions
These are certainly all worthy goals, but as noted, any judicial candidate would, if asked, affirm these same goals, despite his or her track record on the bench.

The Right Messages:  Instead, I advised this judicial candidate to do something radically different – and this advice should apply to all candidates for every position:

“Voters do not expect to be in your court – ever.  In fact, they pray that they won’t wind up in any court for any reason.  However, they still want assurances that “their judge” will be a person who represents their own personal and political values. In this way, they can be sure that they will be “heard” in court, and on every decision.  These values are about you as a person, not you as a judge.  They are human values.  Many of these values transcend your role as a judge, or perhaps even have nothing to do with what you can, or can’t do, as a judge.

“Tell voters about your family values, or about how you’re a native of Nevada, or about things you believe in.  Give them a reason to respect you – perhaps even to like you – but most of all, give them a reason why they should feel well-represented when they have you on the bench, acting in their stead and on their behalf.”

This basic philosophy, obviously, also applies to representatives going into the executive or legislative branch.  Voters seldom have a reason to go to Washington, or to the state capital, or even to go before the city or county commission, the Mayor’s office, the school board or any other elective government body.  Yet those voters still want to know that the men and women who represent them share their core values – that they will do a good job of representing their interests as citizens, taxpayers and voters.

This is done with the “selling message,” which is – basically – a written form of the candidate’s elevator pitch or stump speech.

Selling Messages:  Sometimes this message revolves around a piece of legislation – amnesty for illegal aliens, or a pipeline running from Canada to Texas.  However, at other times, this selling message represents more of a candidate’s personal beliefs.  The personal issues could be big or small, but they should be ones that matter to voters in a way that transcends the candidate’s office, and its role in society.

That personal belief could touch on a candidate’s support for Israel, the rights of citizens vs. the powers of Homeland Security, the Ten Commandments in a courthouse, a crèche in a public park over Christmas, or even abortion rights. 

For instance, right now (as I write this), a “flavor of the month” candidate for the Governor in Texas is in that position only because, as a state legislator, she filibustered – unsuccessfully – to block a bill that would have made illegal late-term abortions – which many consider virtual infanticide, and for good reason. 

While that extreme view of abortion is not a particularly popular position in Texas, her radically pro-abortion position is widely popular among hard-core feminists, as well as Hollywood’s liberal elite.  Together, those two groups have together raised millions of dollars for her campaign to unseat Governor Perry.  That issue likely won’t get her elected in Texas – which is neither a hotbed of pro-abortion feminism nor of Hollywood liberal elitism – but it did a great job of raising money and catapulting her onto the national stage.

Pros and Cons:  Any strongly held position will attract some voters, while pushing away others.   There is always a risk when taking a stance that it may be more unpopular than it is popular.  However, conservative values continue to remain majority values in America today, despite the outcome of the past several presidential elections.

Many conservative candidates believe that they will do better by not polarizing voters by taking strong positions. However, the lessons of Reagan in 1980, the “Republican Revolution” of 1994 and the Tea Party revolt of 2010, all suggest that when conservatives take bold stands, they do better than when – like McCain and Romney – they try to straddle the fence.

Especially for off-the-front page elective positions, to stand out is to win. 

Examples of these positions where, almost literally, nobody knows who you really are – and which, therefore, requires you to really stand out - include judicial elections, county and state representatives, school board and constable or sheriff elections. 

To stand out, you’ve got to give your core potential voters a reason to first remember you, then support you – with their ballots, their time and their financial support.

Sample Conservative Selling Messages:  What does a strong conservative selling message look like?  It could be as simple as these:
·      I believe that Israel is perhaps America’s most important ally, and I stand foursquare in support of that embattled nation.

·      I oppose open borders and amnesty for illegal aliens – not because I have anything against them, but because this is gaping open door to sexual trafficking and sexual slavery.

·      I have nothing against green energy – when it works – but I recognize that our country’s economy and wealth have been built on abundant access to low-cost energy.   I support government efforts to keep energy abundant and affordable.

·      Global Warming is not a scientific fact – for the past fifteen years, global temperatures have not gone up even a fraction – and I oppose regulations that restrict our use of energy in the name of a scientific mistake.

·      I see late term abortion as tantamount to infanticide; while I recognize a woman’s right to abortion, I support limiting it, and when an unborn child becomes viable, the right to an abortion ends, except only to save the life of the mother.

·      As a father (or mother), I see the evil of human trafficking as one of the most horrific crimes that can be perpetrated – especially since those most at-risk and most victimized are little more than children themselves.  I support all reasonable efforts to end human trafficking and sexual slavery in our city, our state and our nation.

·      I see an increase in the minimum wage at a time when unemployment is still at levels twice what it was during the last Republican Administration to be a mistaken policy.  It will raise costs on all retail goods, leading to further unemployment, especially among those it’s “supposed” to help, people at the low-end of the economic and wage scale, who desperately need to keep their jobs to make ends meet.

Make Them Your Own:  These are, of course, just examples of possible “selling messages,” and should not be taken for your own campaign unless you really believe in them.  Instead, formulate what you believe, and make those issues your own.

These messages should be boiled down to “bumper sticker” length to be used as bullet points on your website, with a link to a fuller presentation on the issue.  Those fuller presentations should also be rewritten as blogs, and posted on blog-sites supporting the campaign, as well as separately on the website. Repetition is not a problem, as long as you re-state the positions each time you present them.

They do not have to be long messages, but they must be powerful.

Examples I’ve Created:  For one candidate, who represented a conservative constituency in the Deep South’s “bible belt,” we knew that voters did not want “leaders.”  They were proudly independent cusses who truly wanted representatives, people who would both serve them and reflect their views.  In addition, they wanted someone who was a man or woman of faith.  

Putting across that message in a succinct slogan was a challenge, but here’s what we came up with:  Stewardship, not Leadership.” 

Obviously, the slogan played to their feeling that they needed no “leaders.”  In addition, in “church-speak,” the word “stewardship” means someone who is in a position to serve.  It reflects the commandment of Jesus:  “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant to all” (Mark 9:35).

Being a steward is an honorable role in the church, and the use of this term sent a powerful subliminal message to the faithful among the electorate.

Another example comes from the time when the Federal Election Commission mandated that all paid political ads had to include naming both the campaign committee and its treasurer.  Typically, this means an ad ends with, “This ad was paid for the Committee to Re-Elect Bob Tyler, Frank Smith, Treasurer.”  That does no harm, but it does no good (beyond following the law), and it takes up six seconds in a 15- or 30-second ad.  At my recommendation, the candidate’s committee legally changed its name to – and ended each of their ads with – the following: “Ten Thousand Lexington County Homeowners Who What to Return Bob Tyler to Congress, Frank Smith, Treasurer.” 

In this way, the required disclaimer also became a part of the selling message.  The contest may not have been in doubt – the candidate I’m calling Bob Tyler was a popular Congressman – but it certainly didn’t hurt his re-election chances.

Humanizing the Candidate:  Even before they cast their ballots, or volunteer, or open up their wallets – today’s voter first wants to be persuaded that this candidate will effectively represent them.  To do this, you must put a human face on the candidate – make him or her a real person, with real and compelling beliefs and values.  Accomplishing this through a brief and effective selling message puts candidates on the fast track to electoral success.