What Star Trek can teach us about message management.

The entertainment industry has a special problem. Writers and director, and even sometimes actors, change from movie to movie or episode to episode, but the franchise has to meticulously maintain its unique style and characters. Science fiction shows have an even bigger burden. They have to maintain an entire fictional universe, and their notoriously demanding fans will catch them in even the tiniest slip up.

The Star Trek franchise has been around since 1966, and has managed to keep its fictional world consistent through 6 TV series’ and 12 movies. How? Through the Star Trek Bible. Every TV show has one, but Star Trek’s is probably the most famous and extensive of them all.

The Star Trek Bible is a massive reference library of every detail of the Star Trek universe, from the technical specifications of each starship to the grammatical rules of Klingon to the political operations of the United Federation of Planets. It archives the statements of characters, their relationships, histories, clothing and hairstyles.

Every new writer involved in a Star Trek episode or movie can go to this reference manual to make sure that, for example, the Andorians’ skin remains blue in 2013 as it was in 1968.

So if Star Trek can do it, why can’t we?

If Star Trek can maintain consistency for 47 years, there’s really no excuse for a political campaign to be unable to maintain message consistency for 6-12 months.

Every campaign or elected official should have a message “Bible”. We can call it a “Blueprint” or “Style guide” or whatever we want. We just have to commit our message strategy to paper (or some digital format) and make it accessible to everyone involved with our campaigns who communicates with the outside world.

We need to clearly define the public persona of our candidate or elected official as though they were a television character, and describe what kind of image, language and behavior are consistent with that character.

We need to decide on a message and stick to it, and kick our dependence on rapid response. (Rapid response is not a viable campaign strategy. It is just a tool. But more on that later.)

In an age where new media channels pop up every day, it is even more critical that each campaign maintain a central repository of messaging language, imagery and strategic guidance that can be used to coordinate messaging across press outreach, field operations, television, radio and direct mail advertising, email, facebook, YouTube, twitter and more.

There’s no excuse. If they can do it, so can we.

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