Anatomy of a Message


How do you develop a core message strategy? You need to figure out the one message you want to sink in over the course of the entire campaign. What is the relationship between that core message and the content you produce? Everything your campaign communicates and everything your supporters say have to illustrate and reinforce that one core message. 


Hope and change are the subtext of every good message.
Also, the number one indicator correlating with actual voting behavior is how voters rate the candidate on the question, so and so “cares about people like me.”


I care about people like you. You’re getting screwed. (“I feel your pain”) I will fight for you and change things. Things are going to get better for you and the country. (“Make America Great Again”)

So how do you develop your candidate’s unique version of that message?

1. Values: What are your candidate’s values? What or who does he or she believe is important?

2. Vision: What is your candidate’s personal vision for the kind of society we ought to have (and government’s role in it)?

3. Character: When the chips are down and behind closed doors, what principles (self imposed guidelines) are going to guide their decision making? What have they done that shows they can handle tough negotiations with maturity where needed? Where have they led on principle even when it was unpopular?

Think about all these things and figure out what drives your candidate.

What makes them fight so hard for this thankless job?
What feeds the fire in their belly?
Why does your candidate think they should be elected?
Why should a voter put his or her faith in your candidate to take care of their needs and be their voice?

What is it about your candidate that would make people actually believe them when they say, “I care about people like you. You’re getting screwed. I will fight for you and change things. Things are going to get better for you and the country.”

When Elizabeth Warren says, “I’ve got a plan for that” what she is really saying is, “yeah, things are a disaster right now. You’re getting screwed and things need to change. You can believe that I will change them successfully because I am capable of, and passionate about, figuring out a viable path to get us from here to where we need to be.” The plans themselves don’t matter. It’s what they say about her that matters. She has a plausible case to make that she would be the most capable of succeeding at delivering change.


You develop content the purpose of which is to illustrate your core message, values, vision, principles and character.

Your biography should reveal the experiences that formed your value system and character.

Stories about real people’s lives should illustrate your vision of what society should be like, or show how your actions would improve their lives.

Policy positions aren’t about the issues. They serve the purpose of letting people know what kind of person you are. They illustrate your core values and principles in action.

It all has to lead back to our core message.


You need to plan exactly which language your campaign and supporters should be using – specifically which frames and language people should use and which they should avoid.


You need to be positive. You should never even mention your opponent, except in very carefully crafted language designed to provide contrast while reinforcing progressive values.


Your message has to be in the right format for people to actually use it in conversation, regardless of which channel you use to distribute it.


Research shows us that the content that is the most shared, is NOT that which is snarky or shocking or expressing outrage.

People most share content that is useful and informative or emotionally compelling and hopeful.

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