Counter-intuitive communications talking points for the US presidential candidates


Mitt Romney attacks Newt Gingrich and vice versa. Soon the Republican nominee will be exchanging jabs with Barack Obama. He knows a thing or two about nasty primary elections. He had his fair share of negative exchanges wth Hillary Clinton before the two reconciled and the latter was chosen as Secretary of State. The tone in primary and general elections then carries on to the political legislative process. While this is intended to be a blog on communications, not politics, it is safe to say that the incessant, permanent campaign in Washington politics is leaving the country in paralysis and the population fed up. Both Bush in 2000 and Obama in 2008 pledged to unite the country. Both miserably failed with this objective (among other items).Negative ads work, so they say (this CNN storyhas the details). But have negative ads ever been measured versus positive ads over the course of an entire campaign? My hunch is no, because no candidate in recent memory at the national level has ever truly engaged in a positive campaign throughout its duration.All this name calling and division not to mention the government’s ineptitude to get anything done has left Americans rightfully disgusted with their government and the future. So here I offer a different communications strategy. Here are some suggested talking points that could be implemented on the campaign trail: in interviews, canvassing, debates – you name it – for any candidate from either party:- Before we can do anything in Washington DC policy wise, we need to first change the tone. The best and greatest ideas will go by the wayside if this tone is not changed. I,  _____, am committed to changing the tone in Washington DC.
– Surely I will point out the differences between my opponent and I, and yes, I will outline why my experience, vision (blah, blah, blah) is best for the country. While pointing out differences, I pledge to never say one bad/divisive word about my opponent during the campaign and thereafter. I promise to condemn any organization that launches negative attack ads. This will be the most positive and transcending campaign in recent history. This necessity to change the tone in politics is so paramount to getting anything done in this country.
– Not only will I not say a bad thing about him/her, I will even go out of my way to highlight that my opponent is a good person and wants what is best for the country, it is just that we see different ways of getting things done.
– The way I am running this campaign and completely changing the tone of a presidential race is the same exact way I will preside over the country. I won’t be in the permanent campaign mode,  but rather focusing on executing the strategy.
– Become a part of the most positive campaign you have ever seen.

Call me naive, but I think this sort of messaging would lead to victory. It would improve the chances of uniting a divided country and help get things done. It all starts with developing the messaging.

Be it a political campaign or any other organization in the private or public sector, I would argue that this sort of messaging is what public audiences want to hear. I have serious reservations about the positive impact of negativity. What people want more of is solutions. I hope one day in my lifetime to witness a positive, solutions-focused campaign.

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About Kevin Anselmo

Kevin Anselmo is the Founder and Principal of Experiential Communications, a consultancy focused on education. He helps brands within academia - whether individual or corporate - communicate with stakeholders. He also teaches communications and public relations workshops to different individuals and groups and just launched an online media training program for academics. Previously, Kevin was Director of Public Relations for Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and prior to that managed the media relations for IMD Business School in Switzerland. In addition, he was an adjunct communications professor at Nyack College in New York. Currently based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Kevin lived and worked in Switzerland for eight years and in Germany for two years. He has led public relations initiatives in various countries around the world.
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