(Andrew Harnik / AP Photo)
That’s why it’s absolutely critical to understand what the candidates are doing communication-wise so we don’t get tricked into voting for someone just because they seem like they’d be fun to have a beer with. Here are some of the things to look for:
1. Repetition. This is also known in my field as message discipline. Repeating a message over and over trains people to believe it. Be skeptical.
2. Folksy humor. A sense of humor is always a good thing, but just because someone is good at the down-home metaphors and sayings, doesn’t make him or her qualified to be president.
3. Entertainment factor. Similar to #2. The more entertaining a candidate is, the more likely we are to give him or her a pass when it comes to policy. Don’t.
4. Slogans. These are simple and repeatable. Some are inspiring. Some make you want to shout them out loud. They’re meant to make you feel good, like you have some power. But you don’t and they’re basically empty.
5. Personal Story. A.K.A., “back story,” this is the up-by-the-bootstraps story a candidate has to tell. In the communication circles, it’s known as the “hero journey.” Recall George W. Bush in his pickup truck with his dogs in tow clearing brush vs. John Kerry windsurfing off Nantucket. Even though Bush hails from political royalty, who do you think people felt was more like them?
6. Delivery. Refers to how candidates look, sound, move, and travel. If they are great speakers, they have a huge advantage in getting votes. It’s why I’m astonished when a candidate gives a poor performance. But, just because a candidate is a great speaker, doesn’t mean he’ll make a great president. Look beyond this.
These are just a few of the tricks of the trade. The more informed you are about them, the more you’ll be able to get to the truth about who these people are and what they can do for you and the country.