I recently attended a four-day “boot camp” on professional public speaking and marketing in Los Angeles, and one of the points driven home by our “drill instructor,” James Malinchak, was this: “Nobody will ever hear you until they know you.”
This is so true for political candidates, especially today since so many candidates who have gone before have so poisoned the well.
The point is that you have to tell your audience about yourself—your story—in a way that makes them feel like you’re “one of them.” This is actually easier than you might think, as marketing expert Yanik Silver explains: “We all have a ‘creation story,’ but few of us use them in our marketing. Think of it like a comic book character. If I asked you, ‘Who was bitten by a radioactive spider and started fighting crime to avenge his uncle’s death?’ You’d probably know that was Spiderman.
This is all part of the creation story and every business, brand and personality has that creation story that should be made more public.”
So before you construct your campaign speeches, ask yourself a few questions: How did you get your start in politics? What was the source of your inspiration? Why do you campaign the way you do?
Share this with your customers (for our purposes, voters and donors), Silver says, and “you’ll create a deeper connection.”
One other tip in this regard: spend some time talking about the experiences of your youth; it’s something everyone can relate to. You might relate a story about your first job, your challenges in high school, or maybe your first car or a story about your childhood sweetheart.
In fact, here’s a gold star speaking secret: If you really want to get your audience involved and relating to you, tell them what your favorite television show was while you were growing up. One of my favorites was “Dallas.” I just about idolized J.R. Ewing. The guy had no conscience and never failed to screw an opponent, which I guess explains my love for politics.
So after you talk about your favorite TV show, ask the audience to tell you about some of their favorites and watch the room come alive with participation. They’ll be eating out of your hand. You’re no longer Joe Candidate; you’re a regular guy (or gal), just like them.
And now that they know you a little, they’ll be more inclined to listen to your message.
Chuck Muth is a Nevada-based political communications consultant.