What's an effective Message?
We heard from lots of people - both winners and losers of elections - about messages that work for voters. Here's a brief distillation:
- Specific plans ,rather than "improve transit"
- Measurable goals
Get on message and stay on message!
- Answer the question: What's in it for me?
- Present a long term vision: What's the plan?
- Assure voters of accountability: Can I trust you to use my taxes wisely?
A couple of observations from studies of election results:
- New rail projects appeared to have some correlation with lost elections in some regions, but maintaining or expanding existing rail does not; this makes sense, as there is a widespread phenomenon of support for rail transit in areas that have experienced the benefits.
- A very positive factor is the perception of a congestion "crisis" (or other need for transportation alternatives) in a region; but this doesn't always work: Atlanta is the prime counter-example, since they built a heavy-rail transit line ("MARTA") in the 1970s, but refused to expand it because of an apparent perception that only "undesirable people" used it.
- Focus on return on investment, rather than taxes
- Forget TV, print, and radio. Use Facebook, blogging & tweeting. There was a strong counter-argument to this assertion as well: while e-media are ideal for young, engaged professionals, senior citizens by-and-large don't use e-media, yet they are the demographic most likely to vote in "off" elections.
- Get young professionals on the team (maybe "lost") but passionate and wanting to contribute.
- Hit the chamber of commerce - through the chambers, you can work better with business.
- Set specific goals and stick with them.
- Own the "emotional vibe" - don't respond to the angry vibe. Be optimistic, returns-oriented, positive.
- Don't try to convince the hard-core opposition; work hardest to get support from independents; they respond best to solid numeric support and evidence on the Web.
- Get a progressive coalition together, but consensus is illusory; rather than seek con census, look for common ground among progressives.
- Leave ideology at home: talk about issues on which you share common ground. For example, climate change and global warming are perceived as ideological issues (many Americans don't "believe in" man-made climate change), but most people can support job-creation and economic growth.
OK, there we are. I learned a lot at this conference...hope you find it helpful, too!