Yesterday I was browsing through the Green Party of Canada blogs, and ran across an interesting thread. It was pretty encouraging, because it began to address one of the fundamental weaknesses of the Green Party of Canada. The lack of a War Room, and the corresponding strategic void in election planning. In this thread, some GPC types were arguing about the hows and whys of developing an election slogan. (meaning Campaign Theme).
I believe that the Green Party of Canada exists for the purpose of contesting elections, and driving our message home to the electorate. We are not a club, or an NGO. We are attempting to become a GO, in order to directly, and indirectly influence public policy. We aren’t in this to make a quick buck. We are in it because we care, and have decided that the best way to bring about the required changes in public policy is through direct political action. The question remains as to HOW we can do this.
In order to help out the debate, which deals with concepts new and foreign to many Greens, I thought I would throw up a quick summary of some elements of a book I read a little while ago. The book is entitled ‘The War Room’ by Warren Kinsella. Kinsella is a pretty sharp Liberal, (Chretien brand) hack who has joined the Ignatieff team. The book is not stellar, but it can certainly do no harm, (except to your’ pocketbook!). My bet is that Kinsella will run the Liberal War room in the next election, so his modus operandi should be required reading for the GPC election readiness people.
The Campaign theme is the very last step in the development of the Campaign Plan. The plan, (In Kinsella’s view) consists of 10 elements:
- Money: How much, and when?
- Campaign Structure: Who does what and where.
- Campaign Calendar: Bluegreenblogger works on the basic 36 day election calendar.
- Know your Candidate: Summary of your’ Candidates Strength Weakness Opportunity Threats.
- Know Your Opposition: Same as for your’ own candidate.
- Target Audience: What do they think today, and where do you want to move them to?
- Key Messages: What you will say to your target audience, and how you will deliver the message.
- Campaign Context: What people are, or may be thinking about from ‘away’. (Like, is there an economic crisis looming that will change EVERYTHING?)
- Geography: The physical geographic parameters of the campaign.
- Campaign Strategic Theme: The front door pitch. (And incidentally the slogan)
These things don’t happen in sequence. They happen more or less in conjunction with one another. The key is that the Campaign Strategy is data, and fact driven. The tactics are of secondary importance. Strategy is static, and shouldn’t change one iota. Tactics can, and should be devised to adapt to changing campaign context, and incidents.
Target audience, and key messages are the hand, and the glove. Here’s an illustration. The strategic objective is to double support in the election, while gaining official party status in Parliament. You need to decide which electors you need to persuade to vote for you to achieve this goal, and the messages that will suffice to do the persuading. Start with an issues based analysis of the electorate, and determine what strong Green Party issues resonate with which demographic. How strongly will these issues influence the voting decision? Where are the target groups located geographically? For the ridings you are targeting to win, how will you assemble a plurality of voters on election day? This will require a large telephone survey of the electorate. It will require long interviews with a lot of people to gather this type of intelligence. This will provide unarguable FACTS to work with. Yes it costs money, but if you don’t do it, you will piss away far more in the next election, delivering the wrong message to the wrong people.
When you have determined your’ target audience, and the issues, you need to develop the key messages. Have the campaign team start preparing messages, and policy statements. The Green Party is rife with great policy. We cannot pitch each and every line to every voter, so start focusing on those that will do the most good to our cause.
When you have assembled a good looking platform, it’s time to go back to the electorate with your test messages, and see if they’re strong enough to do the job. The more important the target audience, the larger your survey sample sizes need to be. When you have PROVEN that your key messages are effective, and can get the job done, THEN you prepare your Campaign Theme. (ie. Your slogan). Test this again, both with focus groups, and by survey.
With this kind of electoral intelligence in hand, the Campaign plan will all fall into place, with the vast amount of organizing required to plan the who and how to deliver the message having actual targets to focus on. I have not revealed any great secrets here. Just about every published Campaign strategist, or political consultant in the democratic world will lay out a comparable planning process. It in no way goes against green principles to find out exactly how we are going to achieve our political objectives. It hurts me to see Greens floundering with the basics, when they should be sharpening their skills, and gathering the resources needed to achieve great things in the next election. It is so totally doable! Lets go and get that Official Party status!
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