The Moral of the Story: Political Branding, Part 2

It’s common in Michigan’s political scene to share stories of the success and failure of close elections and ballot measures. Observers pontificate on what went wrong, what went right, and where the challenges were. Post-election season is prime time for politicos to look back on a dozen or more different stories, and seek out the moral of each one.

For professionals, this retrospective analysis is just as much education as recreation. It helps to determine which decisions, stances and strategies worked best, and would again in the future. Naturally, it’s the kind of information consultant firms like Grassroots Midwest use to build for the success of future campaigns. The weights of issues of funding, polling, demographics, and the activity of the voting base are just a few of the factors we get in the habit of tracking. In many cases, the moral of the story is up for debate.

One area where even the most casual pundits tend to agree, however, are on those campaigns that could or should have been slugfests and ended up as largely silent, one-sided K.O.s. When candidates or causes are well-matched but one’s face and name has dominated the narrative, there’s not much story, just a moral: respect the power of branding.

It happens more often than you might think, and not simply to novice candidates and advocates. Having an idea or a plan for your brand is no guarantee for success. Proper branding isn’t only choosing a slogan or campaign sign. It’s not as simple as what you say, when you say it, or how you say it. Even for the experienced campaigner, the difference between pushing a successful or unsuccessful brand all comes down to perspective. We don’t know what we don’t know.

Pictured: expertise.

The problem is that we have a tendency to think we do, especially when the subject we’re communicating is ourselves. Confidence is a necessity in politics, but it’s just as much a double-edged sword. The temptation to believe that a good cause is a sure victory — or that a righteous person is, by nature, always right — has snuffed out the futures of many public servants and noble coalitions. Many well-intentioned, hard-working, qualified campaigners fall into habits and practices they merely think will work.

If it’s true that each of us are the hero in our own story, we can’t neglect the need for supporting cast. What separates a trusted adviser from countless political commentators is a commitment to doing the research on data, best practices, and an ever-evolving political climate, all for the benefit of most effectively making your brand and promoting your cause.

It’s an easy trap to fall into, if you go it alone. But if you want to be the person who wins those close races, never deny yourself the leg up. While you’re busy being the champion of your cause, let our consultants at Grassroots Midwest do the good work of crafting and spreading your story.

About the author: Steve Heikkinen serves as the Communications and Marketing Strategist for Grassroots Midwest, Michigan’s only bipartisan political advocacy firm.

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