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Lessons from North Carolina: The Branding of a President
With the two major parties’ pep rallies—er, political conventions—now firmly under our national wing, I wanted to tuck into one (DNC) to discuss a topic close to my heart. Message branding.
It goes without saying: in any rally-like gathering, the standard of proof isn’t monumental. Pundits and Tweeters aside, anyone can say nearly anything, ride the swell of the mob, and trigger frenetic overreaction.
But as a copywriter in the business of selling messages that matter, I couldn’t help but admire some of the more moving rhetoric. If copywriting requires sculpting emotion into tiny, precious mementos, political speechwriting is capable of carving massive monuments out of words, then dropping them on undefended human hearts. To wit:
- On the first night, Michelle reintroduced us to Obama: a family man with an oversized heart.
- Next came Bill Clinton to make the case in numbers. On the financial front, Obama’s competency, he posited, is not up for interpretation.
- Finally, Biden brought the fire and brimstone. He gave his eyewitness account of the President’s decisiveness: his ramrod backbone, his principled decisions.
- By the time Obama entered stage left—tall, bright, humble—the Democrats had traced his contours in three-dimensional blue. His work was largely finished…for now. And so his speech had the luxury of feeling effortless.
No matter which way your political loyalties fall, there are crucial tips for everyone here to make your brand message more powerful and presidential:
- Strategize. Figure out which messages matter, and how you will meter them out over time—or through a variety of messengers.
- Focus. Really sharpen those messages to a fine tip. If you stray, go back with fresh words.
- Layer. Every time you introduce a new message, layer it over the old. That way, your message remains consistent—and provides a sense of continuity and trust.
- Attribute. Let others sing your praises. But when writing, flip the spotlight onto your readers. Consider that they’re the ones who give you a reason to succeed—and acknowledge them for it.
What do you think? Please share with us your impressions of American political branding, of the two national conventions, of how you'd launch your own presidential campaign. We look forward to reading your comments!