MESSAGE CALENDARS: THE IMPORTANCE OF ADVANCED PLANNING
As a general rule in politics, if you are explaining, you are losing. Successful campaigns go on the offense with their messaging and policy issues. Focus on the issues where you are strong and avoid talking about the issues where you are weak. If your campaign talks about a certain issue, the press will report on it and your opponent will be forced to comment on issues in your turf. You are setting the terms of the debate.
The best way to do this is by a creating a message calendar and scheduling events around those messages. The calendar can help you plot out future moves on your campaign. Campaigns rarely think “long term” but successful planning goes right up until Election Day.
Start by plotting all the key election dates from party declaration deadlines to the last day to register to vote. Look for special dates such as Veteran’s Day, Earth Day or Tax day to be opportunities for comment or action. Any of those days can have special campaign events scheduled around them.
Make sure the message you want fits in with what’s happening at the time. Have a really innovative idea about student debt? You’re better off launching that in August on college campuses when college kids get back to school. If you launch it in May, all the students will have left for the summer and you gain less traction. Do you support gay rights? Plan your messaging to coincide with Pride. Sure you can rail against Obamacare anytime you want, but you will gain the most traction if you time your outrage with key dates in the implementation of the program.
Try not to dilute your messaging. If this week is about national security don’t hold events about education. If this week is about healthcare don’t talk about defense. By staying on a consistent message and scheduling events around those messages you force the press to report on that specific issue. The more you stray from the message calendar the more you are giving them to write about.