02 March 2009

Advice to Candidates: It’s about making your rival look worse

It’s very entertaining to see how candidates compete with one another during an election to win votes.

A candidate makes a statement, his/her opponent absorbs what was said and re-uses it within a campaign ad or a speech, in a manner which weakens the original statement or intent.

The back and forth between the two parties is rapid.

A quote from a new interview on TV or print can be integrated into a fresh attack ad in the matter of hours.

If someone makes a gaffe or says something politically incorrect, you can expect a rival response condemning it.

Everything is fodder to be used in a way which weakens another’s value as a politician.

What’s the end goal?

It’s not just about fighting for a cause and making promises to the people. Sure, most politicians need a strong platform to run on but in the end it all comes down to one thing: being the lesser evil.

Or if you’re less cynical, the better choice.

It’s all a game of making your opponent look worse than you. Less qualified, less experienced, less ethical, less intelligent, less patriotic, less in tune with the concerns of the people.

If you can do that successfully, you’ll win votes and maybe even an election.

Political theatre is all about managing perspectives.
You need to win a voter’s trust. You need to be the better choice, the lesser evil.

To that end, you need an acute understanding and ongoing awareness of your competitors.

What are they doing? What can you do to top their efforts?

Some political theorists advocate the strategy of attacking your opponents’ strengths instead of their weaknesses, the goal of which is to make people re-question their solidified beliefs.

Of course, these methods do not have to culminate in an overt ‘attack ad’ slamming your competitors.

Strong-armed messages will often backfire. Sarcasm, humor and subtle visual references can leech attention from your rival’s strengths and shift voters to your side/point of view.

If you want to improve your competitive appeal, try monitoring the web for feedback on your competitor.

Understanding how other people feel about them will allow you to revamp yourself accordingly.

If they hate a flaw about your rival (e.g trapo leanings), advocate your distaste for that particular weakness and take a pro-active stance to promise something better.

If they love something about your competitor (e.g youth/idealism) but crave more meaty or original news, offer content that is more all-encompassing or go in-depth with more feature content on a sub-topic.

Turn their strengths or weaknesses into your advantage.

To sum up, this strategy is quite simple: It’s about constantly playing off your competitors’ actions and their perceived pros/cons.

In your quest for far reaching acceptance, you’ll need to repeatedly adapt swiftly and decisively, in order to position yourself as the better choice than your rivals.