I'm thinking of a joke involving flatulence..
How to write copy for a political campaign

I was lying in bed this morning watching Adam Sandler in "The Waterboy," when my mental affliction which re-directs everything into a political context struck me.

With it's silly and sometimes scatological humor, the movie would sometimes go for the lowest common denominator to get the laugh. Admittedly, I found myself giggling out loud. And it's exactly how you need to communicate to the public in a political campaign. You need to modify your language to communicate to the lowest common denominator.

No, I'm not saying you need to make a lot of fart jokes. I'm saying you should sculpt your message to penetrate to the greatest number of people. And before anyone brings it up, I'm not using "lowest common denominator" as a derogatory term as it is sometimes intended. What I'm saying is that your message needs to cut across educational levels to reach the broadest audience possible.

If your message is crafted in such a complicated manner it ends up only being conveyed to people with PhD's, well... then you've at least won their vote. But you've ended up missing the other 95% of voters who don't have one. Are you seeing the point?

I've worked on campaigns before where someone with a law or other advanced degree was allowed to write position papers. It would end up that they know law, but not how to communicate. And they would be just horrible. You would invariably have to completely re-do the papers entirely because they were unintelligible to your common voter.

It's not to pick on attorneys - I do know several who are masters at communication. But sometimes when people with advanced degrees write, they write to their level. And not the level of the target audience.

In politics, your target is "Joe Six Pack." If Joe Six Pack understands what you are saying, it's where you need to be. If he gets it, so will everyone else.

It's the difference between stating "Ambulating within a close proximity to an element in a state of combustion can result in a hazardous condition." and "Fire Bad. Stay away." Now which one got the message across in a clear manner to the broadest group of people?

Generally, if you're writing at a level where the message is easily communicated to someone with an eighth-grade education, that's a good target to shoot for. It's going to convey your concept and allow you to reach a more complete audience.

I think I've done my best writing in a collaborative environment with my old college roommate Chris. Chris doesn't work in news, but he has a degree in Journalism, and an excellent eye for broadly communicating concepts. Probably the best I've seen. When we write together, I bring broad campaign concepts and the political sensibility to the messages, he makes it easily understood, and between cursing and mocking each other, we've gotten some excellent materials hammered out.

It has been a good pairing of skills on the political campaigns (both issue and candidate) that we've worked on together. Even if I'm not working on a campaign with him, I might send a release or advertising concept to him to get a second opinion. Depending on where your writing skills are, it's not a bad idea to have someone whose skills complement your own take a run at it. If you're a hack, have someone with a journalism background take a peek. If you tend to being more of a writer, give it to a political hack to check for glaring political do's and don'ts.

And try to remember - Keep it simple, and easily understood. It will make your efforts that much more effective.


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