Craft Effective Messaging

Craft Effective Messaging


The art of crafting compelling and effective messaging is likely to remain a domain in which the best talent will be highly valued. In fact, as the electorate gets segmented into more precise demographic groups and the capacity to target those groups increases, demand for this skill is increasing as campaigns have more segments to which they want to direct custom-tailored messages. If such segmenting becomes more widespread, it is possible we could see a significant increase in the advantage well-financed campaigns have in crafting messaging, since they could afford to pay the best consultants top dollar to develop custom-tailored messages for each demographic slice.

That is a risky practice, however, for any candidate. If candidates are exposed for pandering to different audiences, that could have severe electoral consequences. (A recent winner of the Knight News Challenge, Silent Targeting, Loud Democracy, is “prototyping an investigative service that tracks political ads that use online micro-targeting to reveal how political action committees, parties and candidates target individual voters based on their personal information.”) Moreover, there is concern amongst some that the micro-targeting approach to messaging also fragments the candidate’s message and can undermine her capacity to deliver a strong and coherent narrative.


  • Could a Tongal-like process be used to develop effective messaging more cheaply and with greater reliance on a broader cross-section of the candidate’s electorate? (Increase the ROI of People Powered Tactics)
  • Could a tool like Silent Targeting, Loud Democracy expose and incur serious costs for campaigns that develop multiple messaging strategies, thereby limiting the advantages of that strategy for better-financed campaigns? (Decrease the ROI of Conventional Tactics)
  • Might research challenge the relative effectiveness of custom-tailored messages compared to a single widely used narrative? If so, would wide circulation of those findings in the campaign sector affect opinions about the value of that approach or how much of a campaign’s resources should be allocated to more and more message crafting? (Influence Campaign Culture)

What the Domain Experts Say


Jim Pugh

CEO, ShareProgress
Pursuing crowd-sourced and data-driven tools to craft campaign messaging seems like a very smart and high-potential approach to democratizing this discipline. A lot of what has traditionally been done by “message gurus” could be accomplished by engaging a larger group of people in the right way.


Rayid Ghani

Director, Center for Data Science & Public Policy, University of Chicago
Today, message testing is done in small focus groups – it’s narrow and deep. Yes, social media and A/B testing is making things easier to scale but it’s not clear how the channels allow you to come up with more messages (or even the right messages) to test. Campaigns are typically too scared to test interesting messages at scale so there will always be a limit to how much we’ll see social media and A/B testing used to test very wide variety of messages. It will be interesting to figure out if those tests can be done implicitly (at least a first pass that is cheap) by observing/listening rather than active testing.


Frederick Mayer

Professor of Public Policy, Political Science and Environment, Duke University
New communication technologies and strategies are likely to transform how campaigns are conducted in the future. The challenge is to develop approaches that better reflect citizens’ interests rather than further enabling manipulation of public opinion.


Reid Kellam

Account Manager, Snapchat / Former Media Associate, Bully Pulpit Interactive
I don’t see crowd-sourced advertising efforts catching on for political campaigns, as most consultants like to maintain a consistent and carefully crafted voice throughout their advertising efforts. Political advertising is very hands-on, and with so much money coming in, campaigns have the advantage to craft many different creative assets to target to specified groups.] While a crowd-sourced ad might occasionally perform well and be utilized, the vast majority of ads will continue to be designed by veteran political operatives and employ A/B testing to see what messaging works best.


Carmen Rojas

CEO, The Workers Lab
The ability to craft unifying narratives about who we are, how we live, and what we aspire to as a country is a critical tool in moving us towards a people powered government and electorate.


Mark Hanis

Consultant, Clinton Foundation / Consultant, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation
A more human centered design approach to messaging will likely dominate and make campaigns more People Powered.

Expert Summary Analysis

All answers: 1 = strongly disagree / 5 = strongly agree

How much do the conventional tactics for achieving this objective influence how reliant campaigns feel on narrow subsets as opposed to broad cross-sections of the electorate?

Average: 3.360%

How much do you think the tactics for achieving this objective are likely to change in the coming decade?

Average: 3.180%

How much opportunity do you see for advancing more People Powered tactics for achieving this objective via each lever?

Increase People Powered ROI

Average: 3.27 0%

Decrease Conventional ROI

Average: 2.360%

Culture Change

Average: 3.550%