Making a political campaign video

When did video change the face of political campaigns for ever? Let’s go back a few years…

It’s the summer of 1952. TV ownership is on the rise. US presidential candidate Dwight Eisenhower meets advertising legend Rosser Reeves to talk campaign strategies. Reeves, the Don Draper of the real world, suggests a series of 30 second ads with a simple premise. A viewer asks a question. The candidate answers.

“Eisenhower Answers America” is born. Reeves and his team run the ads between popular shows, reaching the largest number of viewers possible. The campaign is a roaring success and Eisenhower wins the election.

Fast forward to today. Video ads are everywhere. They’re on your TV, on Hulu, on YouTube and bang in the middle of the article you’re trying to read. Smart marketers are using video to promote social and political ideas. With the explosion of digital media and viral advertising, creators can reach larger audiences faster than ever before. Smart devices and easy to use software means that anyone can become a video maker.

You don’t need a Hollywood-worthy crew and a camera the size of your head. You just need a powerful story. Whether you’re running for president of the world, a seat on your local council or to be class president, video can change the face of your campaign.

What makes a great political video?

But what makes a campaign video work? Over the years we’ve seen some fantastic videos – and many deeply questionable ones.

Effective videos tend to have a few things in common.

1. A clear, overarching message

What’s the key point you want voters to take away? Take the heart of it and mould it into a slogan.

There’s a reason slogans are so prevalent in advertising campaigns. They work. Why? A slogan draws on your emotion, on the deep-seated way you see the world, and pulls it up to the surface. It’s the shared sentiment you and your voters share, distilled into a catch phrase.

The “Yes, we can” slogan transformed former President Obama’s election campaign in 2008.

Yes We Can – Barack Obama Music Video

Repeated throughout the video (and the speech that inspired it), this slogan became an integral part of the movement. It perfectly captured the driving force behind the campaign and the desires of the voters.

Find your slogan. But remember, it takes time. Dr. Pepper is still out there looking for the perfect one!

2. Hit the emotional notes

Imagine you and your best friend are on opposite sides for your local elections. Obviously, your candidate is better but you kind of like your buddy. They’re a mostly reasonable person even though you can’t understand how they back that other candidate.

So, armed with the facts, you tell your friend exactly why your candidate is superior. For some unfathomable reason, instead of instantly changing their mind, they double down. Why would a reasonable, rational person do that?

Because we aren’t as rational as we like to think. Most of our decisions are driven by emotions, not facts. Facts are the things we use to back our point of view once it’s been established. Don’t believe me? Go find an article espousing a point you completely disagree with. They quote a bunch of stats. What makes their numbers bad and yours good?

For numbers to work, your viewer needs to be ready to believe them. Draw on the emotions you share. Find your common ground and tell a story about how you’ll help make improvements on it. Paint a story of how you’ll make things better.

Use music and imagery to capture the eye and imagination and draw your audience in. You want your constituents to picture themselves in your shared vision of the future and feel excited to be a part of it, because, long after your words have faded from their minds, people will remember how you made them feel.

3. Repetition

Repetition shouldn’t really affect the way we think. Hearing something ten times doesn’t make it more true than hearing it one time, right? Actually, it does.

In a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, researchers found that when people we trust repeat certain ideas over others, it influences our decisions. When you combine this with the mere exposure effect, you’ve got a powerful combination on your hands. Mere exposure is the idea that we prefer certain things, ideas and people just because they are familiar. The more an idea is repeated, the more familiar it becomes.

How do you know what you should repeat? Identify the key things that are on your voters’ minds. If you’re running for class president it might be better library hours or a fantastic prom venue. Sketch out a few phrases that highlight those things and use the phrases often in different contexts. When you’re asked a question, bring it back to this key point.

During the 2016 US campaign, Donald Trump always steered the conversation back to a few key points he repeated over and over again. This confirmed his standing and priorities to his voter base over and over again so when he was questioned, the combination of the backfire effect and mere exposure made them double down and stand by him.

4. Social proof

Would you rather buy a toaster that has 100 reviews and an average rating of 4.8/5 or one that has zero reviews? Most of us would be drawn to the first one. Why? It’s proven. Other people have tried it and made sure it makes proper toast.

The power of social proof isn’t new. It’s a deeply embedded evolutionary adaptation that encourages us to wait until our brave but slightly foolish friend Ug finishes eating the strange berries and still looks OK before we dive in.

Show your voters you’ve got the trust of people just like them. Include positive testimonials in your video or interview people that support you. The key is to show voters that people they know, like, and trust feel the same way about you.

5. Call to action

Once the video is over, what do you want the viewer to do? Cast their vote? Share the video? Now you’ve captured and focused their emotional attention, use it to drive a specific action that helps your campaign.

Be direct, let the viewer know exactly what comes next. Ideally, if your ask is big, there should also be an accompanying small action they can take right away. This directs their momentum, lets them get used to doing what you ask, and actually increases the likelihood they’ll act on the bigger ask later.

Whose vote are you trying to get?

You’re never going to get everyone to like you or vote for you. Some people will love you no matter what. Some people will hate you no matter what. In reality, you’re fighting for the undecided.

To win them over, try to understand them. While they aren’t a big homogeneous group, most of us tend to want one simple thing: a better life for ourselves and our families. It’s your job to figure out what that means to the people you want to win over. Easy, right?

Let’s say you’re trying to win a group you don’t mesh with well. You’ve got different interests and priorities. To be honest, if you met for a coffee, you wouldn’t know what to talk about. If you want to create a video to appeal to this segment, don’t throw your beliefs at them and hope something will stick. Instead of going in, intellectual guns blazing, re-frame the argument as a partnership that builds on your commonalities.

But how do you make your video when you don’t have access to fancy equipment? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

Campaign video templates

You can easily make a great political campaign video with Biteable. There’s a huge range of video templates you can customize any way you like, or you can start from scratch and make something completely new.

Campaign video ideas

Biteable users have made some compelling videos for their unique audience.

Three Great Reasons to Back the Lib Dems in the New Forest

This political campaign video by the New Forest Liberal Democrats shares some of the key things they stand for. This type of video is a great way to introduce new ideas to voters who haven’t heard of you before and get your vision out there.

When it comes down to it, a great video tells a powerful story that’s designed to appeal to a specific group of people. Get to know your potential voters and create something with them in mind, building on the things you have in common.

Happy electioneering!

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