2016 Shape the Debate Wrap-Up

February 25, 2016

Last week, partner Sara Fagen alongside Kris Balderston, a partner at our sister firm FleishmanHillard, discussed the intersection of issue advocacy and the 2016 election cycle.

The political landscape has shifted dramatically this year with new, non-traditional candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders having surged as voter dissatisfaction on both sides of the aisle grows. For companies and organizations that will be impacted as a result of the election, the question is: How can I draw attention to my issue and shape the debate? Meet candidates and voters where they are and think creatively about getting the message out. If you want to inject your issue or point of view into the debate, find a way to leverage your company’s connection to an early-voting state, Fagen recommended. Shape the debate early on by thinking forward; thinking proactively.

Drawing on their vast campaign experiences, both commentators emphasized the importance of making an emotional connection between your issue and target voters by identifying issue patterns. Pattern recognition allows you to shape your issues around recurring constituent stories told by voters at public events such as town halls or communicated via other public channels like social media. In using patterns, you can appeal to voters’ intrinsic values, which gives you the advantage of building a sense of personal connection with them. The yield on this approach is the amplification of your message which can propel your issues forward. It is this approach – communicating solutions instead of problems– that builds relationships and effectively puts your issues at the forefront of the debate.

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