Campaign Message Development: Compose a message using the Seven Cs method

How to Create Contrasting Campaign Message Contrast – Use the Seven Cs Method

When I was a student at American University in the mid to late 1980s, I had some notable teachers. Joel Bradshaw and Peter Fenn taught me about campaign messaging using a method I have never forgotten.

They called it the seven Cs. I’m still a huge fan of this way of remembering the components of a good campaign message. If you can include all seven Cs in your message, you will be sailing smoothly.

1. Delete
Make your message easy to understand. Use words your audience is using, not insiders. How does your message answer people’s needs?

2. Concise
A short, well-crafted message tells your audience more than a lengthy, meandering message.

3. Contrastive
What is the difference between you and your opponents? Can you make that clear in your message? Make sure your campaign message lets people know why they should vote for you and not your opponent. Do not be afraid of contrast, even if it is an implied contrast.

4. Consistent
Having a message is one thing – but sticking to it is another. Make sure you stay tuned throughout the campaign. Don’t change a message because you are bored or hear it a couple of times. Chances are you’ll get bored with your message. Some voters are hearing it for the first time.

5. Connected
News is not made in a vacuum. They are as much about the community as they are about the candidate. Make sure your campaign message is related to issues that are important to your base.

6. Coordinated
Your message needs to be part of everything you do and it needs to be repeated across all of the media you use to reach out to voters.

7. Creative
Often times, you’ll see a campaign message, which is a collection of words that make little sense and that make voters tearful. Make sure your message attracts voters’ attention.

Focus on tacit or direct contrast

In a nutshell, elections are all about choices. The voters choose this or that candidate. To convince voters to vote for you, your political communication must show why you are the best choice. The best way to do this is to argue with a high-contrast campaign message. When racing with multiple candidates, you will likely need to do an implied (indirect contrast). In a one-on-one campaign, you need to create a direct contrast. Be strategic about how you include third-party or less viable candidates in your contrast. Don’t automatically ignore them.

Context is important

It’s great to say, “I’m the best candidate! I’ve done all of these great things and had all the experience! “But without contextualizing this in relation to your opponents, it will most likely fall on deaf ears. This kind of thing, especially in a multi-opponent elementary school, only feeds the “omnivorous dilemma” of our electoral process: with so many candidates, how do we choose the best? Do your constituents a favor and tell them WHY in all of your political communications.

The contrast is not negative

This seems like I’m asking you to create a political communication program saturated with the dirty, negative political ads that everyone hates – no. You don’t have to toss your opponents under the bus to create a good high-contrast campaign message. Does your opponent take a lot of money from lobbyists? You can be the candidate who fights for your neighbors, not for special interests. You don’t specifically state that there are dirty villains in your pocket, you make a difference in your office agenda. Opponents just moved into the district? You can highlight that you were born and raised here. You’re not saying it’s a giant bag of carpet (although I’ve always wanted to do this mail piece), you’re pointing out aspects of your bio that set you apart from others. These distinctions are important, and they also help voters make the right choice: you.


After using the seven-Cs method and running the message box, reduce your contrast message to less than ten words. Try writing a 6- or 15-second ad with your contrast message.

Remember, no real message is created in a day. Start early and involve your entire team.

Do you have any questions about news development or building contrast in a campaign? Ask us!

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