5 Content Strategy Lessons from the Democratic Convention

As part of the Content Campaign ’12 Series, The Content Strategist examines the content published by the presidential campaigns as part of their strategy to win November’s general election.

Both the Republican and Democratic nominating conventions had high viewership, with 35 million tuning in to see Barack Obama, and 30 million for Mitt Romney, according to Nielsen ratings.

The conventions may not do much to sway voters, but they do go a long way toward energizing each party’s base  and they provide a lot of lessons for content strategists.

Last week, The Content Strategist broke down the Republicans. Now, we take a look at the Democratic National Convention to see what we can learn.

True content = good content, aka 2+2=4

Bill Clinton wowed a rapt audience with a speech full of facts — called it “our Cinton nightmare” on account of the sheer amount of fact-checking work his speech required. Fortunately for Democrats, the facts checked out.

The figures he cited, that the U.S. is 16th in the world as far as percentage of college graduates, and the Democrats have created more private sector jobs than Republicans, were startling and powerful facts. And the fact that they checked out means that the force of his oratory wasn’t undermined by accusations of playing fast and loose with the truth.

Clinton’s speech in this regard was a contrast to Paul Ryan‘s RNC speech a week earlier, which largely relied on platitudes and was immediately attacked for being untruthful in parts.

In content strategy  as in most situations  lies tend to come back to haunt you.

Don’t upstage the main event

Although Michelle Obama and former president Clinton’s stellar speeches might have slightly upstaged the president, what really buried his steam was the disappointing August jobs report released the day after Obama accepted his nomination.

Instead of allowing the media to wallow in what was a widely well-received speech by Obama, the Bureau of Labor Statistic report turned the public’s attention to more alarming news: It found that the unemployment rate saw a slight decrease only because 368,000 Americans gave up looking for work.

Of course, Obama couldn’t control the timing of these results, but they certainly put a damper on his momentum. Whatever stands out in the news cycle will become part of the collective memory of the event.

Just as the RNC will be remembered for Clint Eastwood and his abstract performance with a chair, instead of Mitt Romney’s long-awaited charisma, the 2012 DNC will have to share space with a dismal jobs report.

Keep it simple

Obama’s pheonomal speaking talents couldn’t overcome his difficult message, which boiled down to: “Things are not as bad as they could have been.” It’s a hard message to rally behind  especially on live TV.

Complexities obviously have their place in the political world, but as any public speaker or journalist knows, it’s better to keep messages simple.

Stay on point

During what was supposed to be a celebration dedicated to Obama’s nomination acceptance, the Democrats at times veered off course.

Convention Chair and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa held a strange vote on the floor about whether to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

There were many points that potential voters were looking to see addressed. Staging an imbroglio on the convention floor was not one of them.

Evoke an emotional response

Any content strategist will tell you, the most powerful thing messages can do is evoke an emotional response from your audience. If people are able to connect with the message on a personal level, they’re more likely to buy — or vote for — what you’re selling.

Both parties attempted to tug on emotions, but the Democrats were more successful at this during their convention, where tears and rapt attention were more in evidence among the crowd. It also helped that the DNC featured more women and people of color to represent a more diverse audience.

Additionally, both of the Obamas can touch on hardships in their histories, a theme that has been absent from Mitt Romney’s personal narrative.

Barack Obama’s mixed race and childhood with a single mother, and Michelle Obama‘s humble upbringing, with a father who was a blue-collar worker who labored despite of Multiple Sclerosis, help them seem more relatable to many Americans.

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