5 Content Strategy Lessons from the Republican 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.

Last week’s Republican National Convention made it official: Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are the party’s presidential ticket.

Now that the Democrats’ convention is underway, The Content Strategist is taking the opportunity to assess last week’s Grand Old Party celebration’s content strategy — the good, bad and ugly — and, yes, including Clint Eastwood and his chair.

During three days of events, abridged by Hurricane Isaac, party leaders proclaimed their support for Romney and set out the content themes they hope will carry them into the White House.

Vary your content, but don’t go nuts

Good content is content people pay attention to. When you stop saying something new, your audience stops listening. As a way to counter a slew of speeches full of party platitudes and self-aggrandizement, the Romney camp decided to shake things up a bit.

It might have been a good instinct to invite Dirty Harry, aka actor and director Eastwood, to speak. It was an attempt to create varied, interesting content. Unfortunately, Eastwood’s now-famed 12-minute argument with a chair-as-Barack-Obama varied too far from the norm and was so interesting that it became downright strange.

The lesson is that while interesting is good, consistency and coherence can’t be sacrificed.

Evoke an emotional response

The RNC did provide some effective speeches, including those by Ann RomneyMarco Rubio and Condoleeza Rice  all of whom demographically represent problem areas in Romney’s campaign, namely women and minorities.

These speeches were clearly meant to humanize Romney, who has been criticized as being robotic and out-of-touch, as well as to soften the image of the Republican Party.

Theirs were definite standouts among the RNC speeches  unfortunately for the GOP they were outshone by Eastwood’s chair.

Even Romney himself did his part by opening up about personal life and family, although his speech was ranked, according to a Gallup poll, as the worst-received presidential nomination speech since Bob Dole’s in 1996.

Send a clear message

Themes abounded. The speeches evoked an idyllic American past, contrasted it with Obama’s failed presidency, and promised to restore “a better future”  the RNC’s official theme.

But as Maggie Haberman wrote in Politico, there was “no core message or cohesive vision that emerged from the 2012 convention, beyond the staggered themes for each night.”

Speakers discussed little in the way of concrete plans for how to create a better future outside of literary flourish. That won’t work for today’s political audience. People know when they’re being marketed to and they want a realistic plan.

Tell the truth

Rather than being touted as robust and personal, Ryan’s speech was overshadowed by its blatant inaccuracies. Instead of focusing on his fiscal policies or touting his youthful vigor, the media cycle stuck to the lies he wielded.

He accused Obama of threatening Medicare when his own economic plan would eviscerate it, and blamed Obama for an auto plant closure that happened before the president took office.

No one likes to be lied to. Whatever gains a lie creates will quickly disappear when the truth comes out. The only difference will be a loss of trust.

Be mindful of how others (the competition) will use your content

Perhaps the most electric residue of the convention, beside Eastwood and the chair, was an inspired response by Obama. It was definitely the most viral.

The morning after Eastwood’s “unique” performance art piece, Obama tweeted, to his more than 19 million followers, a photo of himself in the president’s chair with the caption “This seat’s taken.”

It now has more than 54,000 retweets and 21,000 favorites, making it the most popular tweet of the entire convention.

Obama came out ahead by addressing Eastwood’s attack with a sense of humor. He took the GOP’s content and made it his.

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