Including voters as part of the solution in our political narratives
The concepts of political narratives and storytelling are familiar to any party official, campaign manager or candidate. In every campaign that political parties start, the priority is to identify which messages or slogans can better resonate with the voters. Yet, these narratives and messages are often tailored to explain why the voter has a problem and why your political party has the solution. A common approach to the problem is all too often the call to action. Yet we have seen in modern politics that people, especially younger voters like to be part of the solution. People are more likely to engage in a story where they have a role to play in it.
Political parties in the broad ideological spectrum spend thousands on marketing consultants to find the right messages. These consultants tell us to build our narratives to “lead” others, not as an engagement tool. In my political experience as an engagement consultant, I recall meeting a “public speaking” coach around five years ago. He came to me to offer his services in training a political leader in the organisation I was working for. He emphasised several times that he had trained politicians and social leaders for around 15 years. We ended up not working together after he said:
“Your colleague has to stop asking people to take action. People are lazy, and they want a leader that gives them solutions. Your leader needs to enter a room and make her presence felt and remembered with a wonderful speech that builds a narrative to show her as the story’s hero.”
We decided to go in a different direction and find someone to help our colleague embrace her story to engage our voters.
It is worrying that many parties are receiving these messages from their well-paid consultants. More worrying is that our candidates are keen to listen to these pieces of advice. Of course, our candidates often visualise themselves having that “I have a dream” moment in front of thousands. Many social leaders and politicians think the journey is about themselves, and the narrative is about them. The story is about all of us in a world of voters crying for solutions. Moreover, in a world of apathy, people might not be willing to participate if the story is not about us.
Parties on the far-right are good examples of voters engaged in the story with messages like “they will not replace us.” The green movements and parties born out of them are also excellent examples of a story where we are all protagonists. Think of the green movement and how Greta’s action and story engaged many. Revising some recent campaigns, those parties calling for a joint effort to tackle problems instead of just giving solutions have more reach, especially on social media.
Making people part of the story and part of the solution helps emphasise the urgency of political action. In social and political causes, it is easy to fall into the trap of believing that our parties are the new messiah. It is easy to use narratives to do political theatre in the despair to be remembered.
When preparing for your next campaign, consider that the story of “us” is always more powerful than the story of “me”. Ultimately, the despair to be remembered will disappear because our colleagues can understand that the story to be shared in the future will be one of many, not of one. People are most likely to engage in a story where we are all the protagonists and all the authors.
Author: Luis Cano
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