Don’t Make This Mistake When Talking to Your Audience
Dec 12, 2019 · 4 min read

Every word and phrase nowadays has a political connotation or bias. Traditional marketing has instructed us to “say something that everyone can agree with.” But according to the Pew Research Center, the middle ground of consensus is quickly disappearing.

In light of this, we have to ask ourselves: has conventional wisdom changed to “say many things that agree with everyone?”

We ran several tests to find out if we could increase engagement of our content with young people from different political backgrounds. It turns out, the choice between staying on message or increasing the size of our audience is a false dichotomy.

Translation: Don’t use the words that come fastest and easiest to you when you’re trying to communicate with people unlike you.

Phase 1 of Our Strategy

In 2018, we ran more than 100 tests to see how different politically-minded audiences responded to our videos. We noted that Libertarian-leaning audiences responded better than Conservative-learning audiences, and both of those political audiences responded better to our videos than Progressive-leaning audiences.

None of this was surprising. But it was concerning. We don’t want to exist in an echo chamber. We want the ideas of liberty and freedom to be understood and compelling to people unlike us.

Phase 2 of Our Strategy

In phase 2 of our strategy, we created 4 new videos instead of using videos from our archives. And for each new video we created, we wrote 3 different scripts: one specifically for Libertarian audiences, one for Conservative audiences, and one for Progressive audiences. We used language that, according to economist Arnold Kling in his book The Three Languages of Politics, each audience was most receptive to.

Excerpts from the Video Script about Wealth Creation and Jobs

In one of the videos we made, we told a visual story about a fictional character named Luis to explain the role that jobs play in wealth creation and prosperity. We created three different scripts for each political audience. We kept the story the same, while changing some messaging where necessary to use language that each political group would identify with.

Below is an excerpt of the three video scripts, with the main differences highlighted:

Once we produced the videos, we showed each video to each political audience via Facebook ads and recorded the engagement.

The Results from Our Testing in Phase 2

The following chart shows the difference in engagement between all the video tests we ran in 2018 (represented in the “Baseline” columns) and the new language-specific tests (represented in the “Manipulated” columns):

By being more intentional with the language we used to communicate with each audience, we saw the average of the percentage of video watched increased by 170%! We also saw the cost per video view decrease by 32%.

Translation: if you use the language that Progressives (or Conservatives, or Libertarians) understand, they’ll engage more with your content, and you’ll pay less for them to do so.

Lessons Learned

The lesson we’ve learned is that you can’t use the words that come fastest and easiest to you when you’re trying to communicate with people unlike you. You have to speak in a way that they understand. You have to speak their language.

We encourage everyone in the liberty sphere to read Arnold Kling’s book and writings about the 3-Axis Model, and incorporate his theories into how you write your messaging.

FEE Messaging Insights

Written by

Founded in 1946, the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) supports the economic, legal, and ethical principles of a free society.

FEE Messaging Insights

Marketing to Millennials and Gen Z

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