Lynton Crosby's Ten Rules for a Successful Campaign

Whatever your political affiliation, there's no denying the Conservative Party surpassed all expectations in securing a majority, and they owed a big part of that success to one man: Lynton Crosby.

Whatever your political affiliation, there's no denying the Conservative Party surpassed all expectations in securing a majority, and they owed a big part of that success to one man: Lynton Crosby.

As the strategist behind the Tory's campaign, Crosby also masterminded Boris Johnson's Mayoral Election victory. Although he's a notoriously private individual, there is a one-hour workshop available on YouTube in which he shares the secrets of his success.

As Crosby highlights, the rules of campaigning can apply to lots of aspects of life including business.

Although there is no a silver bullet or particular technique that guarantees victory, successful campaigns do have common themes and I've identified 10 from his talk:

1) Message matters most

While the mechanics of campaigns are interesting, messages matters most: if you haven't got a message that's relevant to people and connects with what matters to them, you can spend millions on advertising, but it won't strike a chord with their lives.

Mechanics are always secondary to understanding the message you're trying to convey.

At its simplest, a campaign is about finding out who will decide the outcome you're seeking: where are they? What matters to them? How do you reach them? And how do you measure and review the effect your communication is having on them?

The purpose of any campaign is to change or reinforce the perception that people have in order to influence their behaviour.

2) When reason and emotion collide, emotion invariably wins

You persuade through reason, but you motivate through emotion.

You can have a rational position, but unless you connect through emotion with people, you're unlikely to be successful.

This means understanding your audience, of which there are three core groups: your base (the people you can rely on), the swing group (those people you need to come to you to secure victory), and the anti (your opponents).

Start by understanding who your base is and lock them in first: they're your foundation. If you just hunt for the swing, and motivate them to act, you won't be successful.

Don't worry about your opponents: you have a limited array of resources and can't chase every group. That means focusing on the tactics that will yield the greatest return.

3) "You can't fatten the pig on market day"

It takes time to build a relationship with a community: you can't suddenly make a connection with them and persuade them in a 30-day period.

That requires a clear strategy and ensuring everything you do reinforces that.

If in doubt, believe in something: you must have a set of values and stand for something.

If you don't have an anchor or foundation you just flow with the breeze.

People need to know you believe in something, even if it's not always popular.

4) Research is a only a navigational tool

Polling doesn't tell you what to believe in or do. Research is a navigational tool that helps you understand how you can most effectively communicate to achieve something you believe in.

Research helps you better understand and better communicate, but most opinion polling is too simplistic; it just tells you whether people like something or don't like something.

You need to understand what influences people's behaviour or connects to them, as distinct to what they agree or disagree with.

Research helps you understand what's going on: what are people thinking and why are they thinking that.

However, you don't do research to parrot back to the public what they want; you do it to understand them and communicate with them more effectively.

5) Frame the choice and set the parameters or your opponent will

A campaign is a choice. You need to be deliberate in the way you define yourself and what you believe in, as well as how you define your competitor or opponent (and have the evidence to back it up).

You need a simple story that explains what you're trying to achieve in terms that are relevant to people.

Your story needs to be positive and differentiating.

6) Be positive

Although there is value in holding your opponent to account, positive campaigning is increasingly more effective.

However, tone is very important when you do go negative: it should be clear and contrasting, not hysterical.

7) You need both a record and an agenda

Start by reminding people of your achievements, but also emphasise a plan of what you will do.

People vote for what policies say about a candidate or party and how it relates to them and their lives.

Show that you recognise the challenges they face.

8) Focus on the important issues

There's a four-part test as to whether an issue should form part of a campaign:

i) Is the issue salient? (Does it make sense to people?)

ii) Is it personally relevant? (How does it relate to people and their lives?)

iii) Is it capable of being differentiating? (Is it different to what your opponent is saying/proposing?)

iv) Is it capable of point-of-sale execution? ("I'm doing x because of y")

9) Be consistent in your messaging

What you say has to be consistent, whether it's a narrowcast message or a broadcast message.

Broadcast messages are designed to appeal to a population at its largest and set up your proposition.

Narrowcast messages focus on the issues that are important to a particular community but aren't at odds with the broadcast message.

The generalised theme is always reinforced by the narrowcast messages.

10) The medium can be the message

Using the internet is a low cost way of carrying a message.

While it's true Obama used the internet to connect with people, the vehicle was the message.

His election was about empowerment: you can have a say too.

Social media reflected that message. Using the internet meant that anyone could have a say and be involved in politics.


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