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Communicating with Your Audiences in an Election Year

Amanda Halacy

Digital Strategist, Forum One

Zachary Grimshaw

Associate Digital Strategist, Forum One

It often feels like every organization and company is sending out digital communications regarding the upcoming election, but does that mean your organization should, too?

Every two years, you’re asked to vote. 2020 is one of those years. How many times have you been asked to vote in the past 24 hours on social media? How many emails have you received to ensure you are registered to vote from organizations you’ve donated to once, or stores that you’ve given your email to for a discount? How you communicate with your own audiences in an election year can leave a lasting impression.

Communicate the right message, at the right time

Our feeds, inboxes, and media cycles are constantly filled with content about the election. Does it make sense for your organization to also address it? To be sure you’re contributing to the conversation, and not just adding to the noise, consider the following questions:

  1. Is your organization’s mission “on the ballot” this year? If your organization’s mission is affected by what’s on the ballot this year — whether that’s the general election at the national level or a ballot initiative at the state or local level — this could be an opportunity to encourage your audience to engage politically.
  2. Is there an intersection between your organization’s mission and an election topic you want to address? Consider how you can support an issue as an expert or thought leader on the topic. For example, if you are an environmental justice organization, adding your voice and support to the Black Lives Matter movement is more powerful when you can educate audiences about environmental racism and the disproportionate effects of climate change on communities of color.
  3. Is your message contributing to the noise? What are the important dates and events related to the election? Is your content unique, informative, or prompting some kind of action that wouldn’t happen otherwise? How often are you publishing your content and promoting it on social media? Whether it is the weeks leading up to or immediately following an election day or any other event that impacts a large percentage of the population, you want to be sensitive to the frequency and timelines of your content schedules. Be knowledgeable of dates and events that will affect the public conversation. 
  4. Does your organization usually post content about politics, policy, or elections? Whether you talk about politics all the time or stay far away from the subject, you can adjust your tone while staying true to your brand voice. An organization that communicates frequently about politics might be comfortable taking a more casual tone, while an organization that hasn’t shared this type of content before probably wants to stay more formal and explain why they’re saying something now.

Keep your brand promise and adjust your tone accordingly

Your audience should still be able to recognize any message as your brand’s voice, but you may take a different tone in response to relevant topics like COVID-19 or the election.

In terms of distinguishing between voice and tone: your voice is constant, but your tone changes depending on who you are talking to and in what situation. In terms of your organization’s voice and tone, your audiences should always know it is you, but you can change your tone depending on where, when, and how you are communicating. An election year is one of those times that may warrant a change in tone in order to drive your mission forward.

If responding to an event or hardship that affects your audience, here are four important elements to maintain within your tone: 

  1. Empathy: Put yourself in your audience’s shoes and see it from their point of view. Do not take advantage of the moment by pushing an agenda that shoehorns itself into current events. 
  2. Relatability: Your audiences want to know that you support them. Use a relatable tone that lets people know you are with them and that they can trust you (which brings us to our next point!).
  3. Trustworthiness: The information you provide to your audience must be honest and straightforward. Pro tip: Consider the brands that trust, and what they do to gain your loyalty. Translate that impact to your own organization. 
  4. Action-driven: What is the call-to-action? Register to vote? Visit your website to learn more? Donate? Drive your audiences toward a specific action by giving them the empathetic, relatable, and trusted information they need to do so.

This year has been a big one which makes this election cycle top of mind for all mission-driven organizations. Audiences want to know that they can rely on the organizations they believe in and support to give them related information that is relevant to them. Being intentional and deliberate in how you communicate with your audiences is therefore more crucial than ever.

Written By

Amanda Halacy

Digital Strategist, Forum One

Zachary Grimshaw

Associate Digital Strategist, Forum One

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