Public life – and seeking any sort of public office – is becomingly increasingly reliant on pixels, those tiny elements which make up digital image.

Presenting on this theme last week, got me researching the recent Obama victory. Thrilled to find the campaign organizers used a squad of advisory behavioural scientists (posh description of psychologists, and one which I may big myself up with, in future), here are some tactics they used:

Psychology of Getting Chosen

  • Facebook may have won the election. The Republicans were stunned by Democrat turnout with Mitt Romney saying ‘There are people voting we didn’t know existed’ A Facebook app was used to find sympathetic Obama supporters in specific areas who would drum up support from those who had never bothered to vote previously.
  • Rather than rebutting accusations like the President is Muslim, the campaign asserted, positively, that he is a Christian
  • Voters seek out and value two core qualities : competence and warmth. Where the President can be cool, Michelle Obama will have zonked up the warmth factor
  • People are much more likely to vote when they PLAN to vote. So supporters will have had messages like ‘People do things when they make plans to do them. What’s your plan?’
  • In the previous campaign, supporters were approached with small requests, which gave them access to priveliged information, ahead of other people. Like the identity of the running mate for Vice-President. They would have felt part of a distinctive group. And then they would be presented with larger requests, confirming this activist, in-the-know persona.
  • With space at a premium in digital communication, micro-copy counts. There is an amazing 11% lift in the number of people who vote, if they are asked ‘Will you be a voter tomorrow?’ compared with ‘Will you vote tomorrow?’. There is clearly something in the idea of taking up the role of voter which appeals more than just performing the action.
  • The President’s social media teams had different team leaders who used distinctive voices. The twitter leader said ‘ We always tried to be really human, to speak to people like we’d like to be spoken to, and never go into ‘speechiness’. We actually had a list of banned words – words that only politicians use in speeches – douchebag words’

But all psychological tactics, aside, there’s no overlooking the plain fact that the President and Michelle are sexy. The rest of us may have nowhere near this level of charisma, but to be elected for anything, we need to ask ‘What is attractive about my cause and me?’.

An earnest, I-know-best approach just won’t hack it.

By szcz

4 thoughts on “How To Get Elected”
  1. A discussion going back to Socrates and the Gorgias (if I remember my philosophy correctly!) and all the way through to The Tony Benns of this world. Just because one has the ability to ‘win’ power, doesn’t mean one should get ‘into’ power as it were
    fascinating insight as ever, more of these behavioural analysis posts please!

    1. Glad you find it fascinating and thank you for the comment.

      And we live in such amazing times for this behavioural analysis – who’d have thought a couple of years ago Facebook would be used to get the disenfranchised to vote… Love the way social media can be used to influence people to change their habits significantly and we are probably just at the start of all this…

      Impressed by Socrates!

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