At Javelina, we bring your story to life so you can change the world. But why are stories so important? What about your story’s message makes an impact? We connected with our Javelina partners and co-founders David Waid and Bill Scheel who have collectively been part of influential congressional, mayoral and gubernatorial campaigns that have shaped the state of Arizona. This week, David and Bill shared why crafting a message has played such a key role in successful campaigns and how messaging can help anyone’s goals.
1. How long have you been working in your current field?
David: In the political field? 30 million years or 25 years, give or take. I’ve been a consultant for 10 years and was previously the Chair of the Democratic Party in Arizona at one point.
Bill: I’ve been in public policy and marketing for basically my entire career, starting right after college at a newspaper and working in media. I was also a high school principal for 3 years and worked in the mayor’s office, focusing on the vision for the city.
2. When has messaging been an important part in your current field?
David: Messaging plays a role every day in every way. If you’re writing a blog post, a press release, a pitch for money, you’re messaging.
Bill: A proposal for a client, you’re messaging.
David: Yes, exactly … I feel like messaging and sales are things that run through everything.
Bill: It’s funny… I was just about to use the word sales. We are constantly selling something. Almost like an episode of Mad Men.
David: Haha, right!
Bill: Even in my role as chair of the Historic Preservation Committee, I have to sell someone on an idea. Understanding one’s positioning with your message is important. You really have to think about your goal, your audience and what you want to accomplish. That’s where you have to start.
3. What other moments in your career where messaging played an important role?
David: I can’t narrow it to just one thing. Electing Governor Kitzhaber in Oregon was part of having a key message. He started about with an out of the box persona and was running against an NBA Basketball star. He was an ER doctor and was focused on passion, and was also a hiker and needed to communicate that passion because it was a great strength. That was key to the messaging strategy.
Governor Napolitano’s re-election was also important. Keeping the Governor’s Office focused on the message of quality service and how she embodied it was key to her success. Another examples is Prop 206, which raised the state’s minimum wage last year. That messaging was consistent throughout the promotion, from social media and television, to personal stories on videos, showing how Prop 206 affected people.
Bill: The passage of Prop 206 was a great recent example of understanding the electorate and what Arizonans were looking for. Responding to preferences and needs of the voters was part of the messaging. Appealing to a specific group of voters was important to be successful, such as those who wanted to receive minimum wage and those who wanted paid sick leave. We needed to make sure we were communicating with them and the things they cared about.
4. Javelina is focused on messaging strategy for clients. Why is understanding your message such a critical element for clients?
Bill: Messaging is at the heart of the Tao of Javelina. We have to understand how we are communicating. When the message isn’t clarified, it isn’t successful. From my experience, having a clear, defined message makes the whole enterprise – whether you’re a small business, a nonprofit, or a political campaign – successful. If you don’t know what you want to communicate, you aren’t communicating anything.
David: We can’t be effective in selling someone an idea if you don’t know who they are, what they’re looking for and what you’re offering. You want to be truthful and authentic and it has to ring true. People, whether they are consumers or voters, have a key ear for authenticity and will respond accordingly.
5. Talk about the Tao and the process – how does this messaging process apply to clients you are working with?
David: The Tao is concise and methodical. It forces you to focus on elements of your messaging and branding that is essential to your brand. For instance, think about your goal and your target audience, or your story and how you tell it. Knowing the answer to each of these pieces is key to connect with a good message.
Bill: What the Tao does is force a team to go through a structured process. The temptation so often is to jump to what you think the solution is without looking at the underlying elements of the audience, goals and message. The Tao makes you start at the very beginning. Going through those simple steps creates a much better product.
6. What is one thing you would want someone to take away to apply to their messaging process to get a powerful result?
David: Think through your why of your messaging. Once you have your why, stick with it. Anytime you’re not on message, you’re losing.
Bill: What he said. Really, once you have arrived at that message, you’re in a good place. So frequently, people get bored with their message and want to go to something else or change it. A solid message allows you to simplify and makes your life easier. You’ve done all that work to get your message… stick with it.