Romney Vs Obama

How To Measure How Well Your Message Is Being Received

Have you ever played telephone?

I recently observed a group of children playing this game.  They gathered into a tight circle.  The first child whispered something in the ear of the person to their right.  That individual then turned, and whispered what they perceived to be the message to the person to their right.  Slowly the message made it around the circle until the last child leaped to her feet shouting out the message.  Giggles reverberated around the circle as each person recognized how different the message was relative to the one they had received.

This simple game emulates a common problem faced by political campaigns, organizations, and frankly any marketer.  When attempting to communicate a message, whether it’s a stance on a specific issue or a campaign ad, how you want people to understand your message is often completely different relative to how they perceive it.

On a campaign level there are really three components to this:

  • What you’re saying
  • How voters perceive it
  • How the press spins it

Ideally you want what you’re conveying to be talked about by people and the press.  If your key issues aren’t being discussed, and people are talking about other things then it’s obvious your campaign messaging is off or people didn’t understand you.

Measuring how well your message is being perceived on a national level is fairly easy.

For example, let’s assume your a presidential candidate about to give a speech on national television.

Bill Clinton

If you’re smart you’ll have already determined the key issues your campaign is going to focus on.  Your goal is to get people to understand and agree with your stance on various issues.

You give your speech.  After the speech your campaign staff huddles around the television to hear commentators reactions to your words.  Days later you have your staff carefully monitor news articles and polls to gauge public reaction to your speech.  You watch your speech on YouTube (what you said), the polls (what people think), and the news articles (what the media thinks) to see if your key issues are discussed the way you wanted them to be.

This example doesn’t really apply to most candidates, however, because polling isn’t cheap and most campaigns don’t have commentators following them very closely.

Luckily social media and the internet have paved the way for even the most local candidates to measure how well their message is being received…absent of cost prohibitive polls and commentators.

Through social networks you can easily examine what you’re saying, what people are saying, and what the press is saying because most of that information is publicly available.  If your message is consistent across all three components then you’ve hit a home run.  Furthermore…you can even examine your competitor on social networks to figure out what their campaign is focusing on, and if their messaging is resounding well with people and the press.

This can be done manually, but it takes a tremendous amount of work and manpower…which is why we invented the Chatter Tool.

The Chatter Tool allows you to configure social media feeds to monitor what your saying versus how people and the press are reacting to it.  It can monitor Facebook, Twitter, Online News, Instagram, Tumblr, and Flickr.

Let’s go through a quick example of how to actually do this.

Greg Abbott is running for Governor in Texas.

Using the Chatter Page we configure the Facebook column to monitor what the campaign is talking about, the Twitter column to gauge what people are saying about the campaign, and the news column to track what the press is saying.

chatter page

Next we use the word cloud tool to compare chatter from your campaign, people on the internet, and the press.  The word cloud tool will scrap the words currently displayed in the configured columns to show you the most common words being used.  The most frequently used words will appear bigger relative to words that aren’t being used as often.

This is what Greg’s word cloud looks like:

word cloud

This word cloud is analyzing the Facebook, Twitter, and News column.

If we want to analyze what Greg’s campaign is talking about then we simply deselect Twitter, and News in the upper left hand corner of the pop-up.

Now the word cloud looks like this:

facebook word cloud

Notice that “securing” is one of the biggest words in the cloud.  Why securing?  Further investigation reveals that Greg Abbott recently released his “Securing Texans Plan” which seems to focus on cracking down on corruption especially near the border.

If the campaign is focusing on additional issues outside of the “Securing Texans Plan” then those issues aren’t being talked about enough.  For example, if one of the key components of this campaign was to repeal Universal Healthcare then Universal Healthcare should appear as one of the biggest words too.  If this is the case then the digital director isn’t doing a very good job talking about key issues on Facebook.

If we deselect Facebook, and select Twitter in the word cloud then we will be able to see what people are saying about Greg Abbott.

twitter word cloud

Notice that one of the biggest words is “corruption”.  Further investigation into this word reveals that people on Twitter are talking about the corruption that is going on near the border.  Some are even referring to Abbott’s “Securing Texans Plan”.  This is a win for Abbott’s digital director because it appears that conversations about Abbott on Twitter are reflecting campaign messaging.

“Chuck” and “Norris” are also fairly large words in this cloud.  This is because Chuck Norris recently endorsed Abbott.  A lot of people talking about this on Twitter should signal Abbott’s digital director to make more references of this endorsement on Facebook because it’s so popular.  Doing this would likely drive more engagement on Facebook.

Again…if the Abbott campaign was hypothetically also focusing on repealing Universal Healthcare then the words “Universal” and “Healthcare” should also be showing up in this word cloud.

How is the press responding to Abbott’s messaging?  Let’s look at the news word cloud.

news word cloud

A fairly large word appearing in this cloud is “border”.  Investigating further reveals that journalists are writing about Abbott’s plan, but not in the way Abbott’s campaign wants them to.

Apparently Abbott referenced the corruption near the border as “third world”, and this struck a nerve with a lot of people.

Wendy Davis is one of Abbott’s biggest contenders in this race.  If you go back and look at the Twitter, and news word clouds you’ll notice she is one of the biggest words too.  This is because Davis has capitalized on Abbott’s third world comment essentially saying it was inappropriate.

Her campaign has successfully gotten the majority of the news sources to discuss how inappropriate his comment was rather than focusing Abbott’s plan.  These negative news stories for Abbott’s campaign have even began to spill over onto Twitter.  Good PR move by the Davis campaign.

If we were again to assume that repealing Universal Healthcare is an issue Abbott’s campaign is focusing on then “Universal” and “Healthcare” should appear as big words in this cloud as well.

If they aren’t appearing then the digital director of Abbott’s campaign should inform the press secretary, campaign manager, and Abbott himself that the campaign needs to mention repealing Universal Healthcare more often when dealing with the press.  They may even consider writing a press release about it.

Using this tool we’ve learned that the Abbott campaign is focusing on promoting Abbott’s “Securing Texas Plan”, that people on Twitter are talking about the plan, but that Davis has successfully gotten the press to not focus on the plan…but rather a comment made by Abbott.  We’ve also learned that virtually none of the other issues Abbott’s campaign may be concerned about are being discussed currently by the campaign, people on the Twitter, or the press.  We’ve also found an opportunity to get more buzz and popularity by discussing Chuck Norris’s endorsement on Facebook.

All of this has been done without having any internal access to Abbott’s social media accounts through the use of PoliticIt Campaign‘s Chatter Tool.  With the Chatter Tool you can save searches so that you can easily monitor specific issues, people, or organizations enabling your campaign to find out what issues they’re focusing on, how people are responding to them, and how the press is spinning the story.

Campaigns should configure this page, at the very least, to monitor their competitor’s messaging and their own.

We offer a free 15 day trial for PoliticIt Campaign.  After the trial it’s only 30 dollars per month.

How do you generally measure how well your messaging is received?  Comment below.

(Photo Credits: Flickr via Donkey Hotey)

Josh Light

Josh Light

Josh Light is the CEO and Co-Founder of PoliticIt.
Josh Light


I enjoy tweeting about startups, and economics.
@adamdangelo enjoyed your interview on Econtalk. Fascinating insight on Quora being a signal and helping to create content. - 2 months ago
Josh Light

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