2017: Be inspiring and concrete, or lose


As we get closer to the busy European campaign season in 2017, we need to draw an important lesson from the 2016 elections. Strategic messaging requires the use of two key ingredients of communication: triggering emotions (outrage or inspiration), and being concrete.


Voters had enough of lofty, empty-sounding
declarations by business people and



“Citing a report commissioned by his party, [Wilders] said the Dutch economy would be 10 percent bigger in 10 years’ time if the Netherlands were to leave the EU next year than if it stayed.


The average annual benefit would be nearly €10,000 per household over the next two decades, he said.


“This report proves not just that Nexit, a Dutch exit from the EU, is more positive than stumbling on in the EU, but it also offers the Netherlands an exit from the crisis,” Wilders said.


Dijsselbloem was quick to shoot down Wilders’ proposals.


“The Netherlands is an economic powerhouse in Europe. We earn the bulk of our money in trade with EU countries so the Netherlands has a lot of interest in a single market with easy trade,” Dijsselbloem told local media, adding that quitting the EU would be “very unwise”. 


Regardless of the veracity of the above, voters remember when a specific claim is made, especially if it’s combined with an emotional trigger. But where is the emotional trigger in “single market”, “easy trade” and “unwise”?


More than anyone else, Donald Trump understands this – just look at his 30 most outrageous statements: every one of these will trigger an emotion (outrage, laughter, disapproval), but their true power is in him being extremely specific. I, of course, do not endorse any of these messages, but they provide an excellent opportunity to reverse-engineer the technique and use it for your own objectives.


On the other end of the spectrum, look at this Tweet… and cringe.



There must be a middle way between insulting your opponents with your words, and insulting them by not saying anything.


Good luck, and hope you’ll find the middle way in 2017!


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