This November, Comms Prep is Key.
We are only 42 days away from election day—arguably one of the most defining moments for our government in decades. With a heavy reliance on mail-in voting as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a contentious presidential race, and a barrage of disinformation, it is more than likely that we may not know the results of the election on November 3. A contested election could mean a whole mess of disaster scenarios coming true. If your stakeholders are likely to be affected in any way by the outcome of this election, you should be prepared to respond to a multitude of outcomes. While not everything is predictable, having a plan for multiple scenarios will keep you prepared to respond quickly and effectively. Conduct a planning meeting to game out scenarios for different election outcomes. Engage internal stakeholders across all departments—communications, policy, field, and leadership—to ensure their buy-in and that all perspectives are heard and incorporated. Communicate with your external stakeholders about your plans and their role in them to ensure a successful response under time constraints and political pressures. This can be as simple as an email or as comprehensive as a planning meeting with coalition partners. Keep communication clear and actionable to ensure that internal and external stakeholders feel equipped to mobilize in real time. This could include weekly check-in calls leading up to and after the election, daily digest emails sent to organization leadership, or weekly emails to your list of stakeholders with clear calls to action. Organize a command center for election night with key stakeholders and leadership. This could be in-person or virtual—the key is to set up a mechanism for quick decision making and clear communication so you can address incoming inquiries from press and stakeholders. Stick to your message. It’s already difficult to practice message consistency in the advocacy space. Add in a polarizing political environment and a high likelihood of contested results, and it may seem nearly impossible to stay on message. Prepare your stakeholders with three concise, powerful topline messages to rely on for each election outcome. Share these with all of your stakeholders leading up to election night. Be careful not to retreat into defensive messaging—lean into your topline messages and build out proof points under each as news develops. While no one can predict exactly how this election will turn out, preparing your organization and partners for several scenarios strengthens the chances of breaking through the chaotic media landscape with your clear, consistent, and impactful message. And fingers crossed that most of the preparation won’t be needed. Here’s to a successful, democratic election!