Language Matters: Inclusion in Campaign Messaging | NDTC

There’s a common saying that goes, “Never underestimate the power of words.” This phrase holds true in wider society but especially in political campaign messaging. 

Every word spoken on a campaign, every social media post, and every fundraising ad has the potential to reach a supporter. Supporters come from every walk of life, so it is critical to maintain inclusive messaging in all campaign communications. 

Inclusive communication breeds an inclusive environment. Inclusion, especially in messaging, cultivates a safe space where people from diverse backgrounds and experiences feel a sense of belonging. 

Your words have power. Language can be a tool to validate and acknowledge our unique identities.

What is Inclusive Language?

Effective communication must address everyone in the intended audience. Inclusive language acknowledges everyone in the room, conveys respect to all people, and promotes equitable opportunities.

Language is fluid, so words and their meanings change over time. Because of this, it is important to apply inclusive principles rather than use specific phrases since the meaning can change. 

Here’s how to create inclusive messaging for a political campaign:

Reduce Implicit Bias Through Specificity 

When writing content for social media or crafting messaging for an email, aim to reflect the community you hope to represent. Use examples relevant to your voters. 

Your Field Team is on the ground talking to voters every single day. Use that knowledge. If your community connects with specific values, use the language that resonates with them. Recognize who they are and how they feel through your campaign communications.

Include Pronouns and Non-Gendered Language in Campaign Messaging 

An important part of making supporters feel their best is creating a space where everyone is recognized and represented. This is especially important in a virtual setting. Make it standard practice to include pronouns in open settings. Including pronouns takes the guesswork out of how you address people and how others address you. Include pronouns in each of the following:

  • Email signatures
  • Business cards
  • Zoom name
  • Social media (for example, Instagram just added the ability to add pronouns to your profile)
  • Any setting where your name might be seen by an audience

Additionally, use non-gendered language in campaign communications. Whether on donation requests or speaking with small groups of supporters, never use gendered language such as “guys,” “gals,” or “dude.” Instead, refer to others as “friends,” “y’all,” or “folks” so you do not misgender supporters. 

Check out NDTC’s blog post, “Making Your Digital Campaign Space Inclusive,” to learn more!

Use Plain Language Rather Than Idioms

Phrases like “it’s raining cats and dogs,” or “it should be a piece of cake” are familiar to many. Lots of people use these cultural cliches all the time. 

However, not everyone in a campaign’s audience will have heard these phrases. Expressions, especially those specific to one culture or class, are not universally understood. They may also cause a speech, social media post, or email to sound less genuine.

As a result, it is best to leave cliches and idioms out of campaign messaging. In doing so, clear communication is maintained between a candidate and supporters.

Make Sure Campaign Images and Messaging Reflect Diversity

When potential supporters look at campaign content, they want to see people like themselves. They expect messaging reflective of the community you hope to represent. Keep this in mind when building a social media presence, as well as when curating or creating images and videos for your website. 

Make sure campaign materials reflect a diverse group of supporters. This allows everyone to feel included in the campaign and creates a sense of belonging.

Create an Inclusive Campaign Team

In order to create an inclusive campaign, you should have a diverse staff reflecting the background of your community. 

From volunteers to senior campaign staff, it is essential to prioritize diversity at all campaign levels. Having perspectives from different backgrounds in the room for key decisions fosters an inclusive environment. It  also benefits the campaign in the long run. A diverse campaign staff allows you to connect with the diverse voter makeup of the Democratic party, as well as your community.

Creating an inclusive campaign makes staff and volunteers feel more valued and seen. Respecting and representing diverse voices creates a more unified team culture throughout the campaign.

Check out this article on NDTC’s Medium page for more information on building an inclusive campaign.

Be cognizant of showing enough representation and providing a space of inclusion in campaign communication. This will help your message reach a wide-range of individuals. It is important to show all supporters you see and hear them.

By choosing to run for office or work on a campaign, you are shaping the future of Democratic politics. Everyone must play an active role in increasing diversity, inclusion, and belonging throughout the party, and in every campaign. Maintaining inclusive messaging is vital to achieving this objective.

NDTC’s course, “Equitable and Inclusive Campaign Practices,” helps you create an inclusive campaign. You’ll learn actionable ways to prioritize diversity and inclusion, and live those values every day!

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