Messaging as a Democratic LGBTQIA+ Candidate National Democratic Training Committee

Last week we covered many of the inspiring stories of folks making strides for LGBTQIA+ representation in our political sphere. This week we’re going over some of the best messaging pointers as you continue work on your campaign for local, state, or national office!

LGBTQIA+ Messaging: Your Promise 

A core message is a few sentences that clearly and concisely convey who the candidate is, their motivations for running, and their promise to voters if elected. The point of your core message is to persuade voters to vote for you. This means you need to tell them who you are, your motivations for running, and what exactly you promise to bring into fruition, if elected. 

To figure out your promise, think about the reason you are running in the first place. Oftentimes candidates are inspired by personal experiences. 

Whatever reason you decide is your guiding compass, turn it into a promise and build out your core message. For example, if you want to fight against discriminatory practices, your promise might be to institute or strengthen current workforce anti-discrimination policies. It is good to share both the general idea of your promise that provides vision, as well as specific measurable items that voters can pinpoint as actionable. 

LGBTQIA+ Messaging: Connecting with Personal Stories 

The use of personal stories is critical in campaigns as your stories drive your beliefs. Your beliefs influence what your campaign values. Voters are motivated to support and feel authentically connected to you when you share your story. To write your personal story, think about these four components:

  • Challenge: What challenge did you face?
  • Choice: What choice did you make? 
  • Outcome: What happened? 
  • Ask: What do you need help with? 

Stick to the big picture of your story. You don’t need to share every small detail, but you should include aspects that make the story uniquely yours. How is the situation different from a situation that could have happened to someone else? Especially as an out LGBTQIA+ candidate, your stories give insight by teaching others what you have been through. 

Through stories, fellow LGBTQIA+ voters or family members can see the common thread between you and them. Use emotion in your stories to compel the listener. The goal of a good story is to leave the audience trusting you. And by sharing an emotional experience with them, this can be accomplished. At the end of your story, make sure you tie it back to your central message. Good campaign stories exhibit relevance to both the issues and your “why.” Keep in mind the topic and the audience when telling a story, make your stories relevant, and have specific stories in mind for specific issues.

Showcase Your Experience and Expertise 

Personal stories are a great way to connect with your audience, but it is important to pair them with your professional experience and expertise. It is not enough to share the “why” behind what you are doing. Being an elected official is a serious job that comes with serious responsibilities. How are you prepared to handle this job? Let your story answer this question too!

If this is your first election, it might feel like you don’t have any relevant experience. That’s not true. Consider all of your work, education, and volunteer experience. Do not worry about the actual job titles you have held. Think about the specific skills you demonstrated and acquired throughout your career. Identify what skills are relevant to the position you are running for and showcase these in your storytelling. If you are worried that you do not have enough relevant experience yet, volunteering for other campaigns is a great way to build your skillset. 

Be Yourself

The goal of your core message—the message that outlines who you are, your motivations for running and campaign promise—is to get people to vote for you. You want people to feel like they know you on a personal level. That starts with feeling a sense of authenticity from the candidate. 

People can often tell when someone is not being authentic, so do not pretend to be somebody you are not. As an out LGBTQIA+ candidate, you likely have stories that are genuinely relevant to your identity. These stories engage voters, so don’t be afraid to use them. Despite being in front of an unknown audience, sharing parts of yourself shows vulnerability, which makes people want to connect with you. It not only humanizes you, but offers an opportunity to relate to you. 

While you do want to be open about your LGBTQIA+ identity, remember that it is not the only aspect of your candidacy. You are more than just “the LGBTQIA+ candidate.” Let people know your other important characteristics. Show them where you come from, what you have done for your community, and what you hope to do once elected. 

No matter where a Democrat runs for office, a candidate and the campaign staff must be prepared for bigotry on the campaign trail. Progressive candidates most often face bigoted comments from the opposition and voters, who frankly don’t understand what it means to be a member of a marginalized population. 

Have a de-escalation plan in place for moments and interactions that might get tense. This comes down to building a team equipped to manage crises and everyone understanding what their role is when various scenarios occur. 

Throughout your campaign, you will be respectful of your opponent and voters who do not accept you. But that does not mean you have to tolerate slurs, slander, or ridicule. Stick up for yourself, show them your resilience and strength in the face of adversity. This energy, when delivered appropriately, gains support amongst the electorate. 

Next Steps:

Now that you have learned about building your core message, it is time to start planning. Think about what stories you want to share and what issues those stories relate to. Here are a few courses to help you on your way. 


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