I hear a lot of questions from organizers and candidates who are fighting for progressive change in rural areas. The most common of those questions goes something like this: “How do I create a message that resonates with rural voters?”
Whether you’re working in the bluest of blue cities, a deep purple suburb, or a flame-red ranching community, my answer is the same: create a message that’s built on values, not policy. Policy is important, but it has to come second. First, you have to convince people that you’re LIKE them, and that you share their same values. Here are a few of the big picture hows and whys for that, with a focus on why it’s powerful in rural or “conservative” areas.
- Decide what values you want to convey. Progressive policy goes hand in hand with small town values. Sticking together in tough times. Looking out for your neighbors. Hard work. Sacrifice for the greater good. Figure out which values you share with your community, and how they relate to your goals.
- Build a narrative that conveys those values. Use the art of Public Narrative to develop a Story of Self, and a Story of Us and Now, which you'll use to connect with voters in a powerful way.
- Show how the values match the policy. Finally, draw a line between values and policy. For example, most progressive policy is based on the idea that we all look out for one another. Rural communities often have strong bonds between neighbors, and communities take pride in coming together in tough times. Show how your proposals match that value.
Your ten point plan for fixing the local schools or investing in roads is important, but if you can’t connect those policies to values, you won’t connect at all.
Got a good trick for connecting progressive values in conservative communities? Share in the comments!
Evan Sutton is Communications Director at NOI.
This is Message Week in NOI onDemand. Sign up here for this week's free online courses!