The social protest of several weeks in Colombia has given way to spontaneous or improvised strategies to promote the vote for the 2022 election that will elect a new Congress and President. The idea seems commendable and consistent with the movement for change from various sectors, including two exceptional ones: youth and women. Some personal and electoral experiences of the recent past in Colombia and the continent make us think that next year’s electoral process could be a door of change that many hope to open, as well as it could be the entrance to add another frustration to the chain of disappointments. that young people and women have who are looking for a different future. The success or failure of the initiatives for change through voting will depend on the way voters and candidates handle it. To better understand this alternative, let’s look at the detail the panorama is looming.
In 2018, I was hired by the Colombian Vote Authority to plan and execute a strategy that would promote voting among young people between the ages of 18 and 30. The idea developed directly by the registrar was for young people to participate by voting in the election to increase the historically low turnout. The problem had always been the connection to that audience. The electoral authority proposed a goal of increasing the presidential vote by one million. With that goal in mind, we set about launching a campaign to promote the youth vote. With my team, we decided that the best option was to create a targeting strategy with the following characteristics and results.
We define that the total audience for the campaign would be 11 million people in the proposed age range. We designed a targeting campaign with one-to-one segmentation to reach that audience, which ran between January 26 and May 27. The campaign developed the concept of “I do not leave Colombia insight.” In addition to increasing the voting, the objectives were also: a democratic awareness of the vote, obtain the most outstanding possible participation with interactions, carry the message to all regions of the country, and generate greater electoral involvement reflected in the Colombian elections. The initial plan contemplated a price of 25 cents per interaction, and values were achieved on average 22 cents lower according to the three KPIs established for the strategy. Total number of interactions based on investment, number of times content shared based on investment, and entire audience based on the investment. Optimization of costs was possible by strategy execution, the commitment of the team, and the response of the audience to all the actions generated. In the end, the vote in the first presidential round of 2018 increased by 48.5% compared to the same in 2014. It was even higher than the second round. The actual increase was 6.5 million votes.
The development of communication for promoting the vote in the terms described above allowed us to learn how young people communicate, which issues attract their attention to be influenced and how they respond to the speaker once they accept their messages. All this experience and knowledge allows us to propose that communication with young people and women will be essential in the 2022 elections. It also shows us that there are two spheres of communication: the voters and that of the candidates, which are very different. Let’s say it in a sentence, the victory of some will be the frustration of the others. To better see what can happen next year, we have defined four aspects among voters and an equal number of variables among candidates. Who best knows how to act in the face of communication and messages will be the winner. Whoever does not do so will experience the frustration of which there are two recent antecedents, such as the United States and Chile.
Before talking about the variables of voters and candidates, let’s take a quick look at the cases of the United States in 2020 and Chile in 2021. Women and young people frequently reached to promote voting after be demotivated to vote in 2016. In the last presidential election, social media companies and the traditional large press encouraged greater citizen participation and prevented a candidate from being re-elected. The message was very well delivered by the method used but better accepted by the target audience, who understood that only by voting could change be possible and took ownership of that achievement. An effective campaign with clear and punctual messages made voters turn to the polls and get the objective. In the second case, the recent elections in Chile, there are also aspects to see. Faced with the fracture in the relationship between citizens and the State, an election took place in which independent candidates prevailed. They lost the traditional political parties. As President Piñera said, we did not understand those who voted for change. Another truth was that all those who took to the streets to protest did not go to the polls. However, we can deduce that the vote for independent candidates came from young people tired of the traditional parties. We must say that participation was low. The question would be, why did this apathy occur? On the part of the political parties (Candidates), we know that terrible communication did not connect them with the young people. On the part of the young people (voters), there was no motivation to vote for a consolidated group that would make possible the change hoped by everyone. Although there was a renewal and independent candidates, the most voted are many and not a unified group. Their vision and themes of change not being the same as those of the citizens, and frustration appears.
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Let’s see then the variables of voters and candidates that must be considered in the communication to promote the vote for 2022.
VOTERS (Youth and Women)
1. Vote conscientiously. Each person should have the conviction that the free vote of each citizen together with others is the option for change. The perks, incentives, or gifts for supporting a candidate are not welcome. Maintaining this behavior is the fast track to frustration.
2. Candidates to represent them. Voters must elect people to represent them fully. Omit popular characters in social networks, of media notoriety with interests or marked alignment with sectors that want to change.
3. Vote on topics or objectives. Each voter must think about the three issues they would like to change and look for the candidates who can best represent them by observing the two previous points. Only in this way will votes and change goals not vanish.
4. There are no superhero candidates. You must know what a candidate you are voting for can do. An elected president cannot change most things as this is up to Congress. Presidents elected without majorities in legislatures make change impossible. It will be even more frustrating because such a president will have to negotiate with other parties, and the option for change vanishes. It is essential to vote for congress members to vote for president, observing the three previous points.
CANDIDATES (Congress and President)
1. Understand the moment. Candidates who believe that they will be able to be elected as before will be mistaken. Reading the current times will be essential to develop a winning strategy and communication. The tied votes will not be worth as back or will become more expensive to continue existing. Electoral machines are only vulnerable to opinion voting.
2. Focus on the youth. These citizens are waiting for the candidates to notice them, include them or prioritize them. Young people seek equity and common welfare. They do not think about their well-being if others are bad. Young people want education for all to build a better country from there.
3. Communicate in time, manner, and topics. The current generation of young people exists in modernity, including new media, permanent communication times, and very particular issues. A young person of 18 years is not the same as one of 25 or 30. They share the idea of change and equity, but they behave differently, and for this reason, their themes or priorities are different. Understanding these dynamics is the key to connecting with them.
4. Leave political vices. Candidates from traditional parties have ways of doing politics that young people often reject. Not admitting mistakes, not saying sorry, not being authentic, thinking in minorities and not in majorities, lying, preferring family or friends, avoiding transparency in public affairs are some of the things that tend to block communication. Young people don’t want to see any of them in their candidates.
The 2022 election’s keys are because voters or candidates know how to do their job in each of the four variables described above. With the experience obtained in the process of developing a communication strategy with young people, I believe that there are four critical attributes that politicians must impose in the election. a) Young people and women in power or very empowered. b) In the face of attacks by other candidates, symbolism must prevail. c) Get the best out of the other. d) Disarm the floor. I believe that there is enough information about the electoral environment that is coming. I think that electoral success is not a secret formula. The parties have uncovered their letters and with them their interests. As never before, the connection with the audiences with such a special one made up of young people and women is definitive.
Most communication and strategy professionals working on campaigns should be the first to understand everything said here and develop it. They will be the ones in charge of the candidates connecting with their young constituents. The work to be done requires robust knowledge of social media and its use for effective communication. Multi-disciplinary teams of communicators should create efficient communication channels for specific, multiplying, inclusive, and positive messages. It is necessary to apply segmentations tailored to each campaign and making the most of the tools provided by social networks. To learn more about strategy and communication with young people, write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, tell me about your project or need, and I can surely help you.