Content Marketers Can Learn From the Presidential Debates — 8-Point Arc

Through 2 debates, one candidate changed approach much more than the other.  Who was it and why?

A Look Into the Data :

Debate 1 vs Debate 2

In the first debate Mrs. Clinton was very clearly attempting to connect with the voting public in an empathic way. She consistently establishes her position with an understanding of the greater dynamics at play and connects how it affects voters. This is a classic storytelling set-up that will connect to the listener and keep them engaged through to the pay-off.

Interestingly but maybe not surprisingly, Mrs. Clinton's storytelling is less balanced off-the-cuff in the debates, than she was in her scripted DNC acceptance speech.

In the second debate Mrs. Clinton shifted to connecting issues our country faces with making the voter the hero in solving them.

In the first debate, Mr. Trump demonstrates is a hyper focused style with heavy bias toward taking action.  He is clearly hammering the need for action with some set-up of communicating Market Dynamics and the Voter State of Mind.  He is almost using a "Cliff's Notes" storytelling style by providing only set-up and payoff with no journey along the way.

This balance is a bit more diverse than Trump's scripted RNC acceptance speech, where Trump almost exclusively concentrated on Trigger Event, setting up the fact that, in his view it is a crucial time in which voters need to act.

Trump clearly tones down his heavily action oriented message by attempting to balance his story by reflecting the voters state of mind and how they will benefit. It is interesting to see the shift both candidates had on the voter. 

As established in our post analyzing the candidates speeches, both candidates make strong use of persuasion marketing techniques.  What is remarkable is how differently each uses some of the same techniques. Both position themselves as an authority but do so in different ways. At least in the first debate.

In the first debate, Mrs. Clinton highlights her direct, personal experience when positioning as an authority. This is a persuasion marketing technique we see many brands use particularly in B2B marketing. She continues this approach in the second debate.

At Hofstra, Mr. Trump also positions himself as an authority but more attaching himself to 3rd party experts and analysts and "borrowing" from their authority. This is a particularly effective marketing technique we have seen from less established brands. In the second debate, Trump completely shifts his use of authority to highlight his own accomplishments and doesn't attach to parties. 

Mrs. Clinton seems to tone down the use of social proof in the second debate, although her approach remains the same. Reference to popularity is to reference one own's popularity as "proof" that, in this case, supporting the candidate is the right thing to do.  Reference to the social norm is a different approach to social proof that plays to our need to "fit in" and do what most others are doing.

Perhaps the most interesting insight is Mr. Trump's shift in his use of social proof to look almost exactly the same a Mrs. Clinton's in the first debate. While Mr. Trump noted his popularity significantly in the first debate, he toned down his approach in the second to play up his support as "socially acceptable".

This is perhaps the most interesting trend between the two debates. Mr. Trump makes fairly dramatic shifts in his approach while Mrs. Clinton stays fairly steady. We are not suggesting that the candidates are particularly concerned with what their authority or social proof scores are or that their story is balanced in the way 8-Point Arc measures storytelling. To our knowledge, with out using our software they would have no way of knowlng, short of manual coding of the transcripts. What we do know, is candidates prepare fastidiously for these debates and (hopefully} have very deliberate and specific ways they intend to deliver their message. We see a shift from Mr. Trump from the first to the second debate, we'll let you decide if and why that may be the case.

The learning for content marketers is not only does your message matter but also the way in which you deliver it. We see different uses of these approaches and many others that are very effective and some that are not at all. We see some brands that look and sound exactly like the brands they compete with and some that stand out with a unique approach and message. Be deliberate in your content creation, know the intent of each piece you publish and be prepared to pivot if it's not working. Our data suggest, Mr. Trump may be doing just that. 


Brian Dames


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