How Political Video Helps Candidates Connect

  • Harry Hayes

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An Effective Political Video Uses Emotion and Storytelling to Help Candidates Connect with Voters.

When done correctly, a political video is an effective way to define and differentiate a political candidate.

More importantly, it’s an opportunity for a candidate to make an emotional connection with voters.

Video is a visual medium. So by far, it is the most impactful way to present a candidate’s strengths, tell their personal story, and in general put their best foot forward.

Moreover, it’s an opportunity to focus their message, and establish campaign narratives and themes.

Political video can help define and differentiate a candidate.

Political Video

Campaign narratives define a candidate. They tell us who he or she is and what they stand for.

For example, Eisenhower was a “War Hero.” Bill Clinton was a “Problem Solver.”

First-time candidates are “Outsiders,” while those running for re-election are “Experienced Incumbents.”

“The Seven Basic Plots,” a book which I recently wrote about here, can also be used for choosing a narrative.

Donald Trump ran as an outsider, with a narrative about “Rebirth”—making America great again. Bernie Sanders’s story was “Fighting the Monster,”—taking on Wall Street and the evil millionaires and billionaires.

In politics, these narratives are strategically created, and heavily researched and focus grouped.

The idea is to find a narrative—much like a brand positioning—that voters will relate to. In a perfect world, the campaign narrative will also emphasize the candidate’s strengths.

This commercial for Ronald Reagan was called Morning in America

Morning in America

One of my favorite examples is Ronald Reagan’s re-election campaign of 1984. It focused on the economy, and optimism for the future. 

The commercials used “warm and fuzzy” imagery, and were voiced by advertising legend Hal Riney.

One memorable ad was called “Prouder, Stronger, Better,” but is better known as “Morning in America.”

Ethan Pham for Congress

Here’s another example. A few years ago, Atlanta attorney Ethan Pham ran for U.S. Congress.

If elected, he would have been the first Vietnamese Representative ever elected in Georgia, and possibly the entire southeast U.S.

Ethan’s life story is pretty amazing. For instance, he immigrated to America when he was only 11 years old. An incredibly hard worker, Ethan worked his way through high school, college and law school.

When his parents lost their jobs during the recession, he bought a chicken farm, and managed to employ his parents AND finish his law degree. 

So he ran on hard work and love of country. 

To shoot his political video, we traveled to North Georgia and filmed the chicken farm. We shot B Roll all around District 7, at City Hall, the Court House, and other recognizable landmarks. And of course, we filmed Ethan engaging with lots of people, representing the diverse backgrounds of his future constituents.

Ethan Pham was the first Vietnamese candidate to run for Congress.

$50,000 in 48 Hours

The video was completed on schedule, along with his website and Facebook page. Everything went live the day he announced. Donations began pouring in almost immediately, both online and in person.

In the first two days, he raised $50,000, got over 500 Facebook likes and more than 3,500 video views.

A few years later, Atlanta politician John Eaves also ran for Congress. We met with a political consultant to talk about issues and potential narratives.

We chose “Fulfilling a Dream.”

John Eaves for Congress

This narrative reflected John’s life story, and was based on one of his favorite stump speeches, comparing his life to that of his grandfather, Cecil.

John’s grandfather immigrated to America from Jamaica. He dreamed of becoming a doctor, about helping people, and he believed in public service and giving back to the community.

Visual Storytelling

To tell the story visually, I filmed John sitting at a table in his home, looking at old family photo albums, including a framed picture of his grandfather, Cecil.

This was shot at night, with cinematic lighting, heightening the drama and emotion.

As he looks at the photos, John tells us how Cecil faced a life of persecution. He never realized his dreams, or became a doctor, or even got to vote. 

In comparison, John became a doctor (a PhD), and spent his life helping people, fulfilling his grandfather’s dreams.

This scene was juxtaposed with images of John in his office, in the Fulton County Commission, and talking to constituents. In addition, we staged a rally to film John at a podium in front of supporters.

In each of these examples of political video, we tell the candidates’ stories in a visual way. While some candidates are more charismatic than others, impactful imagery lifts up the communication and makes it more memorable.


About the Author: 

Harry Hayes is the owner and executive producer at Content Puppy Productions, a corporate video production agency based in Charlotte. Before starting Content Puppy, he spent 20+ years as an advertising writer and creative director.

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