Last week we conducted media training for a candidate for Congress who felt it was important to “educate” his audiences. This is of course admirable – we certainly don’t want to dumb down the political discourse in this country any further. But for the purposes of the four-minute live television interview, candidates (and all spokespeople) can’t over-explain. They have to know how to tighten up their messages and avoid delivering a seminar, or they won’t be effective.
Now, this particular candidate is a very smart guy – he knows his issues inside and out and is passionate about them. But you should have seen his Communications Director tearing his hair out as the candidate repeatedly elaborated, digressed and went on tangents.
There’s a time and a place for thoughtful and detailed elaborations on policy points – it just isn’t the live TV interview. The more effective approach – one that fits the time constraints and the audience’s limited span – is to deliver key messages backed up by pithy evidence and stories. And with clock ticking down to Election Day, the time to start is now.