In a recent blog I discussed the surfacing stage and a few things to expect throughout this stage of the political campaign process. And, late last year, I wrote a blog regarding the importance of considering source credibility during the campaign. In this blog I’m going to combine the two. As previously noted, one of the important functions of the surfacing stage is to “separate the serious contenders from the not so serious” (32). If you are not taken seriously, you are less likely to win. Things such as dressing well, being prepared, and exuding confidence, will only help you, and your campaign, on your way to achieving your goals.
One of the most important things to consider when running for office is how you dress. “How you dress yourself changes who you are. It changes the value of what you have to say. At least to the people who are looking and listening”. How you dress is important because clothing is considered the primary instrument in creating a positive first impression. “Studies show that first impressions are made within the first 17 seconds of meeting someone… [and] [f]ifty-five percent of that impression is based off first appearance”. Dressing well gives you the appearance of authority, and studies show that “[i]f you want to be taken more seriously… take a look at how authoritative you appear”. As a liberty minded candidate, however, you want to be sure you are not perceived as too authoritative. There is a fine line between “I know what I am talking about” authority and “I’m here to conquer the world authority”. Dressing well also helps you exude confidence, which is something I’m going to discuss later in this entry.
The video below demonstrates the importance of dressing well for an interview, and that is really all a political campaign is. You are interviewing for a job, and the voter are the ones that are going to determine whether you are going to get it.
As stated above, it is important to balance your visual authority, because as Hillary Clinton learned in the 2016 Presidential elections, what you wear will be used against you in the court of public opinion. And, the higher the office, the more true this is.
Something you as a candidate can do to try and help with these first impressions is to consider the audience you are trying to influence (and this will be a continuous theme throughout this blog). It is important that you consider what your audience’s expectations are, and to make sure you work within the confines of those expectations. Think about your message, and what your outfit is conveying as well.
For example, Americans (and Texans) love the symbolic trappings of office. They love seeing their flags, and their country’s symbols. So, when running for office, consider the trappings of your office. If you are running for a federal office makes sure that you are surrounded by American flags. A great example of this is when Obama failed to wear something as simple as an American flag pen resulting in political backlash. So, when dressing yourself for public appearance, consider those important trappings of office.
One of the first questions I was asked by a candidate when it came to how he presented himself was “how do I become a better speaker?” I went and looked at a few of his videos and he only had one problem, and it is possibly one of the most common problems presenters have. In these videos he seemed nervous as though he was unsure of what to say. So, my advice to him? Be more prepared. Although this advice seems rather simple, it seems he took it to heart. I have had many comments from people talking about how he seemed like he was a “different person” from the first time they met him to watching him on stage giving a presentation later. So, another way to increase your credibility with the audience, and as a result be taken more seriously as a candidate? Be prepared.
Taking the extra time to prepare yourself for speaking situations will help you appear more confident because you know what you’re going to say, and how you’re going to respond. And, as I will go over in a few paragraphs, appearing confident will help you be taken more seriously as a candidate. Being prepared also helps you enhance your critical thinking skills, resulting in you being less likely to find yourself in an embarrassing situation. And, being prepared also helps you project a certain level of authority on a subject/in a situation as well.
As with any communication situation, the first thing you should do in your preparation is to analyze your audience. Will your communication be something that will be received positively? Or will there be backlash? Think about possible questions the audience might have and rehearse answers to those questions. And, the most important thing about being prepared is to make sure you give yourself enough time to prepare.
In this blog I have repeatedly highlighted the importance of being confident when it comes to being perceived as a serious candidate. “Generally, successful candidates will be perceived as trustworthy, intelligent, or competent enough to do the job” (26). Having low confidence “makes us doubt our abilities and judgment and prevent us from taking calculated risks, setting ambitious goals and working on them”. Lacking confidence will affect your ability to speak and communicate well, and as a candidate for political office, you don’t have the time to waste your first impressions.
A great example in history of a politician not being taken seriously due to his perceived lack of confidence is King George “the Stuttering King”. King George was not supposed to be king, yet, after his brother abdicated the throne shortly after their father’s death, he found himself crowned. A world war was on the horizon, and the enemies made fun of him constantly for his stutter. This stutter not only was a perceived weakness of his by his enemies, but also by his people. However, after much preparation, he spoke to his people, lacking a stutter. His confidence showed his people that he had changed since in office, and that he could overcome to achieve success.
As King George’s speech shows us, one of the best things you can do to be perceived as confident is to be prepared. A lot of preparation went into that speech. And, the given the results, that preparation paid off. A second good thing to remember is your body language matters, and how your present yourself is another key to being taken seriously.
If you want to be taken seriously as a candidate by the electorate, it is important that you consider what they expect of you in that role, versus what you think the role is. Otherwise, you’re going to end up with a very limited audience. And, that is no way to win campaigns. Looking the part lets the audience know that you are a serious contender, and that you plan on giving it what you’ve got when it comes to a campaign run. Notice the major candidates, the winning candidates, are always well prepared and well groomed. These are the candidates that are winning. These are the candidate’s people are taking seriously. Consider your audience, and you are more likely to be taken seriously.
If you need help with your image, or if you want to better understand your campaign’s audience, contact us!