Recipe For Successful Messaging

Explainer.jpgRecipe for Success: How to Explain Why Money in Politics is a Problem and Inspire Action

In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court changed the landscape of campaign finance when it opened the doors to unlimited anonymous donations by corporations and wealthy donors in Citizens United v. FEC.  As a result, this election cycle has seen unprecedented sums of cash pour in from undisclosed sources.  You can view a well-sourced summary on the issue with examples from Ohio here.

There are a number of groups organizing to fight back against the corruption of our political system, and some of the messaging they have come up with is both clever and informative, no small feat given the complex concepts involved.  It’s difficult to explain the problem in a simple, effective, entertaining way, but they’ve managed to do it.

Here are some of the highlights, to give you some ideas on how to talk about Citizens United and the undue influence all this money from corporations and the wealthy has on our elections, and to hopefully inspire you to create powerful, effective messaging on the issues that YOU care about.

Start with a Little Outrage …

A good public meltdown is like a train wreck—you can’t help but look, even if it’s not pretty.  Dylan Ratigan’s emotional rant about how our government is bought may have brought more attention to the issue than all the intellectual articles that preceded it combined:

(MSNBC’s “The Dylan Ratigan Show,” August 9, 2011)

Add Entertaining Storytelling with a Message …

  • Animation explaining the history and the problem of money in politics, that includes the line “It’s We the People, not We the Corporations” (from The Story of Stuff)

  • Video, “How a Bill(ionaire) Becomes a Law(maker),” that explains political corruption in three minutes-- phrases used include “Money OUT, People IN,” and “It’s We the People, not It the Money” (from

Mix in Some Creative Campaigns …

The Stamp Stampede is a collaborative campaign, championed by Move to Amend and other organizations and funded by donors and Ben Cohen, of Ben & Jerry’s fame.  With delicious irony, they encourage stamping currency with messages about getting money out of politics, and created a crazy giant money-stamping art exhibit/contraption to carry the message across the country.


Messages they stamp on money include:

  • Corporations are not people, money is not free speech.
  • The system isn’t broken, it’s “fixed.”
  • Not to be used for bribing politicians.

Enjoy the Silence is a campaign to fund a political TV ad that will draw attention to all of the noise from anonymously funded political messages by being the opposite—silent.  Their slogan “Silence is louder than money” says it all.

Many other campaigns are either planned or underway, so expect to hear more about clever efforts to get the word out.

Blend Well with Graphics that Help People “Get It” …


Sprinkle in a Pointed Cartoon or Protest Sign Here and There …

BuyersWishToRemainAnonymous.jpg   BetterOff900MillionAgo.jpg
WhenTexasExecutesOne.jpg   ForSaleSign.jpg

And Add a Dash of Hash (Twitter Hashtags that Make the Point)…

And Voilà!  You’ve Got Messaging.

Once the messaging is out there, people will pick it up, spread it and add their own individual spice to it, so it grows organically and exponentially, which is exactly what’s happened in this case. 

These are some of the ingredients for successfully framing an issue and engaging the public.  Each feeds off the other, increasing the reach and the power of the message.  What other ingredients can you think of?  Please add them, and any other clever messaging you’ve seen on the issue of money in politics, in the Comments below.


This post was written by contributing writer Jamie Logan, political writer tackling government corruption, inequality and how to fix our broken system so it works for the good of all, not just the advantaged. Visit her Facebook page here:, and follow her on Twitter @jamielogan24.

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