Hillary Clinton’s election loss was a messaging failure

Public speaking gets better results when it’s built on great messaging.
Vivid messages can be the deciding factor in the success of a person, a business or an idea.
The 2016 Presidential election is an example. If you look at the Trump vs Clinton election through a Messaging Lens, you see a clear winner. Donald Trump.

Trump’s public speaking embeds memorable messages

I’m one of the few neutral observers who predicted Trump could win – purely from looking at the election through a Messaging Lens.
Trump’s messages were more easily recalled and repeated throughout the campaign.

Ask yourself: What messages can you recall now?

Take a moment now and see how many messages from the campaign you can personally recall.
And then, try to evaluate which messages were more likely to be repeated to support an argument for either candidate. Remember, when deploying vivid messages, your goal is to have them recalled and repeated.

The say-it-out-loud message test:

  • I’m voting for Hillary because… message 1, message 2, etc.
  • I’m voting for Trump because… message 1, message 2, etc.


Hillary Clinton’s messages

How many of Clinton’s campaign messages can you recall? I’ve asked hundreds of people this question over the last few months and most initially struggle. Then after thinking for a moment, they typically mention:

  • I’m with her.
  • Trump has the wrong temperament/personality to be President (repeated by Clinton supporters in many different ways, such as: Trump is bad, incompetent, racist, sexist, hitler, etc.)
  • Stronger together.

If you put these through the say-it-out-loud message test, only the ‘temperament’ message works well. This was clearly her most effective message. It was repeated by many people as their own observation and seemed valid by some measures of Trump’s behaviour.
However it didn’t offer a benefit. It was a message about something to be avoided, not something that would be gained by voting for Clinton.

Donald Trump’s messages

The first difference I noticed when asking the same question about Trump is that people didn’t need to think too hard to recall his messages. And Trump’s messages offered benefits to America as a nation as well as individual Americans.

  • Make America Great Again.
  • Build a wall (to make America safe, secure the country).
  • Put America first (when negotiating with other countries).
  • Drain the swamp of political corruption in Washington.
  • I’ll be good for business (cut red tape and bring back jobs).

Now, put these through the say-it-out-loud message test. All of them work.
All. Of. Them. Work.

Who is the beneficiary of the messages?

Make America great again (MAGA) was easily the most repeated message of the campaign. It excited people. Clinton’s ‘stronger together’ message did not excite people.
Trump’s messages are all focused on benefits to Americans. While Clinton’s messages are vague and only weakly feature tangible benefits for Americans.
Wait! You might argue that Trump’s messages weren’t believable. Maybe. But that’s true of many political promises.
All of Trump’s messages were crafted by listening to the concerns and priorities of large blocks of Americans. And they wanted to hear that their candidate was at least going to try to improve the issues they cared about. They felt that their candidate had listened to them.

I’m an objective observer of public speaking

My book rejects the traditional approach to public speaking. It’s called ‘What’s Your Message? Public Speaking with Twice the Impact, Using Half the Effort‘.
It argues that message transfer is the priority in public speaking – not perfect performance. This means that people should focus much more attention on messaging. This requires objectivity and the ability to look at both sides of an issue.
As a messaging coach, I need to see the world from a neutral, objective viewpoint. I seek out both sides of an issue and test the messages offered by each side. I don’t have a political opinion about whether Trump or Clinton would make a better president. I’m simply looking at the situation through a Messaging Lens, which gives us some powerful insights.

Trump may be gaining ground, believe it or not!

As of today, the Messaging Lens indicates that Trump’s messaging is still getting through to a lot of people. Even with all the perceived chaos.
For example, in a recent series of interviews, Democratic voters were asked about Trump. And an amazing thing happened. As expected, all of them stated they didn’t like Trump. But many of them said something like, “I do like the idea of putting America first, though”.
Putting America first is one of Donald Trump’s messages. And this little example shows that it’s finding a place in more people’s minds.

My message?

Get good at messaging! It can be the deciding factor in the success of a person, a business or an idea.