ON MESSAGE: The Taylor Swift plan for saving democracy
In a new series, messaging guru Anat Shenker-Osorio tells us what Democrats can learn from Taylor Swift, BTS, and "The Avengers" to get out the vote in 2024
In politics, accomplishments are not enough. Putting your head down and doing the work is not enough. A good economy is not enough. Maybe it’s not fair, but it’s true.
The missing piece, all too often, is messaging.
Messaging is the storytelling political actors do to make their achievements and aspirations understandable to regular people. Good messaging puts a litany of policies into a narrative frame so that people make sense of where you’re trying to go.
And in America today, the pro-democracy cause tends to fall short at messaging, seemingly lulled into the false confidence that doing the work will be enough.
Messaging is going to be crucial terrain for the 2024 election. There is no smarter person in America on the subject than the messaging guru Anat Shenker-Osorio, whom I wrote about in The Persuaders. And that is why I am beyond excited to share that, starting today, Anat will be The Ink’s in-house advice columnist on message in 2024, answering our questions and yours.
We’re kicking off the series today with Anat riffing on how Democrats can activate the Swifties — and, more generally, be smarter about making use of the cultural arena.
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What a K-pop tour in Brazil tells us about getting out the youth vote
In Brazil’s 2022 election, neither candidate was liked, and young people were just not into it. In Brazil, voting is compulsory at 18, but the voting age is 16. So these organizers put together a whole campaign for 16- to 18-year-olds, this bloc of people who can vote but often don't and were very not excited about this election.
BTS, the biggest K-pop band from South Korea, has an inexplicably huge fan base in Brazil. They were coming for what was called the “Speak Yourself” tour. And so these political organizers did an entire defiance campaign with a mix of messages between, "Speak yourself" and the Portuguese equivalent of, "If you don't decide, they'll decide for you."
At Lollapalooza Brasil — which was huge because it was post-pandemic; all of these young people were like, "Get me out of the house!” — and wherever else BTS played, the organizers had this “Speak Yourself” get-out-the-vote merchandise. They turned what was already a thing that people cared about into a reason to vote — and this was part of a campaign that overall boosted that critical youth turnout by 47 percent and helped Lula win the presidency.