Breaking through the noise in an election year

Cartoon illustration: Serene woman with shouts coming at her.

It’s that time again and November 5 can’t come soon enough. But, you aren’t the type to sit on your hands, watch and wait, are you? We at Yes& Lipman Hearne have been gathering our best thinking about ways to carry on telling stories that matter during a fraught election year.

  • Be the breath of fresh air. The #1 emotion Americans are feeling in relation to the 2024 presidential election is “dread,” according to a Yahoo News/YouGov poll. You can offer respite when audiences need it most. Share stories of impact, optimism, collaboration, commitment, and strength. Offer beautiful, calm, or surprising images and experiences.
  • Look past November. Your mission is important now and it will remain important. Keep your audiences informed about what you’re doing day in and day out and why it matters, whatever the outcome of an election may be. Is your mission directly affected by policy, economic, or legislative changes? Keep your audiences up to date about what’s happening and how you’re responding.
  • Be visible in conversations that develop. In Public Relations, “newsjacking” is a strategy of latching onto a developing high-profile story with a related story that reveals something about your organization while gaining you visibility. Even without engaging in this specific strategy, it’s important to keep a finger on the pulse of topics that relate to your mission so that your audiences see you as an active participant and a voice they want to align with.
  • Look to the Olympic and Paralympic Village. Like every U.S. presidential election year, it’s also an Olympic year. Countless athlete profiles will offer endless variations on the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. You’ll cry at the profiles, the decisive moments, and even the commercials. Why? Our brains are wired to identify with other people—their dreams, their triumphs, their perseverance. Look for—and borrow!—storytelling themes and structures that tap into the human need to connect.
  • If “rage giving” comes your way, tread with care. This phenomenon, in which masses of people turn to a nonprofit where they feel they can make a difference in the wake of a consequential legislative or policy change, is real. It’s also unpredictable. You might not be able to retain all new donors who come to you in a moment of frustration. But you can ensure those donations advance the goals donors care about. And, for some, you can offer an experience of productive, sustained change-making, which delivers emotional rewards that are more powerful and enduring than frustration.
  • Tap into the full value of your own lists. An email address is more than just a way to reach audiences directly in their inbox. Email addresses are the key to learning about what your audiences care about—and email addresses also let you serve social media ads and other digital ads directly to audience subsets you define as they travel around the web.


  • Look for donors to adopt new behaviors. Political campaign fundraising operations focus on small and medium donors—and they do a lot of experimenting when it comes to the frequency, channels, and calls to action of their asks. That translates to a lot of annoying spam texts and emails, but it’s also inevitable that more and more individuals will begin, for example, to give via SMS. Fair warning: this means donors are being conditioned to expect a fast, frictionless, mobile-optimized giving experience, and they will abandon your form if you make it cumbersome.
  • Consider the timing of your asks. Political campaign fundraising operations are most aggressive in the final three days of March, June, and September and in the days just before October 16 and November 25. These dates are when the books close on the numbers candidates must report to the Federal Election Commission. If your own lists are likely to overlap with candidates’ lists, make your asks before or after these windows.

We love our higher ed and nonprofit clients—and we love collaborating on ways to bring our clients’ stories to the audiences who should know about them. Looking for a thought partner as you hone your story, your strategy, or your campaign? Let us know!

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