We just launched the Progressive Strategy Handbook, an open source platform for building capacity for the movement, where we promised to provide an online forum for ongoing discussions that lead to strategic initiatives.
The first discussion topic we’d like to discuss is the branding of what it means to be progressive. This is a topic that has come up several times already in the comments about the handbook. And it is a major theme developed by one of our co-authors, Sara Robinson, in “Building the Progressive Brand“. She says:
Progressives have never tried to brand themselves in any kind of organized, coherent way−which is why even progressive leaders are often caught flat-footed when asked about the core values our movement stands for. There’s no self-defined narrative through-line that carries us from one election to the next (let alone from one decade to the next). When Democrats do engage in PR, they do it in the most ineffective way possible−in piecemeal one-off campaigns that are entirely too much driven by polls and focus groups, and not nearly enough by the imperatives of long-term brand-building and values cultivation. Instead, we do it in limited, short-term bursts that are dedicated to promoting a personality or an issue, not the movement as a whole. (For example, Hillary Clinton famously gave at least $13 million to Burson-Marstellar PR star Mark Penn−but the objective of that campaign was to build Brand Hillary, not Brand Progressive.) There’s never been a well-designed, sustained, overarching campaign to define who we are, what we believe, or why Americans should trust us.
And this failure has several important consequences that put both our candidates and our whole movement at a decided disadvantage.
We encourage you to read the entire article and come back here to discuss strategies for branding the progressive vision. This is a topic that deserves considerable attention. To help get you started thinking about how we might proceed, consider the following:
- What is the positive social identity of progressives that makes us people others want to relate to?
- Which stereotypes have been crafted by our opposition to paint us in a negative light?
- What is our compelling vision for the future that is provocative and appealing enough to rally a majority of U.S. citizens around?
- How do we establish a successful brand identity for the movement? What are the tools and organizational structures that will be needed to spread our ideas far and wide?
This is not meant to be an idle conversation. If we come up with a set of really good ideas about how to address the brand incoherence of our movement, we can take action and remedy the situation.
Please add your thoughts here.
Please add attribution: From Cognitive Policy Works's Strategy Workgroup: Branding the Progressive Vision