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The Communicative Functions Model


Disciplines > PoliticsPolitical campaigns > The Communicative Functions model

Surfacing | Primaries | Nomination | Election | See also


The Communicative Functions model describes four stages of a political campaign, particularly typical of American Presidential elections.


This stage is also called 'winnowing' as it is like the extraction of the valuable grain from the worthless corn stalk. It is where the candidate looks to find what real support they have and the actual nature of this support.

To get elected to any high office is not a solo affair. You need feet on the street and you need funds. It is one thing for people to tell you to stand for election and it is another for them to put their time and money into the game. This is the stage at which you find out what real support you have.

The early parts of this stage also include mapping out the territory and then checking out all parts to determine how much real support you have across the field and not just in your home office. This is a significant test, where you get to try out your election policies and how you put them across on real people. This may include serious social research to get a feel for what voters will support (and not).


In this stage, the initial wide field of candidates gets thinned down to a workable set of potentials. The party hierarchy may decide by committee or a wider voting system may be used.

Before this selection, much canvassing will go on as candidates trade promises and seek internal support. Even before the election, this can still be a very expensive process and presidential candidates can spend millions putting their case to the party faithful.


In the nomination process, the final candidate is selected from within the party and is presented to the media as the face and brand of what the party represents today.

This is a very careful communication process as initial impressions easily stick and the party brand may be damaged by careless words.


At last, the race for the post begins and the candidates no longer fight within the party walls but compete one party against another. Faction differences are healed (or at least put aside) and battle is joined between the different party communication machines.

All media are utilized to the full, included billboards, the press, TV, and internet social media channels. The candidates appears in every way and as often as possible. They give sound bites, kiss babies and duel in televised debates. The party faithful get out on the streets and go online to persuade everyone they can find.

On the election day the exhortations reach fever pitch and if you cannot get to polling station then surely someone will come and take you there and back again.

And then there is the count (and possibly the recount) and the victor is announced to the world. Victories speeches are magnanimous and parties carefully staged, with the victor unable to relax until some time later.

See also

Stages of a campaign


Trent J.S. and Friedenberg, R.V. (1995). Political Campaign Communication, NY: Praeger


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