Want to win in the next polls? Try these campaign strategies

Balot box for Senatorial contestants at Iten Primary School polling station in Keiyo North, Elgeyo Marakwet County on January 5, 2023. [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

In the 2027 general elections campaign, artificial intelligence (AI) will equalise all politicians for the first time in history, and only messaging will set them apart. As such, only those who will hire the best communication strategists will have an advantage.

Let us delve into the boundless role that messaging will play during the 2027 general elections. The campaigns will be extremely different from those of 2022 when AI literacy was low.

The revolution of AI started four months after Kenya’s 2022 general elections. On November 30, 2022, San Francisco–based OpenAI released ChatGPT, which marked a turning point in the appreciation of AI worldwide.

Immediately after ChatGPT was released, stiff competition among tech companies surged, leading to a plethora of AI innovations—shifting the world focus towards user-friendly, accessible, and interactive AI interfaces.

Within months, both big and small tech companies experimented with the possibility of having AI and language models that could meet the human race's greatest needs. This is important because optics and aesthetics, which are AI's leading goals, play a significant role in shaping voter decisions.

For instance, in 2017, the fact that Susan Kihika was partl elected as Nakuru senator courtesy of her poster photo is indisputable. See, men and women alike could not resist her flashy and conspicuous campaign posters—not to mention that the poster was omnipresent.

Ms Kihika, now the governor of Nakuru, is a representative of many politicians whose victory can, to some extent, be attributed to their investment in quality image.

Not all politicians can access or afford a quality photographer. However, with the advent of AI-powered image-generating systems, high-quality images will be accessible to all come the 2027 campaign period.

Generally speaking, the trajectory of 21st-century politics has shifted with its line graph tampering towards communication functions and away from traditional interpersonal strategies such as person-to-person and door-to-door.

As such, focused group targeting forms the most significant part of grassroots mobilisation. Usually, much of the voting decision is communal—we ask our friends about the best candidates. The most informed are likely to influence their acquaintances and relatives to vote in a certain way.

This hypothesis stems from the fact that there exists a critical number of voters whose occupations do not allow them time to follow political campaigns closely, but they want to exercise their suffrage. As such, combining artificial intelligence and strategic messaging will be two factors that will determine success and failure in the 2027 elections.

First, having a grasp of the vote-rich part of the population will be an added advantage to any contestant. For instance, in 2027, all Kenyans born between 1992 and 2008 will form youthful voters who constitute 75 per cent of the population—the majority of this population are AI and machine learning literate with high technology uptake. This population wants to be served politics on their gadgets, and AI will be the leading content production assistant.

The second factor will be getting the right people. Success is assured only when one has the right people at the right time and place. For the first time in the history of Kenyan politics, communication strategists will determine the winners of the 2027 general elections if they combine AI and strategic messaging. Let me explain this further.

The 2022 general elections placed strategic communication at the centre of political marketing. We all know that Azimio la Umoja camp hired the top political scientists and opinion shapers. These ‘experts’, some who had offices in State House, conciliated the Azimio top leadership with mere opinions and analyses that could not deliver victory. Fact!

On the other hand, much of the Kenya Kwanza victory can be attributed to strategic and consistent messaging, most of which was research and data-backed. Fact! Likewise, the ability of communication strategists to employ offensive and defensive AI messaging in 2027 will determine winners and losers.

Dr Ndonye is a senior lecturer, the Department of Mass Communication, at Kabarak University