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By John Denny

Last month, while driving to Harrisburg and listening to Sirius XM’s POTUS Politics channel, I heard a fascinating interview with Allan Kelly, founder and CEO of Playmaker, Precision Strategy and Simulations.

Despite what the name might suggest, Allan wasn’t talking about NFL football or kids’ toys. He was talking about the strategic plays and counter plays Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump made during the first Presidential debate. I almost pulled the car over to download Kelly’s Playcaller Strategy App because it is so relevant to Denny Civic Solutions’ core work: developing strategy in civic campaigns.

Here’s how it works. The player is first directed to the “Standard Table of Influence,” which has three divisions – Assess, Condition, Engage. Then the player decides if they are calling the play (i.e. “offense”) or reacting to the call (“defense”).

Let’s use the Presidential debate example, in which we find ourselves in the “engage” situation. Candidate A decided to use the “provoke” strategy and called the “bait” play (you can probably guess who used this strategy the most).

Why? Because Candidate A (to keep playing coy, here) knows Candidate B is sensitive and prone to overreact. So Candidate B, rather than using a traditional debate strategy like calling a “pass” play (ignoring it) or a “red herring” play (used to deflect from a vulnerability), instead called the “ping” play – an oblique reference to not accepting the outcome of the election – and the “label” play (“bad hombre”).

The thing is, in daily interactions we use these plays all the time, most often without thinking about it. But for a civic campaign that is trying to advance a cause or issue, being mindful from the very beginning of the various plays and counter plays can mean the difference between winning and losing.

If you want to take a look at these plays in action, you can download Allan Kelly’s Playcaller app here.