I’ve been pretty heavily involved in politics for years and have had a good track record of creating messaging that sways voters and issues.
That’s why I have been obsessed with the 2016 presidential campaign here in the US.
But not for the reasons you would think…
The main reason is that I have been fascinated with the inability of most of the candidates to come up with anything resembling a coherent, cohesive message and their inability to handle a candidate that does have a strong message.
I’m looking primarily at every candidate not named Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders.
What this leads me to is the idea that if you are reacting, you are losing.
In the Republican field, we have seen a group of candidates that had been poorly defined and messaged waylaid by a candidate that had one clear message that he delivered over and over again: “Make American Great Again!”
Whether or not you agree with the premise, the candidate, or anything about the platform at large…you have to admit that this is the most memorable campaign slogan that has come out of the election so far.
On the Democratic side, we have a candidate in Hilary Clinton that has been around so long that we all have some impression of her and our feelings about her are probably pretty well established. Yet, with name recognition that is only likely just south of Pope Francis’s, her campaign has struggled to define their positions, tell consistent and coherent stories, and hasn’t been strong enough to squelch the yammering for a run by Joe Biden.
When Bernie Sanders entered the race, he was easily brushed aside as a “socialist” and “unelectable.” Both of which are terms that are often used to put candidates on the defensive. Instead of reacting to the terms with a negative bent and falling into the politics as usual trap of trying to deny his socialist beliefs, Bernie Sanders has consistently delivered a message that focuses on fighting for the working class American and the people that are being left behind by the “billionaire class.”
The same as with Donald Trump’s message, is that Bernie Sanders’s message is clear, concise, and consistent. And, most importantly, he hasn’t been swayed from delivering it over and over again. Specifically, whenever he is challenged on his beliefs, he doubles down and embraces his outsider message.
Let’s get back to the rest of the field and politics in general and how as business people we can learn from these things:
1. You really need to have a clear idea of who you are and what you want to communicate: Look at Sanders and Trump and you see two people that know exactly what the message is that they are trying to deliver.
2. Your message has be delivered consistently and forcefully: So much of the political consultant class lives in a world where they are always feeling the need to react to every little thing that happens in that day’s news cycle. This takes away from the consistency of the message. You have to be responsible for getting your message out over and over.
3. If you are reacting, you are losing: Look, I can’t say it in more plain terms…if your message is a constant reaction to everyone else’s actions and messaging, you are losing! You are the one that has to have a clear vision and focus, if you don’t you are going to get defined by someone else and you aren’t going to like the results!