What’s the most effective strategy you can devise to achieve your goals – whether they are sales, votes or changes in behavior? And how do you translate that strategy into words that resonate with your audience?
At the outset of a political or business campaign you ask: Where are we now? Where do we want to be? What are the steps to get there?
Earlier this year, my colleague Matt Cochran discussed the public relations principles that he predicted we would witness during the campaign season. Below are some key strategies I have observed in the current presidential race and how they have been applied. Next Tuesday’s results will confirm which ones have worked best.
President Obama was hugely successful with his victorious Hope & Change campaign from the 2008 election. The slogan has morphed into Forward, from Keep America Moving Forward. It’s clear and memorable. Predictably, Governor Romney’s campaign has tried to get mileage by translating this to “hoping for change” and accusing President Obama of “moving forward off the fiscal cliff.”
2. Align & Reassure
When people are scared and riddled with uncertainty, aligning with and reassuring them can be a crucial strategy. Governor Romney’s Believe in America slogan does that by going back to our country’s foundation and building on the concept that our economy is driven by the American people, not by our government.
The “reasonable man – or woman – argument” can be most effective when opposing facts and statistics are bantered about, especially if credible experts weigh in to correct the record. Romney has continuously returned to statistics on lost jobs and unemployment – and his approach to improve the economy – in an attempt to arguably make his strongest case for taking over.
4. Attack & Defend
Simply putting your best foot forward is rarely enough in politics – or business. You often need to “attack” the competition, either boldly or subtly, to differentiate yourself and defend your track record. The Obama campaign has cast doubt on Governor Romney as a commander-in-chief while the Romney camp seized on the “apology tour” and countered President Obama with the “hope is not a strategy” retort regarding his Middle East stance.
Similarly, getting other influences to connect with your audience and make calculated attacks can be effective. In the final weeks, an ad is running in battleground states that features actresses Scarlett Johansson, Eva Longoria and Kerry Washington attacking Mitt Romney and other Republicans for their positions on abortion and other women’s issues.
Bernie Marcus of Home Depot fame stars in an ad where he asserts that Mr. Obama has been hostile to businesses and says, “I see what’s going on today, and I’m frightened to death.”
5. Entertain and/or Shock
Moreover, humorous ads can be an effective strategy to win people over: from the Geico gecko to the Most Interesting Man. We saw this strategy with Clint Eastwood appearing at the Republican convention – with mixed reviews. More recently, Ann Coulter’s controversial tweet following the last presidential debate triggered a firestorm of controversy. While the tweet may have been a calculated antic to grab attention, I believe it will have little effect.
Ultimately, the better you can read your audience and determine which tactics best speak to different segments, the better your chances of persuading them to buy, vote or behave in a certain way.
But let’s take it a step further. In whatever circles you travel, you will hear people say something like: I can’t imagine anyone in their right mind voting for X, followed by their case. These myriad individual campaigners – you and I – will ultimately decide this election and many others.
While the communications surrounding politics can be fascinating – or maddening – the lessons of choosing your strategies and mastering your words to make a compelling stand are important for all of our endeavors in business, as leaders in our communities and as mentors and parents.
Which slogan or message most aligned with you – or most annoyed you – during this campaign?
Image Credits: Michael Reynolds, AFP/Getty Images; Obama for America; Romney Victory, Inc.