For the last few weeks (ok, months …) I’ve been watching and listening to a multitude of communications mistakes being made repeatedly by politicians and political parties. What can we learn from the traditional election season storm of rhetoric? Trust me, it’s more than I can cover in one blog, so I’ve settled on three lessons:
- The truth doesn’t matter. One of the realities of crisis communication is that perception is everything. All the facts in the world won’t dislodge a perception that someone holds as truth if they don’t trust the source. To combat that quicksand, strive for transparency and genuine communications every day, with every audience. The trust earned over time makes it much easier to handle competitive jabs, public misinformation, social media attacks and unfortunate mistakes. If you’ve always been upfront with your customers and the public, you’ve likely earned a more sympathetic ear. Shelve that goodwill for a day when you need it.
- Know your audience—and what matters to them. Many news outlets have spent the last few weeks talking to voters across the country, asking what issues mean the most to them. Many of those answers are markedly different from what the media is covering and what our candidates are talking about. The lesson: Know what matters to your audience. I recently asked a client for the OK to talk to a sample of their customers. Why? Because what a company may think is its key value is often misaligned with what its customers see as valuable. Not because that business isn’t delivering on its promises, but because customers may find value in other places. How do you uncover that? Ask questions. Talk with your customers and make sure your messaging is aligned.
- Consistency isn’t the same as being a pest. After receiving about a dozen texts urging me to vote, I wanted to respond: “Yes. I get it, Nov. 6 is election day. Leave me alone!!!” Companies often face the same dilemma. How do you bust your way through the information static to get your point across with customers without tipping right over to bludgeoning people with your message? There is a fine line between spamming your prospects and nurturing a new relationship. Do you know the difference? Chances are if you keep that balance top of mind, you’ll be fine. If you’re unsure, ask: “Would this irritate me?” You know what to do from there.
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