Key lessons from the campaign trail
by Adam Levy
There are numerous public relations lessons that corporate America can glean from the presidential campaign.
There was the role of social media. Don’t alienate a core constituency (or customer base). It’s not all about advertising spending. The list is long.
I want to focus on what I think are the three most important lessons that corporate executives and PR professionals can derive from the campaign. They might seem simple, but the consequences of not adhering to them can be costly.
First, always be prepared. I’m not sure if the president’s performance in the first debate shifted the narrative and momentum toward the challenger — but his less-than-stellar showing clearly didn’t help him out. Was he not prepared? Maybe. Regardless, the lesson is stark: the c-suite needs to be prepared in every public situation — in front of analysts, customers, and the media, televised or print.
In this day and age Jon Stewart, YouTube or any number of bloggers can elevate even a slight flub to epic proportions. If you’re caught flat-footed, expect it to go viral and deal with the consequences.
Second, be consistent. Flip-flopping runs rampant in political campaigns. Companies need to recognize that they’ll be around longer than a campaign cycle and need to focus on consistency. Key messages are a company’s brand. If you make widgets, you need to reinforce why your widgets are better on a consistent basis. Stress the proof points over and over again. If you sell a service, articulate why your service is superior.
Persistence, sticking to messages, and ensuring consistency is the way to reach your base and build and solidify your brand.
Third, be clear. Not to take sides, but I’ll point out Mitt Romney’s use of “binders full of women” comment during the second debate. That phrase was confusing, became the focus of attention and alienated some voters. The lesson for corporate executives: speak clearly. Choose your words carefully. Don’t speak in jargon – don’t use words that have no meaning.
We like to say at 30 Point that words such as leverage, catalyze, and silo all refer to something else and were interesting when applied to new situations.
Now, they are words used by people who wouldn’t be able to use a lever, fix a catalytic converter, or know how to load grain into a silo.