Toein' the Party Line

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  • November 2, 2010
  • Blair Poloskey

First things first, go vote. If you don’t know where to vote, go here. If you aren’t properly registered to vote, learn from this election and be prepared for the next one.

Second, can I just say I love elections? I love watching the results come in and I, to a point, love the discussion, debate and debacle (that’s a lot of D’s – hmmmm, I wonder if that is a hint? a subliminal message perhaps?). This year, I have been a little disenchanted because I feel like my party of choice just can’t get their messaging together. I know I am not the only one that feels this way and it is more than just a little horrifying to watch. If either party, or a third party, can’t properly  articulate their message, they don’t stand a chance at winning the vote.

The private sector stands to learn a lot from watching politics about what will be successful and what, in the end, will make you fail. My number one takeaway from this election is this: any message – even a well organized, well thought-out, well researched one – will not be successful if it doesn’t resonate with your audience.

Here at INK, we often find that an outside perspective when crafting company messages is essential. Sometimes, we ourselves serve as the outside audience, but in most cases, message creation requires the feedback of analysts, partners, customers (both current and prospective) as well as employees outside of the message drafting core.

I think this is where the party most often associated with the donkey, a noble beast to be sure, faltered. I have heard its key messages, its pithy slogans and its sound bites – and honestly, they do not resonate with me. The good news is I wasn’t going to be swayed by either side, as I am pretty firmly entrenched in my political beliefs, so they didn’t lose a vote – but they could have. All because, while I agree with what they are saying, I don’t really jive with the way they are saying it. I am indifferent.

Messaging isn’t always going to make everyone happy. In fact, it might (and probably should) piss some people off. In the end, messaging MUST evoke strong emotion. It must make you feel something – indifference is not acceptable. Indifference certainly doesn’t drive anyone to the polls and it doesn’t make a consumer buy a specific brand. It doesn’t make a developer want to implement a specific technology and it doesn’t inspire a journalist to write a story.

Good messaging drives action. And the way to drive action is to ensure that your message resonates with your target audience. And to accomplish this, you have to first listen.

In order to become a good writer, William Faulkner said, “Read, read, read. Read everything – trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write.”  I couldn’t agree more. And in order to become a good communicator, you must first listen. Listen, listen, listen.

Then craft a message.