This is not a political post. I don’t want to talk politics any more than you want to hear more about them. The presidential race makes my head hurt, especially in these troubling times. I do, however, want to talk to you about strategic communication and the power of messaging.
Love him or hate him, Donald Trump has harnessed the power of messaging and unleashed it with startling and surprising effectiveness. Admit it or not, you can repeat most of his slogans.
“Make America great again.” “I’ll build the wall, it’ll be HUGE, and I’ll get Mexico to pay for it.” “America makes lousy deals. I know how to make deals. I wrote the book the book on it, The Art of the Deal.” “The financial system is fixed. I know. I’m rich. I’ll fix it for you.”
Donald Trump tells you what you want to hear. The country has problems. YOU have problems. He will fix them. Why is his message working? Because it’s so simple. He wants you to believe the only reasons we have daunting problems in this country is because we have “stupid leaders” who “don’t know what they’re doing.”
No matter the complexity of the issue at hand, Donald Trump delivers over-simplified messages wrapped in shiny, gold-plated packaging. With flags waving, the GOP frontrunner offers up to he masses an end to business as usual. The solution to all of our current problems, according to this business tycoon, is he himself…Donald Trump. He reinforces that theme at his riotous rallies with an offer to raise your right hand and pledge you allegiance to vote for him.
Who else has messaging that we can repeat? Why, it’s the other candidate who has thousands of people showing up at his events and cheering him on. Like Mr. Trump, Democratic contender, Senator Bernie Sanders, delivers clear messages around his key issues. They’re easy to recite.
“The financial system is rigged to benefit the top percent and the rest of us are not getting our fair share.” “We need a Medicare-style health care system that is affordable for everyone.” “College tuition should be free. Let’s put an end to all this student debt.”
Whether you buy into his rhetoric is not my point. You can remember and repeat what he says. The reason he is resonating with the American people is that his message breaks through. His audiences are vocal and emotional because they feel a connection to this candidate and it’s converting into donations and votes. That’s the bottom line. The empirical data demonstrating effectiveness can be measured. And, what’s interesting is that Bernie Sanders is not the frontrunner – at this point.
Top Democratic contender and former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, is leading Sanders by a healthy margin. Yet, I challenge you to recite her messaging. It tends to morph with each audience in front of her; with each demographic she seeks to influence; and with every change in the polls.
I could make the same argument about Senator Ted Cruz. What’s his bumper sticker reason for wanting to be president? Governor John Kasich finally came up with a one-liner this week to summarize his campaign: “I’m not going to take the low road to the highest office in the land.” Will his kinder, gentler, approach help him make it out of third place?
Both Trump and Sanders have messages that stick. You may not like or agree with their content. You may be troubled by the messengers. Both candidates position themselves as outsiders who are agents of change ready to reform a broken political system. While you may be able to rally behind that sentiment, take note of how each man delivers his message.
Political campaigns offer a way to gauge the effectiveness of mass communication. You have a continuous stream of examples to track what works and what doesn’t even come close. You can pick up some valuable tricks if you study the interactions each candidate has with audiences and with reporters. Do they speak in a way that is clear, concise, compelling, and memorable?
My professional slogan is, “Your Message Matters Most.” I can point to countless examples of why I know that to be true. Powerful messaging has consequences. I believe that crafting a message that leads to positive results is a vital business tool. Bottom line – your success depends on it.
Mary Jane McKittrick is a Messaging Expert and professional story teller who specializes in the art of the pitch. As a Consultant, Mary Jane inspires and empowers business professionals to craft messaging that gets measureable results. Mary Jane is a former TV News Anchor, Reporter, an Producer for 3 network affiliate stations. She has worked behind the camera in Entertainment TV, and as on-camera host of 2 nationally syndicated TV shows. Ms. McKittrick was in charge of overseeing communications for 5 statewide offices while serving as Director of Corporate Communications for a large healthcare company in North Carolina.