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Archive for the ‘Planning’ Category

“Relationship Marketing” might be Biden’s secret sauce…

Relationship Marketing involves building relationships with individuals and groups to establish and sustain visible loyalty. It begins with identifying specific individuals and groups that mean the most to an organization or cause, and then determining the most effective communication platforms and tools to use to acquire their active support.

Super Tuesday turned out to be a good example of Relationship Marketing 101.

This is what happened. Basically, African Americans are an important and growing constituency of the Democratic Party. In the South Carolina primary, Joe Biden’s long career earned him the support of one of the most influential politicians in the state, who also happened to be black. That was enough to start a momentum ball rolling, which quickly attracted the support of several other presidential candidates, key democrats, and traditional party leaders. Watching this kind of dynamic develop amazed all the pundits. But this is how relationship marketing can work. It soon became apparent that Super Tuesday could very well end in a two-candidate run for the White House.

But to keep the momentum ball rolling, the Biden campaign will now need to add the support of other political leaders, small businesses, labor unions, health organizations, civic groups, professional associations, and local civil servants. These groups and leaders also represent most of middle America, which truly is the heart of the Democratic Party. This should also cut into the president’s base, which so far seems to have forgiven his failure to deliver on his quality-of-life promises.

Effectively using these groups and individuals, boldly articulating a future for America, showing heart-felt passion, looking and acting presidential, debating adversaries skillfully, being totally prepared to handle each criticism no matter what, and demonstrating experienced organization and teamwork… all of these these will be absolutely necessary for success in November.

And really, this is not too much to expect of any presidential campaign… is it?

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Are Democrats positioned to win the 2020 election? Here is what the party should have done before the primary season ever began:

  1. The national party should have begun with a “nation branding” statement about the founding of America, their vision for how to unite the country, and steps to recapture world leadership.
  2. Basic talking points should have been written early on about why the current president must not be re-elected. These should have been used by every Democrat all season long.
  3. Each candidate’s team should have been asked to shout the party’s branding statement and never-Trump talking points at every event.
  4. Each team’s plan for addressing bread and butter issues would still have been central to the campaign… i.e. healthcare, climate change, middle class wages, education, safety, energy, etc.
  5. Town hall briefings, covered by news media, should have replaced the crowded and too frequent debates.
  6. National debates between front runners could still be staged later in the spring.
  7. And criteria could still be developed to determine exactly what it will take to win, and also get things done.

Without this kind of coordinated planning can Democrats still get their act together? Maybe so. But my analysis suggests that party leadership and democrats everywhere should be worried.      

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Recent debates introduced talented candidates to the American people. But these entertaining TV shows did not determine who is capable of winning a general election. In the end, impractical program proposals are simply not likely to find the needed support.

Also, cries in the House of Representatives to impeach the president will likely lead to very little. The Mueller report, however, yielded enough evidence of corruption and White House misdeeds to be helpful in a general election.

With all this in mind, here is a game-plan for winning:

  1. This general election will require the winning candidate to be realistic about what can actually get done. Eventually, this will mean compressing the best primary election ideas into one compelling, future-shaping theme.
  2. That said, I believe that preparing for this election will first require conducting focus groups in each major market to develop and refine market-specific messaging. Mueller report material can and should be an important part of this message development.
  3. Each of these groups should include grassroots opinion leaders, not just people with fancy titles. And campaign facilitators should listen for new and imaginative phrases to use in ads and materials.
  4. After each session, the best and most experienced campaign thinkers, writers, and graphic artists should gather together to clarify what was said. Graphic artists should be included because how words and images come together can make all the difference. Authentic and imaginative materials in new and traditional media will be needed to win.
  5. Individual focus group results, together with the best primary election ideas, should now make it possible to shape an authentic and winning overall campaign theme.

I believe that an “integrated marketing” approach that includes grassroots participation in message development will be the best way to win the presidency in 2020.

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If I was their communication consultant I would tell both parties that their extreme polarization is destroying them. And with a president constantly going crazy with hostile pronouncements, the road ahead is loaded with life-threatening hazards!

Let me first deal with the Dem’s. If they significantly turn up the heat on their Mueller investigation, there very likely will be a voter backlash. I would therefore recommend proceeding very carefully. However, simply by using known facts, they can develop effective talking points for their candidates. Details about the president’s character, cruel behavior, questionable foreign business interests, lack of cabinet experts, and many interactions between his campaign and Russian oligarchs, are already well-known. And now more than ever, these candidates must not get bogged down in the Trump swamp. Winning the 2020 election will require a huge preponderance of forward-looking big ideas, specific plans of action, and bold visions for recapturing global leadership.

What about the GOP? Its problem is that in spite of all the Trump turmoil, Republicans still have their heads in the sand. The idea that a few favorable White House policies excuse overlooking the president’s autocratic ambitions and mindless cruelty has run its course. Endless lies, gross exaggerations, admiration of dictators, and cruelty to everyone, eventually wear out in a media-driven, information-saturated, environment. And now, with the president’s most recent anger-provoking pronouncements, the GOP must focus on saving itself. Republicans desperately need an alternative to Trump who is intellectually capable of explaining the true meaning of the “American dream,” and why people all over the world admire it so much.

I am a critic of both parties, and have been for years. But today’s angry attacks, mindless polarization, and daily rants from the White House, have totally upended the founder’s dream of equal opportunity and justice for everyone. Sadly, it’s the people we elected to protect that dream who will be responsible if we lose it.

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We live in dangerous times. Just how critical is the U.S. role in maintaining world peace? Is it not likely that another world war will incinerate much of the planet? Is isolationism even an option any more? If the U.S. does not step up and lead the world with unifying ideas, then who will? And will we like the answer?

Here’s the problem. A “me first”stance in any communication creates division. It also creates division in world leadership. And when presidential rhetoric is embarrassingly self-congratulatory, the result can be a permanent barrier to any genuine collaboration. This is simply how communication works.

Allies will react defensively. They will eventually look for and find new collaborators. Lasting leadership requires win-win strategies. Liberty and justice for all are win-win ideas… as are individual freedom, equal opportunity, and world peace. But these are not compatible with ego-driven leadership.

The fact is that both institutions and nations share similar brand identity characteristics. Pride in association is the essential motivator. Win-win initiatives are basic to sustainable success. Unifying brands don’t just fall out of ego-driven heads. To endure, everything must be authentic.

Bottom line: The founding “idea of America” is authentic… and the world needs it now more than ever. But arrogance and isolationism have us neutralized, and any declared win with regard to North Korea will not mean we can sleep better.

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If you are leading anything today, or aspire to lead something, or just want to be a more informed follower, it’s not very complicated to set up a home study experience… and if you wish, invite a group of fellow travelers to join you. This is not neuroscience!

Looking back over 50 years of seeking to understand, teach, practice, and write about communication, I believe that serious discussions and internet searches of topics similar to those below can yield the necessary knowledge and insights for leading in today’s world. Here’s my list:

  1. Describe why communication always seems to fail… and what (if anything) can be done about it.
  2. Search the internet for insights from communication and media research.
  3. Describe ways media revolutions significantly changed society, individuals, and audiences.
  4. List ways to intelligently consume and use 24/7 journalism.
  5. Identify the many troubling characteristics of the ever-pervasive new media ecosystem.
  6. Describe ways that media have become weapons, and fake news.
  7. List personal benefits and hazards of social media.
  8. Describe best ways to use digital media for direct and interactive communication.
  9. Identify ways to make sure brand identities are authentic and clear.
  10. Describe processes for orchestrating one-voice messaging.
  11. Show how to use small groups for problem-solving.
  12. Identify the essential elements of productive meetings.
  13. List common internal politics issues and ways to address them.
  14. Clarify best methods for resolving conflicts.
  15. Find examples of using soft-power in local and foreign relationship-building.
  16. List the requirements for effective partnerships and allies.
  17. Write rules for constructive speech in a new media world.

It is absolutely essential to have enough informed, talented, articulate, values-driven, and courageous leaders and followers ready, willing, and able to help save the day when it’s needed. With our current media clutter, endless confusion, and total political chaos, that day has come.

Last weekend we may have witnessed the next generation getting ready to take on dramatic change. And these young people are also born searchers and tweeters. So either the weekend was just another mass march, or it was an entire generation suddenly awakening to the real possibility that they can make history. Indeed they can… but only if they really have the will.

In retrospect, I decided to bet on them. How about you?

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“Out of control” is picking up steam in Washington, and it’s worse than reality TV. It’s using social media to confuse, not communicate. It’s about a president who believes that keeping people guessing is a legitimate leadership strategy. And it’s turning out to be the best example yet of how communication and media chaos can destroy any sense of social order and well-being. Make no mistake. Words really do matter. And the words of top leaders matter a lot.

Just think about it. Periodic bi-partisan White House meetings repeatedly turn out to be no more than reality TV. Twitter feeds always follow to disrupt and create chaos. Then more surprise pronouncements add to the chaos. And in the midst of this mess cabinet members and staff are doing high security work without clearances and squandering taxpayer money on luxury travel and purchases. And this is a White House where complete loyalty is demanded by the person who is creating the mess. No wonder resignations are rapidly mounting up. Constant turmoil eventually becomes unbearable.

Sometime around mid-career I found myself teaching management communication in banks, manufacturing companies, public utilities, and all manner of institutions. We frequently talked about crisis management. But I must admit it was always in the context of a rational CEO with a team of experienced managers developing responses so that the organization would be legitimately seen as knowing what it’s doing! When the purpose of the leader, however, is to create chaos… all rational bets are off!

Ethical leadership and honest teamwork “earn” loyalty. No need to demand it. But when loyalty is demanded and communication is in disarray everyone ends up focusing on their own survival. In private business, trustees can fix such situations. In today’s Washington, there are no rational fixes

In the past, I wrote that city leaders usually become bipartisan and pragmatic because their citizens are right there in their face demanding action. When all is said and done, immigration, homegrown terrorism, police-community relations, drug problems, air pollution, clean water, healthcare, election districts, industry closings, and unemployment, all end up playing themselves out locally.

In the end, maybe the bottom-up pragmatism of cities and NOT the top-down chaos of Washington is our best way forward. If so, when cities show they can produce results, we should pressure Washington into giving them the resources they need.

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