This article was written by Laura Petrolino, managing director of Flying Pig Communications, a communications and business consulting firm that focuses on the needs of startups, small businesses, and nonprofits. She also serves as Chief Communications Officer at Ignite Venture Partners, which brings together consulting, capital, and concept incubation to build value in businesses of all sizes and stages, and across industries.
Laura is an expert in the art of relationship management, and she guides entrepreneurs and executives at all levels on how to best cultivate their networks. The idea for this article arose from comments Laura made during this episode of The Solopreneur Life on BlogTalkRadio.
Because I started my career in politics, I am often asked how I made the transition from running campaigns for political candidates to business consulting. My simple answer to that echoes the wise words of Thomas Mann: “Everything is politics.” In fact, the longer I work in the business world, the more truth I discover in every corner of this statement.
When you boil them down to their very essence, political campaigns are all about relationship building. A candidate must connect with his constituency and convince them that he, not only understand their needs but will also represent and lobby for them on a national or state level. To be a successful candidate you need to gain the trust and support of your constituents, reach them on their level, and convince them that their lives will be better with you than without you.
The same holds true for business. The following four “truths” for political campaigning can be applied to your business communication strategy.
Bring It Home
People don’t really care how what you do affects the sheep in Greenland or increases investments in Belize. Sure, maybe these things make good talking points for pundits and phrases for rabid protestors to put on picket signs…but in the end, the deciding point between you and your opponent is going to boil down to what YOU can do for THEM.
Always bring it home. Tell your customer how you are going to improve their lives, what needs you are going to meet, what desires you are going to fulfill.
Shake Hands and Kiss Babies
O.K., so maybe not literally since we don’t want any harassment suits (believe me, you don’t work in politics without seeing a few of those)…but the point here is to reach out and actually talk to your constituency. Communicate with them, listen to what they have to say, show them you care and that you (and your business) are “touchable.” People can’t believe in something they see as distant from themselves. Make them feel that you are there to listen, respond and improve.
Consistency is everything in politics and business. People don’t trust something that is constantly changing or presenting itself in a different light. How often do you see politicians claiming that their opponents are waffling on the issues? They know that the quickest way to diminish trust in a voter is to show them that they can’t count on a candidate, that he is unpredictable at best and lacking integrity at worst.
Don’t be a waffler! Make sure your positioning and voice is consistent in every communication. Be certain that your theoretical and visual brand back each other up, instead of fight against each other. This is a common problem; don’t “tell” people one thing and “show” them something else. Consistency is key.
If you pay close attention, you’ll notice that in smart campaigns, the emphasis is never on the word “I,” but on the word “we.”
“This is our country”
“Fighting for our future”
“We must work together to…”
Inclusive language is very important. It gives voters and customers a sense of control and ownership, a feeling that they are part of what you are trying to do and, therefore, their thoughts and insights matter. People are more than willing to support and (most importantly in this competitive landscape) be loyal to an organization they feel part of. In addition, they will spread your message for you, since they ultimately feel a part of your success.
So today the question you need to ask yourself is: would your customers elect you? What are you doing on a daily basis to win their support, trust, and loyalty?
You can Laura Petrolino on Twitter @lkpetrolino and @365startups.