|“Berning,” Trumped Up Thoughts
By Amy Showalter
Not being a political pundit, I normally don’t comment on elections, but I think we can all learn from various situations.. Instead of wailing and gnashing our teeth, let’s examine what we can learn from the GOP and Democratic primary campaign developments.. There are many lessons for grassroots and PAC professionals.. Remember that your association members and corporate employees are voters, and they are trying to tell you something.
My current “Berning,” top of mind thoughts on the matter, in no particular order…
Bottom Line #1: Your grassroots messengers matter.
Why it matters: Amyism #73, written by Dr.. Rhoads several years ago, sums up one primary campaign learning moment you should embrace: “A recognized, manipulative, influence tactic is a failed influence tactic.” There was over $75 million spent in negative anti-Trump TV ads alone.. Negative ads usually work; why was Trump’s momentum impervious to them? As Kelton and I discussed, could this be an example of people developing a resistance to influence tactics? Or, is it because of the easy-to-follow money trail, which allows voters with even a partial interest in the campaigns to easily discern who is funding the negative messages? They then quickly determine if they trust the messenger.. No trust = little influence..
Bottom Line #2 Do your primary (not industry benchmarking, not secondary sources, etc.) research, and apply the findings.. Use your research.. You can’t assume that your typical stakeholders are in sync with your organization.. You have to earn it.
Why it matters: I heard more than one government relations professional express concern that their members are not aligned with the organization’s position on certain issues that arose in the campaign.. See Amyism #42 on advocate participation: “Allegiance to your cause isn’t an entitlement.. The organizations that foster an emotional allegiance strategy will have more committed, fervent advocates than those who assume that a dues payment or a paycheck equals commitment.”
Bottom Line #3 Focus on how your local grassroots gets things done..
Why it matters: All of the pollsters knew that “the establishment” was a negative connotation, yet Governor Kasich kept talking about what he accomplished in Washington.. Good results, all true, but he forgot that the “Washington” part of his accomplishments was actually a negative to a degree.. I’m not saying this is fair, I’m just relaying facts.
Bottom Line #4 If you want followers, lead.. You also earn allegiance through developing your personal, authentic leadership skills.
Why it matters: This is the time for government relations leadership.. People do not want to be told how to think and vote.. That’s not a millennial attitude, by the way, it’s a human attitude.. And leadership is influence, pure and simple.. If your stakeholders aren’t following you, check your leadership capacity.. Are you being transparent regarding organizational decision-making, strategy and tactics?
Bottom Line #5 Let your freak flag fly.
Why it matters: In the context of hyper-packaged and managed candidates, there appears to be something appealing about letting your “freak flag fly” and being yourself.. Many people can’t stand Trump’s communication style, or Bernie’s belief system, but they feel that they are authentic, and most important, their authenticity makes their audience feel authentic. Think about that.. TSG compatriot Dr..Kelton Rhoads is one of the few people to compile the research on and teach authenticity as an influence skill, particularly as it relates to the government relations profession. (He will be doing it again in D.C.. on September 22nd. stay tuned).
I’m sure we’ll have more “bottom line” applications for your grassroots efforts, so stay tuned.