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Best Training Practices
Will Kenny
3927 York Ave N
Robbinsdale, MN 55422

Are You Running a Disciplined Campaign?

employee communications lessons from presidential politics

(reprinted from The Training Tipsheet)

Did you happen to notice that we recently experienced a couple of campaigns for president? I know it was subtle, but you probably heard or saw a political ad or two.

Among all the analysis, after the event, one of the more interesting themes is "discipline," who was better at staying "on message." My own impression was that both campaigns did reasonably well on that score. And many would point to the last two Bush campaigns, and before that, the Clinton campaign, as having the knack of streamlining their messages to a few key themes and delivering them relentlessly, all across the country, through every available channel and opportunity.

What does all this have to do with employee communications?

A highly successful political campaign creates a "culture" in which everyone -- not just the person at the top -- embraces, and delivers, the same message to anyone who will listen. Couldn't your organization be more productive, and more effective with prospects, customers, suppliers, investors, and the general public, if your key messages were delivered to these audiences with that kind of relentless consistency?

There are a couple of key lessons to be learned from this analogy:

  1. Sticking to a few core messages is a powerful strategy for reaching your audience; and
  2. Developing the capability to deliver that message from every "branch" and "employee" is not just a matter of money.

On the first issue, sure, you got sick of hearing the same old stuff from each of the candidates (and their surrogates). But you also identified certain key messages, and even standard phrases, with each one. You absorbed the message almost in spite of yourself.

In most organizations, by contrast, when those sending the message, the leadership, get bored with repeating the same old thing, they change the message. They move from one fad to the next, and employees never catch up, never absorb the really essential strategies and values that drive the organization.

And naturally, if they haven't internalized a consistent set of messages, they can't pass them on to anyone else, like your customers.

As for the money, you might point out the huge sums of money that went into these political campaigns. But most of that went into buying advertising time, into "infrastructure" like travel and paper and phone lines, and into a few staff.

The real impact of a "disciplined campaign" comes from the thousands of volunteers that give their time and energy to hammer these messages home. For every dollar spent on a "robocall" system, there were countless volunteer hours devoted to working the phone lines.

In the same way, there are endless opportunities to promote your messages internally, without incurring significant costs. If more organizations used their communication channels more consistently -- regular e-mails, voice mails, staff meetings, facility-wide or region-wide conferences, and the like -- to repeat their core messages, they could develop their own "grass roots" movements of employees who internalized the most important themes, and passed them on in their interactions with others.

If you think you don't have the resources to build a strong culture, to turn your entire workforce into a unified voice that shouts your values, your strategies, your most important themes to anyone and everyone around them, you haven't learned the real lessons of these amazing organizational accomplishments, the recent presidential campaigns.

© 2008 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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