- Steve Gruber - https://www.stevegruber.com -

Impressing People Around The Table

One of the worst tendencies in marketing, politics, communications, in fact in any of the persuasive arts, is the urge to impress the people seated with you around the table. Sure, you want them happy so you get and keep the account/spot in the campaign. But it could end up being a Pyrrhic victory, as losing chickens come home to roost do not make for satisfied clients.

Impressing those around the table basically means sucking up to the client so you get paid or get in good with the candidate/client and damning the results. Some clients like this, as they are ego driven. But when they eventually see that the fruits of your labor has produced jack squat, they make the requisite changes and you’ve lost the business or connection.

I bring this up because, as a former political consultant, I’ve been guilty of this malpractice myself and I hate to see others follow my mistakes. The message emphasis cannot rely on the exclusive approval of the┬ápeople around the table because obviously they do not decide the issue, the customers/voters do. Granted, I used this ploy to get paid by candidates who I rightly thought had no chance of winning and who had hired me on a whim of ego.

An example in 1995 was a man who was running for Congress the next year and wanted to produce and disseminate a political Christmas ad. Not a spot to politicize Christmas, but a political spot run during yuletide. I tried to tell him that it was not a good idea, as Christmas and politics were mutually exclusive. But he was adamant.

So, preferring my 15 percent media override, handy during the holidays, I acquiesced. The production was long and grueling. What should have been an afternoon shoot, a basic talking head ad, turned into days. I’ll spare you the gory details. But when it was over I finally asked him where he got the idea. He told me his wife came up with it. Thus he tried to impress people around his dining room table rather than voters. He got his scalp handed to him in the primary and that did no favors for my professional reputation.

We can see this trend all around us when we see political ads that are so inside baseball, so chock full of confirmation bias, that they violate both the rules of marketing and reality. If you’re involved in a political effort, one you think has the prospect of victory, you will be surrounded by tendentious people. Don’t be one of them.

Come to the scene as a cold-eyed analyst with your eye on the ball, meaning your focus on what voters want. What the candidate and their votaries want can be accomplished by government, not by politics. Politics is the marketing bridge that gets them to government. To confuse the two invites disaster. You can engage in politics without government. But you can’t do government without politics.

Remember that and your political troth should only be plighted to sensible adult campaigns, not to message incestuous crusades more happy living in an echo chamber than winning elections.