Conventional Wisdom

Miss a speech or want to re-watch one? You can find it on YouTube.

Many people are turned off by political rhetoric. I am too, at times, and really, who isn’t? It can become exhausting and frustrating, but — some of the more petty, personal attacks aside — it is an important part of our political process. Voters and constituents have to know what a candidate stands for, what they have accomplished, and what plans and solutions they will bring to the table. Communicating these points is essential for success, as I talked about in a previous post, and this concept applies to politics, business, charitable organizations, you name it.

With that in mind, I have watched a good portion of the Republican National Convention from Tampa this week, and I will tune in for the Democratic National Convention being held in Charlotte next week. I try to objectively evaluate the messages that the candidates and their parties advance at these events and during the course of a campaign. Do they state clearly what they will offer if elected? Do they answer the questions that are on voters’ minds? Is it apparent that they have a defined strategy for each speech or appearance and do they effectively deliver?

It’s a good exercise for anyone who works in communications, but also for anyone who represents an organization.
It is selling, pure and simple. Could you stand up before thousands and eloquently describe your business, your products, your cause, your (fill in the blank)? Could you persuade buyers, investors, donors, subscribers or whomever your target audience happens to be? Although it would be easy for me to simply say, work with a good communications pro or writer and he or she will help you out, that is not my intent. My point is to encourage you to watch the people who must make their case on the world’s biggest stages and consider what you can take away and apply in your own business or career.

I think what has struck me most this week watching the RNC convention is that speakers have to be believable, to be sincere in telling their story, and they have to show empathy for others and inspire them. It isn’t as much about what they are saying, as how they say it. Some use humor, which can be incredibly effective and memorable — not to mention tweet-able. Like it or not, we have a sound byte culture. And now, it is also a 140-character culture.

Some share something personal like former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice did last night, saying:

“A little girl grows up in Jim Crowe Birmingham, the segregated city of the South where her parents can’t take her to a movie theater or to a restaurant but they have her absolutely convinced that, even if she can’t have a hamburger at the Woolworth’s lunch counter, she could be President of the United States if she wanted to and she becomes the Secretary of State.”

This says a great deal about what she overcame in life, her character and her determination, which automatically gives her credibility whether you agree with her views or not. Of course not everyone has this type of exceptional personal story of overcoming odds, but whatever your story is it is uniquely yours and people want to know who you are. They also want to hear it in your own words. They want transparency. Following a script can work, but the words and the delivery have to be believable.

I am looking forward to what Mitt Romney will say tonight and what President Obama and other Democrats will say next week. Each has his own communication opportunity. I hope you will tune in. There is always something to learn when we listen.

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