by Jennifer Cherry
I like politicians. From a communications perspective, they are inherently interesting.
Their speeches are generally carefully crafted and each message they deliver has been thought out at length and vetted by official and unofficial advisors.
But listening to a particular politician running for office over the course of the past few months, I was struck again by how important it is to deliver the right message to the right audience.
Now this nameless candidate (with whom I admit my own personal political ideologies align) likes to share with audiences that she’s a mom. It’s clearly important to her, or she’s just trying to sway the mom vote, or she feels it’s important to her audiences in general. That’s all fine and good. She should take a closer look at her key messages and strategy. Perhaps she’s just received some bad advice.
Her speaking engagements have included events comprised of (almost) completely male audience members, dressed in the professional uniform of pressed suits and carrying thick briefcases. Important looking CEO types who might want to hear her thoughts on the economy, and about how she would support business and economic growth. I’d like to hear about that, too.
When this candidate speaks, the audience doesn’t look so interested in the fact she’s a mom. Admittedly, it could even weaken her position in the eyes of some of these pep rally attendees. Watching repeated broadcast interviews, she always manages to work in the same line, regardless of the direction of the conversation. “I’m going to do blah, blah, blah … because I’m a mother and I have a son …” (forgive my paraphrasing but I think it’s pretty spot on). I can’t recall an interview in which I have not heard her remind us of her parental status.
I stated my biases upfront. My beliefs align with hers. But as a thirty-something with no kids, I am starting to find myself having trouble relating to her, and even wondering if she’s the right candidate for me. Her inability to match the message to the audience to which she’s speaking, or over-emphasize a particular message, has actually started to alienate me, and I was on board from the beginning. All I hear over and over is “MOM.”
The moral of the story is to think about not only your message before you deliver it, but also about your audience, your goals and their goals before launching into a media tour or even single speaking engagement. Not adjusting your messaging can drive your audience away from you.