Twice in the last few weeks I’ve spoken to candidates – good people and solid elected officials – who are planning their reelection bids.
During both of those conversations, it was clear to me that these qualified and proven leaders are living by their resume…and they may die by that resume too.
I’ve also heard successful entrepreneurs rattle off a list of accomplishments of their company or product, in an effort to build and expand community relationships with their company’s brand
In case you haven’t noticed, your resume and accomplishments don’t matter anymore.
Winning Campaign Messages ≠ Winning Resumés
How many times have you watched candidates run a campaign based on their years of service, mountains of qualifications, degrees from Ivy League schools, lengthy lists of accomplishments, and then lose?
It happens more than you think. Here are a few notable examples from recent presidential races.
…and the list goes on and on.
This list contains no slouches when it comes to resumes. It contains Governors, U.S. Senators, Secretaries of State, Vice Presidents, and more. War heroes, business leaders, successful state reformers and even the inventor of the Internet. (Sorry, couldn’t resist).
At a closer look, these very capable, qualified candidates all failed to tell a story or create a narrative that resonated with their audience.
It doesn’t help that these candidates were pitted against some of the best communicators (and storycrafters) of the modern age.
George W. Bush
These winning candidates all had one thing in common – they told a story that was relevant to their target audience.
Hate the political system and think the deck is stacked against you? So does Donald Trump, and he’s going to drain that swamp.
Frustrated that politics are so divisive and nothing happens? Barack Obama inspired us to imagine a “purple” America where people got along.
Tired of the drama and intern eruptions? George W. Bush told us he’d restore honor and dignity to the White House.
Feel like the country is at a crossroads at the dawn of the internet age? Bill Clinton was building a bridge for us to cross into the 21st century.
It seems simple, but it’s not.
What’s In It For Them?
The success of these communicators was rooted in their ability NOT to regurgitate a laundry list of accomplishments.
Sometimes they did that, but more importantly, they all were able to articulate a vision or a campaign message to tell a story, or create a narrative that captured the imagination, fear, anger or hope of their target voters…and win.
This approach to branding and communication isn’t limited just to politics, either.
Have you noticed how commercials for cars, sports drinks and even technology often have nothing to do with horsepower, electrolytes, and processor speed?
And clearly some big ad firm felt like Matthew McConaughey rubbing his fingers together while driving a Cadillac and talking to himself was a better idea than talking about horsepower, acceleration and auto safety.
What the latest Gatorade or Coca Cola campaigns? They talk about unleashing your inner you, or peace on earth. Not electrolytes or thirst-quenching great taste.
These are just a few anecdotal examples of how the old “features, advantages, benefits” model isn’t one that consumers or voters are buying.
They aren’t interested in the resume of these products or services. They want a story. You need to deliver the same thing to your audience.
Telling A Winning (True) Story
How do you do this?
First, you have to understand your target audience. What are their hopes, dreams, fears and failures? What questions or concerns can you or your brand answer?
They don’t care about you or your resume. They care what you will do for them. Understand what they want for themselves, their family, and their community. How does your company, cause, or campaign message help them reach those goals?
Second, you must create a storyline about your life, your history, and your resume that will resonate with your audience.
How do you do that? It’s not easy.
You have to find or create touchpoints and messages within your campaign or business that align with your target audience, their experience, and their goals. Oh, and it’s got to be true and authentic, as well.
What is the story – of good vs. evil, of overcoming the odds, of taking on the bully, that you can authentically tell to relate and motivate this audience? Dig deep to share the vulnerable, most honest parts of your campaign or brand that relate to your audience and their struggles.
Finally, once you’ve connected on this visceral level with your target audience, only then can you deliver a call to action to ask your audience for a vote, a sale or a click.
At the end of the day, your resume isn’t you. Your company’s accomplishments are not your company’s brand. Those are dry, emotionless reflections of the past, not the future you want to convey to your customers, clients, or voters.
Take the time to build a story about you, your company or your cause.
Be vulnerable. Find your story. Share your story. And win.