For any organization, 2020 has been a messaging challenge. COVID-19, personal anxieties, work and school disruptions, and the economic and political issues have disrupted even the best communications strategies. People are distracted, and now we’re at the end of a contentious election cycle where emotions are running high. As communicators, how do you navigate election season and beyond, and what are the best strategies to get your message in front of your target audience?
Consider this: election day has always been a time of rebirth in the United States regardless of the outcome. A new Congress is elected as is a new or renewed administration. It is viewed as part of our civic duty and remains a matter of national pride. That said, election cycles can bring out the worst in individuals and the final results aren’t always what we want.
Here is where your post-election communications strategy comes into play and deciding how your organization wants to present itself:
1. Be a Uniter: If your business is not about politics and you have a wide target audience, then you need to be careful in your positioning to avoid angering anyone and everyone. For example, just about everyone loves pizza on a Friday night so think of your messaging like the local pizzeria: fresh, hot, and plenty of toppings for carryout or delivery (but maybe save the discussion of pineapple as a pizza topping for another time). Be non-partisan, don’t take sides and make certain that this communications strategy is communicated internally to your team.
2. Take a Stand: Some companies choose to take a stand on political or social issues they feel strongly about. If your organization goes this route, be aware that the target audience of your message may not be the same as your stakeholders and customers. If message and audience are not in alignment, then the next question needs to be “What are the ramifications?” Can your brand stand against the potential pushback both externally and internally? Is the communications team able to sustain that message? We’ve seen too many instances where someone in the company, or the company’s stance itself, ran into controversy and no one was prepared for the fallout. That said, if you’re a brand that identifies with one side or the other and this is a known attribute, then take your stand. Make certain that any messaging is communicated internally and understood by everyone who needs to sign off on it.
3. Ignore it: Remember when you were a kid and your older cousin was agitating you and your mom told you, “Just ignore him and he’ll stop.” Well, for most companies and businesses, ignoring the external event in their messaging is the best option. There is nothing wrong with this strategy and it can speak to the both the internal culture and the company’s external presence. The communications focus, internally and externally, is on the organization itself, and its products and services. External events are addressed only when relevant to the business and delivered through the communications team.
Outline your plan.
Regardless of your post-election message strategy, you need to formulate a messaging plan and make sure your team understands it. Internal communication is extremely important with any sort of messaging. Be sure to answer these questions:
- What are the goals of the message?
- How does it help our brand?
- Who do we want to reach and why?
This is where you need to align all your external communications – your social media, your press releases, and your advertising – so your message is consistent.
Remember, whether it’s the election cycle or another busy news cycle, your target audience is distracted and scattered, and they have access to all sorts of media more readily today than in the past – heightening the need for a consistent message. If done correctly, your message will enhance your brand.
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