Stick to the message – again

30 Oct

I am not a maverick. (This might come as a surprise to my dad, who has always found it frustrating that I don’t toe the family party line. When I turned 18, he escorted me to the front of the line and told me where to sign. I did, but that allegiance didn’t last long.)

OK, so I may own up to being maverick-y on some things, but in my work I’m fairly steadfast. I’m all about consistency. This is important, because one of my tasks is to review communications from several parts of our business and evaluate whether they are on or off message. Occasionally, this puts me at odds with the office mavericks, who chafe at what they see as a general reluctance to take risks. But my job is fundamentally about managing risks and maximizing opportunities, and consistency of message is critical to both activities.  One of the reasons that I think we’ve been able to build and maintain a strong reputation is that we’ve stuck to our story – over and over and over again.

It’s not an easy thing to do. We so often find ourselves trying to say the same thing a different way. But we remind ourselves – whenever we veer off on a tangent – that, although we might be bored with what we’re saying, to our employees, customers, partners and other stakeholders, this is still new, still fresh and still important.

Over the months that I’ve been following the presidential campaigns, I’ve been very interested in the ability of both camps to maintain message consistency.  The cover story in last Sunday’s New York Times magazine focused on McCain’s message strategy, more or less confirming my observations. Obama has managed a very consistent, steady message strategy, and I think his rising numbers are proof of that.  An example of consistency was how Obama answered one specific question at the last debate. Both candidates were asked if the opposing team’s VP pick was qualified to be president. Obama answered: “That’s up to the American people to decide.” Later, both Biden and Hilary Clinton – in separate interviews – answered the same question, with the same exact words.  That’s the kind of consistency that is powerful – and leaves a lasting impression.

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