I’ve recently finished reading Shattered, an interesting account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign to become US President.
From a communications perspective, the thing that stood out was the extent to which her campaign was damaged by her failure to put forward a clear reason for running.
The authors paint a picture of a candidate who was excellent at the detail of policy analysis but struggled to articulate a broad vision.
“There wasn’t a clear sense of why she was in it,” one staffer tells the authors.
Even as late as her convention speech, after months and months of campaigning, this was still lacking. “The absence of a motivation for her candidacy remained the biggest obstacle on Hillary’s path to the presidency,” the authors write. “Without that, her speech would be what she’d once derisively referred to as ‘just words’.”
It was a mistake that arguably ended up being fatal to the campaign. Let’s not forget that Donald Trump, despite his myriad failings, had a clear, easily understandable vision: “Make America great again.”
It reminded me of what Steve Jobs said when he launched Apple’s Here’s to the Crazy Ones advert:
“Marketing’s about values… it’s a very noisy world and we’re not going to get a chance to get people to remember much about us. No company is. So we have to be really clear about what we want people to know about us.”
Whether you’re working for a political campaign, a company, or a charity, it’s not good enough to think your range of products and policy positions speak for themselves.
For those working in the charity sector, in particular, there is a risk that you can end up thinking that the fact you are doing good work that makes a positive difference means it is self-evidence what you stand for.
But even with charities, if you don’t clearly articulate this then your potential supporters are unlikely to bother trying to do it for you.
Instead, you risk people getting the impression that you don’t stand for very much at all.