How to Connect In Uncertain Times (Clinton/Trump)

Civil Nonprofit Communications

Every election season is a barrier to connection, with people overwhelmed by 24/7 messages from multiple campaigns via multiple channels. But connecting this fall, with a presidential campaign as contentious and bizarre as the Clinton-Trump contest, is tougher than ever. That’s a real concern as we plunge into Giving Tuesday and Year-End.

Tonight’s debate will, once again, highlight our dukes up, all-rules-broken political arena. Pile on the chaos we face on so many fronts—from Hurricane Matthew recovery to racial profiling, and the refugee crisis—and it’s almost impossible to get attention, much less motivate action. We can’t fight it, nor can we sit it out.

Here’s how to get (and stay) close to your people right now:

1) Show your people you get them. The shifting of norms—who is presidential material and how the campaign is run, caring for refugees fleeing nations that brutalize them, public safety for all—is unnerving. People are feeling vulnerable, and the candidates’ fear mongering fuels our anxiety and sense of powerlessness.

Acknowledge that this is a tough time for all of us, and that you respect and care about your people and their families.

2) Connect with what’s top of mind. I urge you and your colleagues to reframe the presidential campaign as a fantastic community-building opportunity, highlighting so many crucial issues.

Identify the ways in which your organization’s work touches top-of-mind issues. Connect there—on the issue, not the candidates’ take—at the moment it’s hot. That means getting ready to roll with relevant outreach on your core issues and causes.

Caveat: Stay out of discussions on issues that aren’t your organization’s sweet spot, even if that’s all people are talking about.

3) Illustrate your impact with concrete details and stories.  Convey how your organization helps SOLVE problems emphasized in campaigns and headlines. Demonstrate your impact via concrete details and stories to increase the probability people will remember and repeat them.

4) Stay clear and consistent. When candidates and other world leaders change their minds and rhetoric on a daily basis, and practices and people we’ve depended on prove unreliable, consistency is more important than ever. Make it easy for your people to recognize a communication from or about your organization, digest it, be reassured by the known, and spread the word.

5) Offer hope. Show your people they can count on your organization to build the kind of country and community in which they want to live. We need that now, more than ever.

Thank you for reading, and for contributing to a more productive dialogue.

Please share your tips and questions here

P.S. More tips for respectful communications in challenging times, from the National Institute for Civil Discourse.

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Nancy Schwartz on September 27, 2016 in Strategy | 1 comment
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