Who Will Win the White House? The Candidate Who Wins the Communication Wars
Congratulations to all of us! We have almost made it through the longest Presidential Primary season in history! Finally, after months of politics and pundits we have arrived at not only a New Year, we have arrived at the dawn
of a New President.
Prior to the Bush-Gore race, the taller candidate had lost only twice in history.
The consequences of a media campaign have changed the dynamics of perceived advantage. Being the taller candidate is no longer the statistical advantage that it once was for the taller candidate since in pictures or on TV height difference is less apparent and often times not apparent at all.
Because I look at the world through a communication lens, I ask you to come with me as I look at the primary race through the lens of communication.
I believe that I can successfully make the argument that both Gore and Kerry lost NOT because of their political expertise, but rather because of their poor communication skills. In 2008, it’s not a matter of who the better candidate is, it’s a matter of which candidate presents themselves as the better candidate.
Some may find fault with this hypothesis right off the bat, offering George W as an example of a candidate who did not communicate well. He proves my point.
In this decade, communicating successfully is different than it was for Lincoln or Roosevelt. George W was effective at communicating himself as the everyman:
he connected with audiences he never met in person as one of them.
Ten Tips to watch in any debate, sound bite, or interview:
1. Who uses humor well
Humor is a ticking time bomb for any speaker. It is a special dilemma for a candidate. If the candidate uses no humor, he or she comes across as dour.
As when Hillary brought up SNL at the Cleveland debate. If they use humor inappropriately, they can look like the bully or just insensitive. Like when Barack said about Hillary, she was likable enough. On the other hand, the rewards of using humor well are just too tempting to pass up. As when Reagan said he wouldn’t use Mondale’s age against him.
2. Who presents self as most knowledgeable but not brainy
No one liked the smartest kid in the class: The kid who knew everything and reminded everyone. We want and need our President to be intelligent, the smartest kid in the class. We just don’t want him or her to act like it.
3. Who presents self as most likable
One of the reasons why Ronald Reagan was so popular is that voters thought they would like to have a beer with him. A likable guy to spend time with. Although the vast majority of voters would never meet him, they thought they would like him if they ever did. Why do we like some people? Why do we like some more than we like others? The likeability factor can be fickle, but it is tried and true, and it’s about perceived trust.
4. Who says more than the same repetitive mantras
5. Non verbal match the verbal, meaning their face and their words agree
During the last campaign, there was a joke that John Kerry’s words forgot to tell his face that they were funny. When the face does not match the words, the audience believes the face not the words. Look for the match between the two to find the believable candidate. Huckabee is good at this.
6. Who is comfortable using gestures
Al Gore’s own Secret Service detail named him Sawhorse due to his use of wooden gestures. Look for the candidate that is comfortable using gestures, the candidate who is comfortable in his or her own skin. Another way to look at it is to look for the candidate whose gestures are not getting in the way of their message. Bill Clinton was good at the fist-point. Everyone else who tries it-not so good.
7. Don’t have to be as young as JFK, but they can’t look dead
Due to high definition TV and plasma, we now see candidates closer than ever, closer than we want to see them. If Hollywood actors are concerned about these 21st century close-ups, imagine what they do to 60 year olds?
8. Candidates that actually say something
Voters want to hear substance.
9. Candidates who stay on message- if they spin, if they don’t answer the actual question that was asked and spin to another aspect or topic, they need to do so artfully or the audience won’t accept it. Look for candidates who actually answer questions asked.
10. Who can carry the weight
Both Democratic candidates have embraced the red phone theme in commercials. Although these are serious times, and the candidates are talking about serious topics, they need to be able to do so with a grace and ease. The presidency itself ages Presidents. We don’t want to see the burden too heavy even before they take office.
The General Election like a baseball season is long. While every win does not seem to count in 100 games, we never know which one will make the difference in the end of the season. So watch every debate, every soundbite,every interview. You never know which one will make the difference at the end of the season.
Leslie G. Ungar, president of Electric Impulse Communications, Inc., coach, speaker, and strategist. In our work we Transform Ordinary Leaders to Extraordinary. Your group would benefit from hearing me in person or you can sign up for my monthly newsletter at http://www.ElectricImpulse.com