I had lunch with a gathering of Sikhs earlier this week. I hadn’t planned to, but they were in the lobby of the Colorado State Capitol offering flavor bowls. They drew attention to their community and their religion. While enjoying a truly excellent dish, I was informed that the Sikh religion is the fifth largest in the world. I did not know.
Nearby, a group of farmers were talking about the importance of agriculture. As elected officials listened, they presented their case for more inclusion when discussing the state’s water needs. As I drove to my destination, I overheard a group of women outlining the main points they wanted to emphasize regarding mental health and our youth.
This takes place every day in Capitols across the country. Groups of people come together, come together again, and spin in a kind of dance. This is marketing at its highest level.
I was with a regional group of business leaders discussing topics that could impact our businesses and the economy, along with Governor Jared Polis and half a dozen from our delegation from Boulder and Broomfield counties.
All of us, elected officials and the general public, were engaged in this high-level commercialization. Some may not realize it. But nowhere is the realm of marketing more represented than when looking at how our laws are crafted and implemented.
Advocacy is the free market of ideas. It is the positioning of policies and the communication of values and assumptions that underlie potential laws. It is, to a large extent, simply a communication exercise using marketing components to sell others their ideas, positions, needs and challenges. Let’s take a closer look.
To sell a policy or to have an impact on a policy, many of the same elements come into play. Establishing credibility and expertise is a must. If people think you don’t have the information and experience, they’re less likely to listen to you. This is true with all marketing. It is also necessary to build coalitions to achieve the goals. Knowing who your target audience is and delivering tailored messages to reach them where they are is fundamental. This includes illustrating the benefits of a particular product or policy. Stakeholder meetings – think focus groups – help policy makers determine if their message is working or if it needs to be changed to gain support. Relationship building, personal contact and constant re-evaluation take place every day.
As in all marketing, trust is vital. When the public perceives that the speech does not reflect the march, problems arise. Your audiences will be loyal if they believe in your values, your commitment, your message and what you actually do. If the words don’t match what’s really going on, anger, resentment and estrangement will follow.
I also experienced this during my day at the Capitol. Tense words, anger and frustration also took place in the beautiful halls of the historic building. What I heard could best be described as people working very hard to make their own point of view heard without really listening to their target’s point of view. It’s bad marketing. Neither side is likely to come out of their meeting satisfied with the outcome.
There’s nothing more important to effective marketing than truly understanding who you’re communicating with. When listening fails, relationships are unlikely to form.
All of this and more crossed my mind as I enjoyed my delicious Sikh rice dish, compliments of members of the fifth largest religion in the world. They argued their point with me!
Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising. She can be reached at 303-651-6612; [email protected]; www.comm-concepts.com; Facebook.com/Communications Concepts; Twitter @CommConceptsPR; or LinkedIn.