What do retailers & politicians have in common?
“Labour isn’t working”
“Because Britain Deserves better”
“Yes we can”
“Long term economic plan”
They belong to Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, Barack Obama and David Cameron respectively. In each case, three or four short words captured the campaigner’s pitch to voters. These fourteen words literally changed western economic history (for better or worse, you decide).
These slogans aren’t short because there wasn’t more to say. Clearly, Mrs Thatcher had much to say about the 70s Labour movement, just as President Obama no doubt has many thoughts on the impact of Republicanism on American voters. Political slogans are short because communicating effectively at scale with the general public is insanely hard.
Demographically, the retail sector tracks the general electorate quite closely, employing old, young, graduate, school-leavers, native born, foreign born, male, female, and people of every race. So, like great political leaders, the best retailers must know how to communicate with huge groups of diverse and disparate listeners.
Here are three techniques from the world of politics that are proven to work well at scale:
1) Don’t fight the tech tide
Centralised communication is dead. Great, modern communicators understand they cannot control how words or actions are viewed at scale. We can only control what we say and do. Do the right thing and trust the universe to meet you half way.
2) Be relevant
Effective communication is delivered where the audience is, which usually isn’t the most convenient place for you. Once you’re on the audience’s turf, respect their house rules, say something interesting, and engage them on their terms but don’t patronise.
3) Be consistently authentic
Saying one thing and doing another is guaranteed to make your colleagues cringe. Audiences will either think you’re an idiot (who doesn’t know what’s happening on the ground) or a liar (who just doesn’t care what’s really happening). Neither are good looks for a leader and both undermine effective communication. It’s ok to interpret the facts, but do stick to the facts. Better still, run an awesome operation and improve reality to fit the story you want to tell.
We’re lucky to have several incredibly effective communicators within Yapster’s customer base and there’s a ton I still want to learn from them about leading at scale. We’re always on the look out for leaders with something new to contribute to their organisation (and ours) on the leadership and communication front. If that sounds like you, please do get in touch.