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Top 10 things I learned from Republicans

After a late night of following the election results, I am left with this takeaway. I am a capital “i” Independent. Every election, I regularly split my ticket and vote for a combination of Democrat, Republican and even third party candidates.

This year, as usual, I have gone to campaign events for more than one party. I attended rallies for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Gary Johnson. Plus, I remained on the email and text alerts for all of these candidates in order to continue to be updated on their messaging.

In the last year, I have traveled across most of my state (Michigan). And I have listened to a variety of people talk about the election – people with different points of view than mine. I was not engaging to try to change anyone’s mind. I just listened, even when I profoundly disagreed with the other person’s conclusions.

Here’s what I learned from this election’s winners, the Republicans:

  1. You need to know your community and welcome people into it. I know this makes no sense to an outsider. The language of the Republicans may be mean to the “others,” but in person they are nice to each other. On Election Day, I cringed during a conversation with an upper income Democrat who dismissed a low income neighborhood she had never visited as being “just a bunch of hookers and drug dealers.” By the way, that neighborhood is heavily populated with registered Democrats, and they are not a bunch of sex workers or addicts. This year Democrats, comfortable inside their blue bubbles of Whole Foods and Starbucks, lost touch with their core audience and came across as judgmental.
  1. You need to be able to unite, despite your differences. Forgive & forget. There is no time for a pity party. Instead, you need to organize. In this election, patriotically correct is the new politically correct. In any campaign that is seeking to achieve a result (political, social, or otherwise), loyalty to the cause is the key to accomplishing anything. The Bush, Cruz, Carson and Rubio supporters did it. Based on the election results, and my conversations with many Bernie-or-Bust people, Democrats did not figure a way to make this happen.
  1. You need to KISS (keep it simple, stupid). This means simple branding and slogans. But it also means Facebook and Twitter will get more clicks and likes than lengthy investigative reporting or detailed analysis of statistical information. As a bookworm and proud nerd, I do not like this. However, this election was fought and won on social media.
  1. In marketing, fear is the new sex. In business school, I was taught “sex sells.” Nowadays, it’s fear that sells. Whether its identity theft, erectile dysfunction or losing a job, you need to clearly express to your audience what you think they should fear and how you or your product can fix it. Think I’m wrong? Every thief knows what a Ring device is. But after its inventor promoted the doorbell with a video camera that connects to your smartphone on Shark Tank, fearful homeowners spent millions on the product.
  1. Woody Allen was right. “80% of success is showing up.” Republicans are punctual. They are morning people. They turnout. At 8:30 p.m. on election night, I was told that the polls close at 9:00 p.m. in Michigan. “No, that’s not true,” I explained. “It’s 8:00 p.m.” “Then why is CNN saying Michigan reports its results after 9 Eastern?” “Because our westernmost counties are in another time zone and close their polling places at 8:00 p.m. Central.” The other person’s friend went to vote at 8:15 p.m., thinking they could get in last minute, but they would have been barred from voting. This is just one example, but in politics and in business the early bird gets the worm. The Democrats hit the snooze bar this year. They were not early to campaign in places they took for granted. And that showed on Election Day.
  1. It’s all about social. To reach people, you need extroverts. Republicans are good at small talk. This year, they won the internet too. Social media is effective and cheap. Social media campaigns need a call to action. Republicans also have proved they can put down their smart phones and take action when needed. This is the key to any successful, grass roots campaign.
  1. You need to unite across socio-economic groups. Republicans don’t talk down to or talk over people. It’s alienating and divisive, whether you are pitching a candidate or a product.
  1. Confidence is perceived as competence. Some of us were raised believing that self-promotion is a bad thing. The truth is that the more confidently you present yourself as the best-suited for the task at hand, the more favorably your message will be received by your audience. You will be perceived as competent and capable of accomplishing your task. To put it another way, if your message is not overly-scripted and awkward, that confidence will be received as genuine and you will be seen as likeable.
  1. People respond to storytelling. I do not mean “telling a story” as in lying or telling a tall tale. Experiences and narrative filled with emotion are a stronger means to win people over than boring facts and figures.
  1. Nobody likes a sore winner. Ok, I have praised the Republicans for their victory. Now some advice to them: as much as nobody likes a sore loser, absolutely nobody likes a sore winner. If you work hard and accomplish your goals, you are entitled to your victory lap. Cubs fans know this. Last night, in person and on T.V., I heard the people supporting the winning candidate get into some incredibly ugly arguments. Today, I read that President Elect Trump is threatening a billion-dollar defamation lawsuit against the women who have accused him of sexual harassment. If you want your cause to be successful over time, take note of the fact that there is nothing worse than a sore winner. It’s not sportsmanlike, and it’s unattractive to your audience for the long term.

 Scott Zochowski is the manager of communications and marketing for the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence and a registered independent voter. The views expressed in this blog do not endorse any candidate, political party or cause. This post is meant to encourage discussion about marketing and communications lessons learned from the 2016 presidential election.