An edited version of this oped was first published in the Hartford Courant on October 29th, 2017.
If your town is anything like mine it’s probably littered with yard signs in red and blue, spruiking people and their promises to make our communities “better! stronger! safer!” places to live.
As a marketing professional, I cringe through this time of the year. I am as invested in our local community as any other responsible young business owner, but I always struggle with how politicians walk, talk and act in a desperate attempt to procure our votes. Yes, as a millennial, I do want to live in a community that’s safe, smart, and self-sufficient. But I’m also bright enough to see through the bull that runs rampant this time of year, especially in a landscape where even the purportedly unbiased local media is quick to show its colors.
So, in recognizing election season for the drawn out and generally ineffective marketing barrage that it is, here are my five tips to help all of our friends vying for their seat to cut the crap and let us see the people behind the politics.
Quit aligning yourself with a party. Most millennials don’t consider themselves hardcore Republicans or Democrats and we’re pretty unlikely to vote for you based on affiliation alone. Let’s face it, both parties have a bit of a stink to them these days, so you’re much better off focusing on people and policy as opposed to party. Let Bernie Sanders be a lesson to you - young people want to see passion. That is what gets us voting.
Don’t be a jerk. Politics can get ugly and there are lots of candidates who love playing dirty. Don’t be one of them. Mudslinging is an old-school tactic that really only ignites a certain type of person. Keep it clean and stay focused on what matters. If we want drama in our lives, we’ll catch a #KUWTK marathon.
Pay attention to us. If you think we don’t care, you’re wrong. If young people don’t vote, it’s because they’re not motivated to. Sure, plenty of people are just plain lazy, but others simply don’t connect with anyone on the ticket. Talk to us about the issues that we care about and be present in the places where we like to communicate. Don’t assume that you know what we want, ask us. You might just learn something.
Stop talking. I know as a politician, this probably seems like a ludicrous statement, but guess what? A conversation is defined as an exchange of thoughts, which means the listening part is just as important as the talking. Remember, with content enveloping us every single day, it’s hard for people to know everything about you. Listen to the people who matter most to you and create a platform around the key points that you stand for. Then make it your mantra.
Be a leader. Anyone who runs for office is pushing for a position of power and the best leaders are the ones who can delegate well, empower those around them, and create a plan for success. So, candidates, think of this time as your job interview process. Every meeting and every conversation is an opportunity to communicate what you stand for. Be true to who you are and show us why we should hire you.
Yes, it’s true that we are all pretty tired of politics, but November offers us an opportunity for a fresh start or to continue with the progress that has already been made. Dear politicians, give us a reason to want to brag about our cities and towns, show us that you’re worth our faith, time, and investment. Drop the red and the blue and give us you. We promise it will be worth it.
Chelsea O’Donnell is the owner of Journey Communications, a Connecticut-based agency that provides marketing and public relations services to small and medium-sized businesses. www.journeycomm.com