Businesses struggle today in how to deal with the millennial workforce and yet, millennials are forcing the hands of companies to speak up and speak out on high profile environmental issues and on perceived social injustices.Where government fails to act, millennials are demanding their employer or the company's they do business with, step up to the plate to make an impact beyond their bottom line.
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Candidates in this election cycle can still take a few pages from the President's campaign playbook that helped him build a brand that connected with voters, such as:
- Develop a consistent message. One that strikes a chord with the public, such as, Change, Re-invent, or Believe.
- Have a rallying call – Your message should I part, engage the voter and give them something to use as they build support for you, such as: Yes We Can.
- Offer solutions. A campaign is a great opportunity to suggest solutions to improving the status quo and why you are the better candidate. Offering solutions instead of going negative will help you stand out from the other candidates.
- What do we stand for. At the end of the day, based on your messaging, behavior and performance, the voter should be able to identify you with your issues and know what you will focus on once elected.
Not with the messages handed-out by Democrats in Michigan. With so much going on in this state, from crumbling infrastructure under a harsh winter to a new vibe in Detroit and tremendous growth in Grand Rapids, you would think there is a rare opportunity for Democrats to share with voters what they stand for instead of whom they stand against.
Unfortunately, I received two emails last week from Democrats that told me they want to play politics as usual.
Each message was a solicitation:
Subject: Dems $6 for 6 seats
I know we have asked for a lot lately, but only because the stakes are so very high for our state. Please chip in $6 for 6 seats in November. The deadline is tonight at Midnight and 231 donors have given so far, so your $6 donation could be the one that puts us over the top to our goal of 250 donors. Tim - Sent from my iPhone.
Then minutes later, I received a similar message:
“This will be the last update you get from us for a while because our deadline is tonight at Midnight. We know that you have not given yet, but we are just 28 donations from our goal so your donation could make the difference. Please chip in $6 or whatever you can to help us hit our goal by the Midnight deadline. Thanks, Sam”
With each message, the Democrats missed a rare opportunity to engage a prospective donor and voter in why they should support them. Each time they failed to create an emotional connection and failed to educate them on what issues they stand for or stand for advancing.
With the above messages, as someone who may make a contribution, I want to know:
- Why are those six seats important?
- Where are those six seats?
- Who is running?
I need something more before making that investment, even for $6. I also don’t like the negative messaging. The timing of these messages did not fit the news cycle, just a political calendar. At the time, the Legislature was voting on spending bills that focused on infrastructure, the U.S. District Court (Eastern District) was preparing to hear a landmark case on equal and civil rights dealing with the rights of same-sex couples and the UAW was just recovering from difficult challenges in the South – Issues, that Democrats do have a leg to stand on. Issues that they could engage me better on as to what they plan on doing about it and why I should care.
Yet, this week the Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee announced a major tax proposal while the state is also considering major changes to state tax laws. The President also released his Budget with funding to help those living in poverty, to help restore and protect the Great Lakes and to help enhance our aging roads and bridges. Yet, this week, the Democrats were silent and I did not receive a solicitation.
I recall a time that I sat in the Lansing office of a former chair of the Michigan Democratic Party and asked if I can help create a vision for Michigan Democrats and a strategic plan for each caucus to take back to their district that would work to create a movement or engage others in why they should support Democrats. At the time, the Chairman pointed out his window, towards the state capitol with the House and Senate controlled by Republicans, and said, “You see that building, our message is against, whatever they are for.”
If Democrats are to make gains in 2014, they need a vision. Their message needs to be strategic, coordinated and engaging. Today, there is no such thing as politics as usual. People are no longer voting based on a D or an R behind ones name. To help those running for office, Democrats and Republicans alike, need to figure out, what they stand for and then arm their caucus with the tools and resources to broadcast and share that message in a way that will resonate with the voter. It is time to end the politics and focus on the policy as a way to engage voters.
I am not going to join an association if I don’t find value in it. As both the Democratic and Republican parties look to re-build they need to re-engage their members. Like any organization, its leaders need to communicate the value membership brings while constantly giving people reasons to join in its mission. This can be accomplished through the benefits they provide or the stories they tell to help people connect emotionally to the organization.
To be effective at that the organizations need the infrastructure and refine their business operations to reflect the reality of their industry, their membership and the world around them. In addition the organizational leadership needs to build a sustainable organization to help attract a new generation of members.
Once the infrastructure is in place the messages need to be crafted to communicate organizational value. The agenda needs to resonate with the right audience and be communicated in a way that they will listen to it. The messages should be action-oriented. People join an organization because they share common values but also because they want to belong to something. So, give people a reason to get engaged.
Today, associations must also Re-Evaluate how it uses emerging technologies and the various media platforms around them to their advantage. We should only look forward in how we do things.
Once the messages are developed, now you can go out and raise money or increase membership. However, this too takes a new way to think about the how and why you approach others. As an organization, you should rethink your members or donors as “investors,” and work to create a donor relations program to keep them engaged in organizational activity – year-round.
While the organization raises money or seeks new members it should work diligently to find new candidates or younger members. The MS Society has created a Young Leaders Group, there are programs like Leadership Detroit and also the Michigan Political Leadership Program (of which I am a fellow and board member). But other organizations, including political parties can work harder at nurturing the next generation of leadership.
In restructuring a political party or an association, it will taking rethinking how the organization is structured, what the messages are that needs to be communicated, rethinking how you embrace membership and donors and finding ways to raise a new class of leadership. However, todays realities demand we re-think how we manage our lives and our associations.
Gone are the days when you found a job and stayed in that job until you retired. Today, the workforce is more mobile, in part due to the economy and the need to go where the jobs are and in party due to technology. As times change, so too must our political system and our political leaders should work harder at communicating their vision for improving their world. But that vision should not be theirs alone. It should be consensus-driven so that others can stand with the Mayor, Governor and others in supporting that vision. Once they have that vision, they can now create their agenda. What issues will become their priority and how will they go about implementing that agenda.
So communicating that vision and agenda will be vital to seeing it through. Why is this the right thing to do now? Does it reflect reality so that I can get others to rally behind it?
To lead the conversion, our leaders need to lead the conversation, but also listen to what others have to say and adjust their plans to reflect the political and economic realities. People are looking for solutions. Solutions that are immediate but also pro-active with long-term benefits
Change is never easy, but in order to change we have to know where you are going. To help you in the process we need to understand the why, the what and the how. We need to become emotionally-connected through common values. We will help you only if we can trust you and for that we need to start developing a relationship.
Once we begin the discussion and build the trust we will come to realize that we are all in this together and we each have a role to play -- So let’s support each other.
As Republicans and Democrats convene their conventions this month to affirm or select new leadership, one thing is certain, both parties need to work harder at building a brand and sustaining a movement. A ‘move-ment’ is a series of organized activities towards a common objective.
How do you create a movement – With just one big idea.
That idea should be simple. It should be something that you and others can be passionate about.
Now that you the idea, you now need to get people to care about it. And it also will need its own identity to give people something to talk about.
Now its time to “Ignite the Movement,” and provide even more reasons to talk about it.
From a political party perspective, to sustain a movement, everyone should be on the same page. The House and Senate Caucuses should work in sync with the established party so that everyone is working to compliment the other, reinforce the messages, engage the public and build a movement by getting people who are interested engaged.
The American Electorate is frustrated with politics as usual, the name-calling and the lack of progress in state capitols and in Congress. Instead of being against what the other party is for, each party should create a platform to engage the other side in a solution-based discussion about where to agree and where to move on.
I recently read that “a credible idea makes people believe. An emotional idea gets people to care.’ Given the right agenda, Democrats and Republicans can create the right stories to bring outsiders inside their movement and in the end they will get the right people to act to help us all move forward.
You know how local, state and federal policies impact the day-to-day life of your program, association or company than any member of Congress, the legislature or city council, so many elected officials need you to help them understand the issues, establish a connection and work collectively to find solutions. When we have the opportunity to talk with your Mayor, Member of Congress, State Representative or State Senator, we have to be sure to tell the stories that are going to make the most sense to them and encourage them to act if that is an appropriate next step.
Ideally, you would establish relationships with lawmakers long before you ever need them. This could be due to your involvement in the community, a pre-existing relationship from school, through your children and their activities, based on meetings where you have invited them to tour your business or their political advocacy or attending fundraisers and other events.
Regardless of when you meet them, you still need to know your story and the messages you wish to convey. Here are 3 tips to telling your story to legislators:
1. Share the Strongest Message
- Share a couple of stories about your program.
- Thank him/her for past and ongoing support.
- Let them know what they can do this year.
You may find yourself meeting with a legislator or staffer who offers that they are connected in someway to your organization or issue. Seize that link and deepen the connection. However, in many other instances, they may not be familiar with your organization or issue. This is your chance to advise the member on the vital issues in your industry.
- Start with the basics of what you do and who you serve; and,
- Why you need their support or leadership.
2. Tell the stories that are relevant, newsworthy and tied to a larger agenda so that they the lawmakers are more likely to seize it as their issue
- Find out as much as you can about your Senator and Representative.
- Quantify the impact your organization and issue has on the economy, in the community and around the industry.
- Localize the issue so that they can see the connection/impact in their district
- If they don’t seem to support your issue, don’t argue with them. Work to just disagree, focus on what you can agree on and move on.
- Use the meeting opportunity to be conversational, and get to know one another. Convey that you can be a friendly resource any time.
- Think about what you want to bring to the meeting: A Fact Sheet on the organization and issue, key contacts, annual report, latest newsletter, media clips, key contacts etc.
3. You are the expert!
Most of the time, legislators want to know the basics. So what may seem basic to you is information they are hearing for the first time.
And just relax. They may be elected officials with ornate offices (at least some of them), they are still people that you elected. They could even live in your neighborhood.
Visit us later this week to find a template to CRAFTING YOUR STORY.