Lessons from Trump: Never Underestimate the Power of Focus

Posted May 4, 2016 in Communication, Latest News & Insights

So Trump has trumped his opponents in the run for Republican party leadership. Much hand wringing is now happening as the US (and world) faces the prospect of Trump installing his name in 2 story high letters above the white house, and really…who saw this coming? And how did it happen? Here’s my take…it’s about nailing your target market.

When Trump launched his campaign for office, I, like many others, assumed it would be short-lived based on his behaviour out of the gate. And, as well all know about assumptions…they don’t always pan out the way you think they will. You see, I assumed that Trump was going to be aiming his message at upper middle class people like me. For anyone living in Toronto, this will sound familiar. How many ‘Toronto elite’ thought that Rob Ford would never get into office because of his previous track record?

As Rob Ford hammered his ‘stop the gravy train’ message (do you even remember any of the other candidates messages?), his 905 constituents said ‘hell yes!!’ Don’t worry if the details are scant and the message is full of spin, it resonated. Just like Trumps angry ‘Make America Great Again’ message is resonating with disenfranchised Americans.

And so, once again, the key lesson that I’m extracting from all this is: know your audience. Period. When it comes to influence and persuasion, it really doesn’t matter if your message is rationale or not. As long as your audience is big enough to get you to where you need to go, you’ll be golden and if you can get enough momentum you’ll lure in the fence sitters who’ll jump into the game because they follow the masses.

Vanilla messages aimed at pleasing everyone, or messages that only appeal to a narrow minority won’t get you to where you need to be. But, if you can isolate your audience and speak their language…well, all bets are off.

So, consider how you’re selling your ideas internally. Are you trying to convince everyone or are you tailoring your message to meet the values of the audience who can influence the outcome? We think a lot about aligning stakeholders before meetings, but really, maybe you only need to align the person(s) who carry the most weight by speaking their language.

Does Trump really believe all the rhetoric he’s spewing or is it a short-term strategy to gain the seat he covets? Will Trump manage to win the ultimate prize and find himself in the White House? My bet is that ultimately no, he won’t be successful because he’s pushed the envelope too far and has created too much of a backlash. However, I’m not in the US so can’t see at the ground level how deep the seeds of discontent are….on both the Republican and Democratic sides.

Interesting times ahead to be sure.

Happy leading!


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *