2016 US Election

Tell a story, not a strategy

Trump and Sanders are grabbing all the attention. 

Bush and Clinton continue to protest that they have more reasoned and pragmatic strategies. 

Many informed commentators like the Washington Post’s Kathleen Parker agree with them:

“His (Trump’s) plans and policies are amateurish to pretendish, certainly as compared with those of someone such as Jeb Bush, who has offered detailed plans for tackling complicated issues. Not that voters are going to read them.”

And therein lies the problem. Strategies don’t grab people’s attention. Stories do. 

As Bob Hoffman writes on The Ad Contrarian

“The public never sees the strategy document. All they see are the spots. If the spots suck, the whole thing sucks.” 

Just as nothing kills a bad product like great advertising, the best strategies are worthless without creative content that demands attention and inspires action.  

More from Hoffman: 

“It doesn't matter how brilliant or noble your strategy is. If your ad is just a re-stating of the strategy and does not communicate something interesting and memorable you will have wasted your money -- regardless of your intent.”

The same is true in business communications. 

Very few people are inspired by a strategy. 

People are inspired by stories that bring a strategy to life. 

Trump and Sanders are inspiring action by telling better stories. 


Is it all about Hillary or all about you?

One of the many lessons I've learned from the great presentation designer, Nancy Duarte, is to always make your audience the hero of your story. 

In her book Resonate, she illustrates this by likening people who make presentations focused on themselves to that guy at the cocktail party who talks only about himself.

Source: Resonate by Nancy Duarte

Source: Resonate by Nancy Duarte

Nobody wants to be that guy.

Nancy argues that it’s much more powerful when you put the audience front and center, as the hero of your story. While your job, as a speaker, is to be seen as a wise and trusted mentor who can help the audience pursue their dreams, or achieve their goals. 

In other words, make your audience feel like Luke Skywalker, and let them see you as Yoda.

Source: Resonate by Nancy Duarte

Source: Resonate by Nancy Duarte

Maybe this is why, as the two leading Democratic candidates release their latest ads in the run up to the Iowa caucus, that it’s Bernie’s message that seems to be resonating with voters. 


This House | Hillary Clinton

America | Bernie SaNders