Originally published in the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Daily Times-Call.

Good grief, Charlie Brown, it’s almost Halloween!

It’s the season for zombies, demons, villains, ghosts, witches and things that go bump in the night. It’s also the time when other attention-getters are knocking on our doors. It’s the season of politicians.

I like politics and enjoy working with politicians. Whether on the national stage, campaigning at the state level or running in local elections the highest priority of any politician is getting his or her carefully crafted messages in the eyes and ears of voters. Just as in business, messaging is everything. However, there is a difference. Businesses can’t just say anything simply to sound good. Some politicians think they can.

All politicians devote time and money to advertising, debates, town hall sessions and appearances wherever and whenever microphones and cameras are in their faces. They will go anywhere, any time to push their messaging. Unfortunately, some politicians are not above wearing masks or doing a little trick or treating to hammer home points.

I’m a political junkie, and I listen closely to the messaging. Lately I’ve been hearing a lot of misinformation, a lot of parsing, a lot of flip-flopping and lot of back-pedaling. Personal opinions and half-truths are presented as facts. But simply stating something doesn’t make it true. Shame on candidates who do that. Even more shame on voters who accept messaging without looking for truth.

There are many ways to see beyond campaign masks and costumes. To get at the truth, it’s best to check voting records, to look closely at candidate resumes, to talk with neighbors and friends and to review endorsements. Above all, I encourage people to be interested, skeptical listeners.

Sure, every candidate believes she or he is best suited for the job. But why? What specifically sets some candidates apart from others? Is it experience or new ideas? Do they offer answers or platitudes? Are they in tune with their constituencies? Are they running to make a difference or running to get a job? Will they say whatever they need to say to gain a few points in a poll or is truth their bottom line?

Businesses can learn from elections. When it comes to messaging, why are some politicians respected while others fall out of favor or quickly fade to the back of the pack? What kinds of messaging resonate with the public? What approaches fall flat or have negative impacts?

The life of most political messaging doesn’t last much beyond the next election. Business messaging is more permanent. What business says is enduring. For that reason alone, businesses embrace truth as the starting point. Business messaging has to be direct, on point, informative and factual. Business messaging should be tailored to serving customers/clients (constituents), to providing real solutions to real problems, to building reputations and relationships that will stand the tests of time and to instilling confidence – not skepticism – in the minds and actions of target audiences.

In a sense, every business is campaigning for election and re-election. Every business is soliciting votes from their customers and clients. Every business is asking for public support of the products or services it is offering. Every business is acutely aware that its messaging has the potential for generating or losing public favor.

There is no place in business messaging for misinformation, flip-flopping or back-pedaling. There is no place for trick-or-treat approaches. Every successful business structures its messaging around a fundamental concept:

To be elected and re-elected by customers/clients, truth should be in the eyes of the beholders. And it should be in their ears as well.

Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising. 
Visit www.comm-concepts.com or call 303-651-6612.

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