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

I had lunch with an assembly of Sikhs earlier this week.  I hadn’t planned to do so, but they were in the lobby of the Colorado State Capitol offering bowls of tastiness. They were drawing attention to their community and religion.  While enjoying a truly great dish, I was informed that the Sikh religion is the fifth largest in the world.  I did not know that.

Nearby a group of farmers were talking about the importance of agriculture.  While elected officials listened, they presented their case for more inclusion when discussing the water needs of the state.  As I made my way to my destination, I overheard a group of women nailing down the main points they wished to emphasize when it comes to mental health, and  our youth.

This takes place every day in Capitols throughout the nation.  Groups of people convene, re-convene, and rotate in a kind of dance.  It is marketing at its highest level.

I was with a regional group of business leaders discussing topics that have the potential to impact our businesses, and the economy, with Governor Polis and half a dozen of our delegation from Boulder and Broomfield counties.

All of us, elected officials and the general public alike, were engaged in this high level of marketing.  Some may not have realized this. But nowhere is the field of marketing more represented than when looking at how our laws are developed and implemented.

Advocacy is the free market of ideas.  It is the positioning of policies, and the communication of values and assumptions underlying potential laws.  It is, to a great extent, simply an exercise in communication utilizing marketing components to sell others on their ideas, positions, needs and challenges.  Let’s take a closer look.

To sell a policy, or to impact a policy, many of the same elements come into play.  Establishing credibility and expertise is a must. If people don’t believe you have the required information and experience, they are less likely to listen to you. This is true with all marketing.  It is also necessary to build coalitions to achieve goals.  Knowing who your target audience(s) is, and delivering messages tailored to reach them where they are, is fundamental.  This includes illustrating the benefits of a particular product/policy. Stakeholder meetings (think focus groups) help policy makers determine if their messaging is working, or if it needs to be amended to garner support.  Relationship building, personal contact, and constant re– evaluation take place each and every day.

As with all marketing, trust is vital. When audiences perceive that the talk doesn’t reflect the walk, trouble emerges. Your audiences will be loyal if they believe in your values, your commitment, your messaging and what you are actually doing.  If the words don’t match what is actually taking place, anger, resentment and estrangement will follow.

I experienced this as well during my day at the Capitol.  Tense words, anger and frustration were also taking place within the beautiful halls of the historical building. What I heard could be best be described as people working very hard to have their own point heard without really listening to their target’s point of view. This is poor marketing.  Neither party is likely to come away from their encounter happy with the outcome.

There is nothing more important to effective marketing than truly understanding those you are communicating with. When listening fails to take place, relationships are unlikely to be formed.

All of this, and more, crossed my mind as I enjoyed  my delicious Sikh rice dish, compliments of  members  of the fifth largest religion in the world.  They made their point with me!

Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising.  She may be reached at 303-651-6612; scornay@comm-concepts.com; www.comm-concepts.com; Facebook.com/Communication Concepts; Twitter @CommConceptsPR; or LinkedIn.

Share this post on: