Since the ninth of November 2016, there has been much hand wringing, soul searching, brow beating and hair tearing. All of that physical discomfort trying to work out how Donald Trump won. The key to his success was actually very simple – his ability to resonate with his audience. He understood them; he mirrored them; he spoke their language; matched their tone; he respected them. And most importantly, he reached them emotionally. Hillary did not. This of course is central to all communication, whether you’re selling baked beans, legal services or interior design. As Aristotle told us a few years back: “Persuasion may follow…..when the speech stirs the emotions”.
Immediately after the first debate, I did a detailed analysis of the performances of the two candidates, to compare styles and to gauge, on that basis, who might win. I’ve looked back at my notes and I realise now how wrong my conclusions were. What I saw as weakness (and therefore a death knell for his campaign) was in fact an example of superb communication.
My overall observation on the debate was that Hillary was calm, knowledgeable, measured, statesman-like and mature (all of which resonate with me), while Trump was hectoring, simplistic, repetitive and, at times, inarticulate. But of course, I wasn’t his target audience. He knew who they were, and he communicated in a way which reached them. Ya boo sucks to the rest of us.
Trump’s messages (Mexico, China, employment) were simple and he repeated them often – a classic technique used by many speakers (see Steve Jobs launching the first iPhone in 2007 with the much repeated line “Apple reinvents the phone”).
In tone of voice and body language, he was angry, impatient, sometimes aggressive. Lots of finger jabbing and interrupting. His vocabulary and syntax were simple/simplistic, almost child-like at times: “lots of other things”, “I want you to be happy, that’s very important to me”, “really a shame”, “a beautiful thing”. Benjamin Netanyahu was described as “not a happy camper” while a member of the judiciary was “a very against police judge”.
And it all worked because his audience identified with him.
So what can we take away from this with regard to our own communication technique: 1. Have a very clear idea of who your primary audience is – what they know, think, feel. 2. Mirror them, respect them, make an emotional connection with them. 3. Simple messages.
If we do that, as we’ve seen, literally anything is possible.