It has seemed like the US Presidential election has gone on and on for 18 months … because it has. Early in the election battle, my global clients would ask what Trump was doing in the primary race … and the general belief was that he would not become the Republican candidate. When he did become the candidate, the question was how he could ever be elected President? These were questions asked by Republicans, Democrats, and others. Most agreed there was no way it could happen.
The day after the election there is much discussion about how the polls and pundits could be so wrong to not see the upset victory by Trump. That political discussion I will leave to others. However, there is a great lesson for all of us in persuading others.
Looking at the Other Person’s Point of View (OPPOV™)
Donald Trump understood an important base of the electorate better than the experts. He knew about the deep anger with Washington in the rural and working class members of society. He made what many saw as obnoxious statements. As a reality TV star, he knew that he could use Twitter to get media attention for free in a way no politician has ever done before. It is unlikely that he really doubted the birth certificate of President Obama, but he got media attention every time he went public with his claim. He created an early following among a fringe of the electorate that most have ignored.
He understood that his audience was looking for someone or something to blame for the impact of globalization and social change. He knew they wanted to believe that the clock can be turned back to some nostalgic time in history that seemed ‘great’ in retrospect. He knew they wanted a voice that was heard.
He knew the OPPOV of a group of people who have felt left out of the political process… many who have not voted in the past. He was very good at creating strong emotions, and he avoided talking about specific solutions. He used the time-tested politician messages that are vague, and allow people to hear what they want to hear. Most heard “It is something different than the things in the past that you are so frustrated with … trust me … it will be great again.” Trump stoked their fears and anger, and gave them a simple solution.
Some may want to jump to criticism. But, think about how his OPPOV analysis applies to much smaller contests and persuasion situations.
1) The audience felt heard on an emotional and substantive basis.
2) There was a simple and understandable solution that only required them to vote for Trump.
3) They were given a scapegoat upon whom they could focus their anger.
4) There was someone who was passionate about giving them what they wanted.
5) They had a voice for their fears, frustration and anger.
Trump also calculated that his core base would resonate to his fear and frustration message and ignore his controversial statements that got him so much attention. Early on, he said that he could “shoot someone on 5th Avenue and not lose any of his followers.” It was another shock and Twitter moment. He was right!
Most people are frustrated with the gridlock of Washington DC. He also knew that the longstanding and well crafted message about nasty Hillary would cause many others to pick his inexperience over the “nasty woman” experience.
The simplicity of his message allowed him to delegate his sales pitch to others to spread to their friends.
Trump was able to turn Hillary’s 30 years of experience into a negative for being part of that “elite enemy of the people”. That also provided a story for the Republican loyalists and the other disaffected independents … many voted for Trump or stayed home. Trump’s message targeted the OPPOV of this larger group as well.
“Yesterday, I was a pollster and today I am a communication consultant” was the response of a pollster when asked by a network TV commentator how he had the outcome so wrong.
The truth is, that most pollsters were talking to the wrong people. They missed those who had not voted before, or the profile that was the base for Trump. They did not know the correct audience to poll.
Know your audience as well as their OPPOV.
For now, the election is over. It will be at least a few months before the next election starts! 🙁 Meanwhile, use the lessons of OPPOV to enhance your ability to persuade and influence every day.