Ask the guy behind the cheese counter.
March 15, 2013
Q. My client is running for local office against an incumbent. As expected, she is getting a strong dose of skepticism from naysayers. What is the best way for her to gauge public opinion and her chance of success?
A. Political pollsters we are not.
However, McCarthy Blanchard does know this: If you want to know what people are thinking, ask them. Interestingly enough, we did just this the other day when shopping at a local market in suburban Detroit.
McCarthy Blanchard doesn’t have a horse in Detroit’s mayoral race; but, like everyone in Michigan, we have a stake in its outcome. After learning that the gentleman helping us behind the cheese counter lived in Detroit, we asked what he thinks of the mayoral race. Turns out, he has plenty to say. He explained that he had just hosted 40 neighbors at his home for a conversation with mayoral candidate Mike Duggan. Duggan clearly made a favorable impression on our new friend as he commented that Duggan has the experience to get the job done, referencing Duggan’s turnaround success at The DMC. He also said Duggan would have an emergency financial manager “out by January.”
Gauging public opinion anecdotally is a slippery slope. However, in this case, McCarthy Blanchard is seeing a campaign communications strategy that is working to overcome perceived barriers and build trust. We reported in this column on Dec. 7 that Duggan was “meeting in living rooms, neighborhood by neighborhood, listening to residents to understand their needs.”
Based on one man’s opinion, Duggan’s listening strategy is working.
Going forward, our advice to Duggan – and your candidate – is to hone his key messages. Make sure her messages – no more than three – are concise, credible and memorable. Use them in every venue: in neighborhood living rooms, at candidate forums, on her website. Be ready for tough questions including those she doesn’t want to be asked. Write the answers down, using her key messages. This way she will not fumble or appear evasive.
Remember, the best form of advertising is word of mouth. Candidates are best served by empowering others – like the guy behind the cheese counter – to carry their messages forward.