Lothery & Associates

Romney Speech Soured with Boos

Unless you’ve been hiding for the last 24 hours, you probably have heard about Governor Romney’s speech to the NAACP, and the fact that portions of it were met with boos. Now, before we proceed, please follow the standard rule whenever we discuss the communication of any politician. Please check your red, blue, green, occupy, and new majority hats at the door. Let’s look at strategy and results, not politics in this post.

Romney Addresses NAACP

So when we take a look at what the presidential hopeful had to say to the NAACP you have to begin with his messaging approach. First, he took the time to attend. Knowing that 95% of the black vote went to Obama, and most minorities, in fact, voted for Obama, Mr. Romney stood tall and confidently in front of the oldest and most respected civil rights organization in the country. Plus one for the governor.

He followed my number one rule about staying on message. The idea that message intent should be the same in any political campaign so you may establish trust with your voters. Trust comes when they can count on hearing the same message, the same platform everytime you step in front of an audience. He even stated in follow up interviews that he wasn’t going to change his platform for any audience. Another plus one, for Mr. Romney.

Mr. Romney detailed the harsh unemployment numbers for African-Americans, which are much higher per capita, when measured against other ethnic groups. He talked about the education gap in achievement and performance of black students to others. He quoted Frederick Douglas, as well. Plus one, again, for Mr. Romney identifying some points of concern for some of his attending audience.

However, he falls short in a few areas. First, is in the understanding the audience perspective and tailoring the nuances to meet the interests and needs of those listening. The NAACP is looking for how you’re going to meet their needs. How will you ensure fairness and equity for the people of color living in America? Do you understand the inherent disparities that people of color face? How would you propose to eliminate these privilege gaps? He identified this issues very well, as stated. However, when talking about solutions his used words like: “I’m going to look at…”, “I plan to look into…”, “We’ll explore…” All of these phrases can be sharply contrasted with his declaration: “I will repeal Obamacare.” It leaves the audience with a firm understanding of priorities and what is an absolute versus what might be musings aloud. Minus one.

Second, the former Massachusetts governor sated, “If you understood what was in my heart…you would vote for me for president.” Here’s the challenge, staying on message is relatively new to the governor. He has been vastly criticized since entering the race, about flip-flopping on different issues. Knowing what is in someone’s heart is very easy when they stay consistent on issues, act in ways that demonstrate what they are saying. His past record on issues that are important to the NAACP, i.e. Hate Crimes Enforcement and Protecting the working poor are a little thin, so some might be left to wonder how sincere this statement really is. Minus one again.

Finally, the “Boo.” The boos came in response to the affirmation that repealing Obamacare is of utmost importance to him if elected president. We’ll set aside that the legislation was designed with Governor Romney’s plan in Massachusetts as the template, and focus back on the NAACP. One of their cornerstone initiatives is Fighting for Health Care as a Civil Right. That means they fully support a mandate for coverage and encourage the government to ensure no one is left without care, especially the working poor.

Again, consistency is key, however, when you know you’re about to introduce a controversial topic, it is always best to acknowledge that there is disagreement, acknowledge that you understand their point, but have a view or perspective of your own. This lets the audience know you’re in touch and aware, but still choose to disagree. It takes the hostility away. It is my estimation that had the former governor made some acknowledgement about their initiative, and recognize the importance of what they’re fighting for, and then work that into why he disagrees with the healthcare reform bill, there would have been silence rather than an audible boo that is going viral on the internet as I sit and type this blog.

The most important take-aways today, are this:

  • Know your audience, their issues and concerns.
  • Know where your policies conflict with their beliefs, acknowledge them and then build the bridge between the two.
  • Be proactive in addressing conflict, and do so with respect and courtesy.
  • Stay on message, even if it disagrees with your listeners. Trust comes from consistency and reliability, not like or dislike.

Good luck to you on your next presentation. May your next appearance in front of a hostile, or less-than-friendly/empathetic audience be a smooth and graceful experience.

 

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