- Rollout or Launch
- Consistency/Staying on Message
- Assessment or Transition
A political campaign does some due diligence, takes surveys/polls, and eventually makes the decision to run for office (design). The candidate announces (launch). The candidate begins talking to the people and hones the message (feedback/adjustments). Main ideas and talking points are repeated over and over (staying on message). The electorate votes (conclusion). A post mortem occurs if the candidate loses (assessment). The candidate prepares to take office if she wins (transition).
Marketing campaigns to launch a new product are similar. The product is created, focus-grouped and a campaign is developed (design). The product is announced using a variety of media (rollout or launch). Initial assessments are made based on consumer feedback and buying preferences (feedback/adjustment). The adjusted message or commercials/promotion is repeated over and over (consistency/staying on message). Consumers either buy or they don’t (conclusion). If the campaign is successful, a new long-term campaign is created (transition). If the campaign is a failure, a post mortem is done to figure out why (assessment).
A few minor distinctions can be made between political and marketing campaigns.
- Political campaigns have a definitive win-lose
- Marketing campaigns’ conclusion and success measurement is often nuanced.
- Political campaigns are more dynamic and message/tactics can change often and dramatically
- Marketing campaigns are more fixed and are run as-is until it’s determined it’s either a success or failure.
- Political campaigns that win are rarely scrutinized by the candidate – they immediately move to transition.
- Marketing campaigns – win or lose – are analyzed for either why they won or why they lost by the campaign designers.
So what does this have to do with an internal change initiative that a business or corporation decides to implement?
I believe any important change initiative that a business attempts must be treated as a campaign. It should be designed more similar to a marketing campaign – but can contain some elements of a political campaign. So in the grand scheme of things, it’s a combination of both.
The campaign is essentially asking the employees of the organization to buy the change. It’s a marketing effort. It’s a sales job. The employees will either buy the change or they won’t. In a sense, their acceptance and adaptation of the change will be a vote of ‘yes’.
The campaign’s ultimate goal is to get buy-in. Earn the ‘yes’ vote of each and every employee.
So if the ultimate goal of the change initiative is to get buy-in (the conclusion), then the preceding four steps of campaigns must also be included and adhered to.
- Rollout or Launch
- Consistency/Staying on Message
Lets talk a look at each.
Design. Let’s be clear. Design is talking about the design of the change initiative campaign. It’s NOT the design of the change initiative. I’m assuming that the decision of ‘how’ to change has already been made. The CEO and the leadership have already made the decision of moving from A to B. (A being the current place and B being the future, desired place). So design refers to how to best convince all employees to move from A to B. If they buy into B, then the campaign will be successful. If they vote for B, then everyone wins.
Design is the strategy to ask everyone to buy into B – or vote B. Design includes the plan to rollout or launch. Design includes the initial messaging and the willingness to gather feedback and adjust.
Rollout or Launch. Political campaigns all make an announcement. Trump came down the escalator. Obama went to Springfield, IL the hometown of Abraham Lincoln. Pizazz. Buzz. Excitement.
The rollout of a change initiative needs to be something out of the ordinary. It can’t be a memo or a regular communication. It needs to be something special. Something extraordinary. Something that will make people stop and pay attention. It needs to be treated with the respect that it deserves. Ideally it will be fun, optimistic, and memorable.
Feedback/Adjustments. In a political campaign, the candidate is the primary spokesman. Afterall, it is the candidate who people are voting yes or no. Political campaigns all have surrogates. In the business world, the surrogates are the leadership team. It’s the responsibility of the leadership team to support the change, spread the word, and collect feedback. This is how meaningful adjustments can be made in real time – real feedback from concerned employees regarding what it will take to make the change work.
Political campaigns also have a campaign manager. The campaign manager serves as the chief spokesperson for the candidate. In a corporate change initiative campaign, it makes sense to have a chief spokesperson for the campaign. This role could be filled by the CEO, a top lieutenant inside the company, or from an outside, third-party surrogate.
Consistency/Staying on Message. After the launch and the message is fine-tuned from feedback received, the hard work of staying on message day-after-day begins. It must continue until all employees buy-in.
In a political campaign, it’s the equivalent of the last few weeks before the election. Stay on message. Don’t experiment. Don’t test new ideas at this point. That work has all been finished weeks and months earlier.
In a marketing campaign, it’s the time when you stick with your message (commercial, advertising) long enough to reach a critical mass. You’re not yet over the hump, but you believe that continuing to push will get you over the hump – and you’ll be successful.
Political and marketing campaigns that give up too soon don’t win. Staying on message and remaining consistent to the finish line is what separates those who get elected and those who go home to ponder their next move – with a completely empty calendar.
Change initiatives should be run as a campaign. The campaign needs a plan. It needs a splashy launch. It needs to be open to feedback and willing to make adjustments. It needs to be consistent and stay on message until it succeeds.
Complicated? Not really.
Easy? No … it’s hard work.
Fun? Hopefully … and definitely when successful!
Steve Weber is the Change Ambassador. He works with leaders of organizations that need an important change to occur quickly, with a minimal amount of pain, and with a maximum amount of employee buy-in. Steve helps leaders design change initiative campaigns and serves as the campaign manager for corporate change initiative campaigns.