How Media Coverage of Politics Can Ruin Your Business

media coverage of politics

One of the um… interesting… things about the media coverage in America is the fixation on politics, especially the office of the President.

Take big city newspapers for example. They reserve the front page almost exclusively for the President and a few celebrity politicians.

They hang on every meaningless word that spills from their mouths. They memorize their schedules. They even interpret their body language (“the speaker appeared peeved…”).

It don’t make no sense! Almost NOBODY in America cares about politics.

They don’t care about politicians as people, nor the two parties.

But you’d never know that perusing a news site. There, political matters dominate. You’d think the average American was obsessed with politics.

Media coverage of politics not based in reality

So what gives? Why the disconnect?

Before I get to that, let me explain why I say nobody cares about politics. These are the facts:

  • Voter turnout is low (even during presidential elections)
  • Senior citizens are the only consistent voters  
  • 35% of Americans can’t name any branch of Government

Now, the average person may say they care (especially to pollsters).

But they don’t. If they did, they’d act.

Instead, at parties and other events, they simply repeat whatever’s being said at the moment on TV/radio.

The average American never…

  • marches on Washington
  • runs for office
  • organizes a petition
  • registers people to vote

I don’t bring this up as criticism. It’s not to nag you.

In fact, a disinterest in politicians or the political process is overwhelmingly a GOOD thing. It means, to quote Calvin Coolidge, “The business of America is (still) business.”

I bring it up as a warning.

Because it’s hard to resist the subliminal messages the media sends you about politics. What are those?

“You gotta stay informed!”

“You gotta find a middle ground!”

“You gotta vote  — this election is the most important ever!”

All of which are wrong. 100% of the time.

Real business and politics are (mostly) strangers

Whatever reasons the media have for treating politics with reverence… like sacred scripture… NONE of them apply to your business. For starters:

  • “Staying informed” about what’s happening in DC (by reading 10 newspapers a day) will NOT get you closer to your business goals because (1) your focus will shift from things you can control to things you can’t and (2) you won’t end up informed. The typical article on anything presidential is a puff-piece, ghostwritten by a staff member.
  • “Middle ground” in business exists, but not be design. Going tribal, catering to your own, discriminating against others via taste, style, or values is classic positioning. It’s the wave of the future too: Target is a hero to transgender people, Hobby Lobby is a hero to Christians.
  • “Most important election” has no parallel cliché in business. The fact is, if you were to bet everything on ONE new product or service, with no recourse in the event of failure (i.e., losing the election) you’d be foolish.

Here’s more of what NOT to do:

Do NOT get bogged down in minutiae. Politicians tend to ramble. Why? One, they like to hear themselves talk and two, their schemes and policies usually require some ‘splainen. But the rambling is why the majority of politicians never graduate from C-SPAN to prime time. The politicians who become celebrities learn to master the quip… the zinger… the soundbite. Voters “get” soundbites.

Smart marketers speak in soundbites. They make content consumable and easy to navigate. Donald Trump is killing it right now because he speaks in broad, big strokes. As a result, voters understand or think they understand his message.

Do NOT speak to the “general” population. In politics, the “general” population is a myth. Every voter is placed into a category by demographic profile or interest group. And yet, the media continues to speak to Americans as if they’re one, monolithic group.

Always know who the audience for your product is. Find out as much about them as possible, enough so you could “write a page in their diary.” Once you’ve won them over, then you can begin targeting other audiences.

Do NOT chase celebrity. Someone once called Washington, “Hollywood for ugly people.” It is. Politicians love the camera and they love to see themselves in print. But, savvy politicians know that visibility does not necessarily equal power.

In fact, the most influential politicians are often the least visible.

Likewise, there are many billion dollar companies that never grace the cover of Forbes, Fortune, or Inc. These companies don’t have celebrity CEOs. They don’t win advertising awards. And yet… they’re hand-over-fist profitable!

Don’t confuse celebrity with success. While celebrity or notoriety can help you sell more products, it can also be a huge timesuck. It’s also useless if you don’t have a system for capitalizing on it.

From my vantage point, analyzing how the media does politics has been liberating.

It’s all for consumption… an unspoken agreement. The reporters write about “important” political stuff, and we Americans pretend to care.

As I said, that’s a good thing. Life in the US of A would be downright depressing if suddenly we started taking politics seriously!

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