How to get re-elected

I don’t write often about the marketing of politicians, but it really hit home with me the other night.

Along with 80 other people (about 1% of my town’s population) I attended a zoning hearing in my little town. I was astonished by the way the five trustees, including the mayor, Lee Kinnally, Jr., treated the voters who were there.

The meeting was called for 8. At about 8:10, when the trustees were seated and ready (and the room was packed) the mayor decided to take the trustees and leave the room for a private session on a matter unrelated to the issue at hand. We all sat quietly for more than fifteen minutes. During the entire time, each person was saying to himself, "I will never ever vote for these rude people ever again."

During the hearing itself, eye contact was in short supply and at one point, a trustee even berated an applicant. Emotions were running high, voters were paying attention and the politicians completely dropped the ball.

All it would have taken were a few encouraging words and some appropriate body language.

Every day, politicians do mundane things. They sit through hearings or review boring proposals. But here, in front of the voters, voters who cared deeply about a single issue, each politician had a chance to really shine. And they failed. Miserably.

People don’t renew or cancel their cell phone service because of the ads (the ads that might have gotten them to sign up in the first place.) They do it based on the service and the way it makes them feel. And people don’t vote to re-elect a candidate because of her debate performance or speeches.

Voters decide because of the intense emotion they feel during isolated moments. The challenge of being a politician, whether you’re national or in a tiny village, is the same—to exceed expectations in the most intense interactions you have each day.