(Published in DMI January 2009)
The New Year brings all sorts of strange excitements with it, what will 2009 be like, will we still be in recession this time next year? Will things be better?
Don’t ask me, I figure if the Bank of England can’t work it out then how the hell am I supposed to!
The anointment, I mean election of Barack Obama in the US this month brings with it an exciting new time for him and for all of us. But I often wonder to myself what it must be like to be a New President taking up office.
It’s difficult enough running a business that employs 50 or so people, but a whole country of 300 million. We have competitors that we pitch against on price, but they never try to unleash a nuclear arsenal on us. Nor we on them, we just don’t have the budget for it.
So, knowing that Mr Obama is a regularly reader of this column, because he sends me correspondence either criticising or making suggestions for new topics, I thought “What better time than right now to give him some tips on running the country.” As you do.
In thinking these principles of life through I have tried to also make this relevant to you, my other reader. So if you think I have missed any then just drop me a line at the usual location and I will be happy to add them in.
1) It’s not about data it’s about information
As a President numbers and people with opinions will surround you. But much of the time it will be almost impossible to get to the truth. Remember that information is data that is meaningful, relevant, useful, timely and accurate. Keeping one eye on the big picture and another on the minutia is an essential skill in Direct Marketing and as a President.
2) Testing is everything
Whether it be Missile Shields, Star Wars defence systems, new Levies in Louisiana or Hurricane procedures in Florida, testing is everything. Don’t just have one policy, have a number and try each of them. Over many years people will have grown accustomed to things being done a certain way. That doesn’t mean to say it’s right. In fact the longer that the “control policy” has been in place the more chance that a “test pack” might just beat it. If you don’t test, you don’t know.
3) If you fail then acknowledge your failure, learn from it and move on
We can’t all get everything right all the time. Not even you, Mr President. Mistakes are part of life’s way of teaching us lessons after we leave University. I make lots of them. But the worst kind of mistake is the one were you don’t say “Sorry, I made a mistake.” And you learn from that experience and move on. Making the same mistake twice is the worst form of mistake; it means you didn’t learn properly from it the first time. Like Guantanamo Bay. It’s a mistake, say sorry, close it and move on.
4) Listen to more than one response
Any company that on listens to one customer’s opinion is mad. In the same sense as only listening to the views of one group is wrong, whether that group be democrats, Washington Insiders or Americans. The world is filled with different colours, as are you. Being able get a sense for each of those colours and make decisions that are best for all, rather than the interests of a few is highly sensible. So no “Drill Baby, Drill” talk please.
5) Use as many media as possible
To some extent you did this in your campaign, but the new world order is about engagement and dialogue. How you include the views of everyone in an open dialogue and discourse is key to getting them to buy in to “Change”. If a river is flowing towards you it’s much harder to make progress than if you have it at your back. Using the internet and TV as a means of engaging America is crucial. As DM’ers we use all the channels at our disposal. We need to find the most efficient and effective way of getting consumers to act. No action means, no sales. No sales means, no business.
6) By consistent
And lastly the issue the issue of consistency. As DM’ers we see this all the time. One message delivered by TV, another through the Letterbox and a third over the Internet. Different graphical styles, different text, different descriptions. In other words a communications mess with a confused customer who won’t buy again. Or vote for you.
In short, being a good President is about having the good sense and skill to be able to sense the mood of the people and communicating with them in order to achieve an action, then monitoring that the action taken is still in line with the mood of the people, so that they will come back for more.
So now we have the troubles of Mr Obama sorted out there is the small issue of this side of the pond. Prime Minister, would you like to sit on the couch and take a few calming breathes before we deal with your problems. I need more space for that one.