Influence in Trump’s America

Welcome to a new era in public policy.

The president will now personally play a direct role in negotiating with industry leaders. Obamacare, as we know it, is facing its final days. Immigration reform is up against the wall. Early estimates of congressional GOP tax cuts and infrastructure investments indicate they will not necessarily be deficit-neutral.

No matter your politics, it is a time to reevaluate how we communicate. The goal posts are shifting, and the lexicon – the very words and phrases underpinning public policy – is being rewritten and redefined. Americans are no longer merely fussing over where they get their news; they’re now fighting over what exactly constitutes a fact.

Every week since Election Day, we’ve placed surveys – statewide and nationwide – in the field asking the very voters who’ve reshaped our political landscape their concerns, their priorities, in their words.

Our approach is built on a three-step research model that can be applied to any public or private endeavor, from the repeal of a law to an IPO:

  1. Qualitative – Gather two dozen or more real people in a room where we create a language laboratory, testing the written and spoken words and phrases, speeches and ads … you name it.

  2. Quantitative – Take those findings and test them against a scientifically relevant sample of the key audience.

  3. Measuring Performance – Deliver language results that truly move the needle in public perception – and measure their impact and effectiveness, step by step, day by day.

If you’re not constantly challenging your industry assumptions, you’re at risk of being blindsided by subtle tide shifts in public opinion, which can swell to waves of outrage. When you rely solely on insulated corporate and political communications staff to craft your public policy, you’re not having a conversation with your audience – you’re speaking at them.

It’s no longer about the messenger – it’s about the message. A great communicator isn’t always defined by the strength of their substance or the style of their speech. As President Trump has shown us, brevity and bluntness can best the most practiced political prose.

Instant global communication is allowing a freer, faster flow of ideas – one that shortens the lifespans of terminology and cultural attitudes. What once took root for an entire generation now might last a few years – or only a few weeks. Is your story going to stick?

The party in power faces the same predicament. That the GOP finally found success in today’s digital media environment is a testament to their preparation and prowess. But, political favor ebbs and flows. They ignore Independents and Democrats at their own peril.

Still, we’re in the opening days of the Republican Renaissance, for however long it may last. Leaders at every level – of all stripes – are coming to terms with that, and looking to find their voice anew.

To strike the right chord, look no further than the public at large. Amid the shouting and the stumping, people are straining to be heard.

Americans aren’t necessarily angry with one another. They’re angry that the other side isn’t listening to them. They’re angry that their elected leaders aren’t listening to them. They’re angry that corporate America isn’t listening to them. The first step towards unity is to stop talking and start hearing the real voice of the American people.

The message you’re looking for is already out there – in living rooms, cafes, and shopping malls across America.

The question is: are you listening?

Tom Rodriguez is a communications advisor at Luntz Global.