It’s an Election Day edition of our TunesDay screed. You might think this is the one day of the year when things get political in this space and you’d be wrong. However, one thing that culminates on this day is campaigning. No matter which party you support or on which ticket you’re running, the last few weeks have been about communicating and that’s what led me to this week’s tune.
Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood was written in for Nina Simone and came out in 1964. A year later, the song was released by a British band that sped up the tempo and added a signature riff throughout. This was the result:
I’ve loved this song since then and it’s been reinterpreted by dozens of artists since its release by The Animals. To me, it makes a great point both for Election Day as well as for business.
Baby, do you understand me now?
Sometimes I feel a little mad
But don’t you know that no one alive can always be an angel
When things go wrong I feel real bad.
I’m just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood
We live in a time when communication has never been easier. Explaining how one feels or where one stands on an issue should be simple – much more so than 30 years ago when there were no digital communications. Ironically, both for politicians and for businesses, it’s exactly the opposite. The tools have made communication so simple that the noise level is almost impenetrable. There are thousands of voices competing for attention where dozens competed not long ago.
The result is that customers – and the electorate is a customer base – tend to listen to a very limited set of information. They tend to hear what they want to hear from sources that they’ve chosen out of the morass. Businesses – and political messages – get misunderstood because their messages are either unheard or undermined by competing signals (and that seems to be where our political system is these days – “gotcha” over substance).
As businesspeople we ought to be focused on not being misunderstood as much as we are on the getting a message out at all. After all, one misinformed customer can spark a firestorm of social media backlash. Election results are when we see how well understood candidates are. Every day is when you find that out about your business.
Did you vote yet?
Happy Election Day! I hope all of you here in the U.S. have voted or will do so before the day’s end. While I’ve often stated we don’t do politics in this space, I’m going to make an exception today and talk about something that’s been going in the political world that I find repugnant. I can hear you all wondering which of the hundred of things from which one can choose I’ll mention!
I’m doing so because today a business point makes the political one (usually it’s the other way around here) and they’re both instructive Think about your business and businesses in general for a minute. I know of very few that discourage customers. Some country clubs and co-op apartment complexes won’t do business with consumers wanting in. Some professionals in the service sector – doctors, some consultants – are picky about accepting new clients. That’s about it. I’m not talking about an overbooked hotel or a full restaurant – they’ll take your money but they don’t have room. Even when business is going well we all need new customers to keep it going. We’re not in the business of doing anything that suppresses consumers from becoming customers. Turning people away in good times discourages them from ever coming back, particularly when we need them the most.
Government’s consumers are voters. Part of what each citizen receives for their tax dollars along with roads, schools, and protection is the right to vote. The ability to influence everything else that the government does. The more citizens that participate in the voting process the more likely it is that those who are elected will reflect the majority will of the people, which is a good thing in my mind.
That’s why the efforts by some to suppress the vote is not only repugnant, but short-sighted. Government needs customers – voters – just as any business does. Curtailing voting hours, sending out misinformation about polling places, and positioning poll-watchers to intimidate voters discourage customers. No business can succeed doing that and maybe that’s why government is failing in many ways.
There is another truth here. No business can succeed by cheating. Neither can a political party. Voter suppression, which seems to be perpetrated by one party almost exclusively – is cheating. Suppressing the votes in areas that historically have not voted to support your candidates is wrong, and writing it off as “politics” is worse. When a business sells you something using bait and switch tactics they’re cheating and we all get angry when that deception is discovered. Maybe this kind of behavior is part of why many people feel disconnected and angry at government?
There are many ways to give feedback to a business these days and many people do so via online reviews and social media. If you’re being smart about your business you’re listening carefully to it. You’re certainly not telling customers to go away. Today is the day when all of us as customers of government have the chance to offer feedback. I’m intending to offer mine. I hope you all do the same. Let’s hope they’re listening. What do you think?
I love Election Day, mostly because the incessant political ads stop hitting every screen I have, my snail-mail box, my telephone, and the radio. Hopefully these folks will clear the roadways of their campaign detritus as well.
Of course, I love it for other reasons tool, mostly the big one – the right to vote is the single biggest freedom we have – if we can’t vote, all of the other freedoms are imperiled. Hopefully you’ve exercised that right and no complaining about results or policy if you haven’t.
Even though we don’t do politics here, let me also add that I am ashamed that someone working on behalf of either a party or candidate would engage in “voter suppression” activities. They’re vile, un-American, and unfortunately they’re very real and going on all over today. Why would anyone think they can claim a victory of any sort having done something to keep voters from expressing their will? Which leads to today’s business point. Continue reading
I’m not sure if you were one of the 250,000 or so folks who went to Jon Stewart‘s rally over the weekend or if you, like me, watched any of it on TV. For the most part, I thought it was great satire and I mean that in the purest sense of holding up a mirror to individuals or society as a whole so we can see the ridiculous nature of some of what goes on.
As you guys know, we don’t do politics here, but since Election Day is upon us, I think we can take a few of Stewart’s points, which he intended for politicians and the media, and apply them to business. Continue reading
No matter how things turn out, this election will be of historic importance. You can’t sit it out. Do so and, in my mind, you lose your right to complain about anything that your government does or doesn’t do until the next election. Lots of people have given up everything so we have the ability to express our preferences freely. Not to do so demeans those sacrifices.
So vote. Then celebrate that the hysteria, the phone calls, the awful ads and the personal attacks will stop for a week or so until the next cycle begins. Sure democracy is messy but it’s the best we’ve got until someone figures out a better way.
Go ahead – I’ll wait right here!