A big chunk of your target audience is not on side. Many are not really interested in giving you a hearing. You’ve got to cut through, capture their attention, persuade them of your argument. Ultimately you need them to back you. So what should be your first big set-piece event?
This was the dilemma facing Owen Smith, the challenger in the Labour leadership contest, this week.
Whatever the ultimate outcome, I think he made some pretty good choices.
There are plenty of arguments about entryism and the hard left taking over the party but Jeremy Corbyn’s mandate also came from long standing members who feel disenfranchised. He offered something different.
Those on the hard left are unlikely to change their vote. So to stand a chance of becoming leader of the Labour Party, Owen Smith needs to win over everyone else. He’s got to convince them he’s the one to back.
This week he made a big set-piece speech. His rhetoric was firmly left wing in tone; tackling job insecurity, workplace discrimination and arguing for a radical agenda. Looking at the text I think he’s done three things businesses devising their messages should do.
1. He’s listened to party members and taken the time to identify their concerns. He’s thought about the priorities of his target audience.
2. He’s thought about the opposition, identifying the equivalent of the gap in the market.
3. He knows what he stands for and he’s couching it in terms designed to fill the gap and appeal to his targets.
In most situations, rhetoric will only get you so far (I fervently hope it isn’t, but this one might be different). There needs to be substance, something real sitting beneath the messages.
In Owen Smith’s case this means clear, deliverable policies. The 50p tax rate, 4% extra funding a year for the NHS, the abolition of zero hours contracts and building 1.5 million homes over five years, amongst others.
For a business this means a reality that underpins the promise. If you promise great service, be sure that’s the experience of your customers. If you say your products are effective then they have to be good at the job.
To add theatre to his message Owen Smith picked the perfect venue, an industrial estate that’s home to businesses we want more of and near to Orgreave, site of key battles in the miners’ strike. Picking a location so intertwined with the emotions of the target electorate was bound to focus all eyes on him.
Owen Smith still has a mountain to climb, but whatever the final outcome I believe he’s made a good start.
Here’s to another interesting summer!