If you look at political marketing, and the place to look for a serious PhD in communications and their segmentation is Obama’s campaign 2008 and 2012, for which there are plenty of books and papers, you’ll see that segmentation of the message is not even a question. You don’t go to them asking ‘do you segment?’ That would be the same as asking a restaurateur if he puts food on the table.
In these campaigns, the ‘data points’ per voter went into the hundreds. The entire communication system was tailored to segments of age, race, schooling, and another myriad of elements.
There is a wonderful clip on the web of Walter, a 90-year-old veteran campaigning via phone and a laptop, where a precise script is in front of his eyes, and a precise list of people to call. I have used this with my clients multiple times. We can only hear the voice at the other end of the phone, and it’s not one of a 25 year old. It sounds like one of his age or a bit below. Walter is asking for a vote but is not talking about an Iran threat, climate change, or education. None of it. It’s all healthcare. Nothing else.
When confronted with the clip, the first reaction by people in the room is ‘well, that’s obvious’. But then they have to suspend judgement about what may come after the obvious. I ask, when was the last time that you, in your internal, top down communication system, of the vision, the strategy, the ‘what’s next’ or the ‘what has just been’, segmented the message, a la Walter, versus one, single, monolithic, top down stack of PowerPoints shown at the all-people Town Hall meeting?
Invariably the answer is, don’t know, probably never. I think it is never.
The company, your company, probably, has Millennials mixed with Boomers, single mums and not, age bands with particular preoccupations, tribes (engineers, accountants, marketers etc.) speaking their own language, people in HQ and people outside, those feeling pretty OK and those worrying about the question mark over the site, passionate ones engaged with charities, super skilled and perhaps no skilled or very little, the secretaries tribe, the new in the company and those who have been there for years. Do I need to carry on? Why is it, for goodness’ sake, that everybody, I mean everybody, gets the same message, in the same format, at the same time? On behalf of what? Unity? Alignment? Democracy?
It’s simply crazy. Yes, you need a single, overall compelling narrative. But you need to segment, segment and segment the message. I know, this is not the conventional wisdom in ‘business’. But we, ‘in business’ are miles behind what happens in other parts of life where mobilizing people is the key. Perhaps this is why we have rather pathetic Employee Engagement practices.