By Goke Ilesanmi
We are now in the super-active period of electioneering in Nigeria, that is, the volatile period of political or electoral campaigns, beginning with the primary elections of political parties. It is worrisome that the political language, communication or messages of most of the political aspirants and their teeming campaign handlers and supporters during the primary elections and even now that some of the aspirants have emerged as candidates of their political parties readily show gross professional incompetence or ignorance.
Instead of focusing on articulation of manifestos and issue-based campaigns, they focus on defamation or demarketing of other candidates. Why this extreme desperation for defamation of other candidates if the major political goal is to serve the people and not for any ulterior motive?
Even in business where temptation for demarketing is naturally supposed to be high because it (business) is basically about investment of resources, profitability and struggle for market dominance, the modern language of competition is now “Cooperation and Competition” blended into a new word, a neologism tagged “Coopetition”. That means “BUSINESS IS NO LONGER WAR” contrary to the old concept of “BUSINESS IS WAR” promoted by Gore Vidal.
So, politics that is more about service to the people is not supposed to stimulate so much desperation and demarketing at all if the major goal of the candidates and their supporters is to serve the people.
But political campaign handlers and supporters ignorantly overheat the polity, especially the social media space daily and create more enemies for the candidates they want to market or sell as they predominantly dwell on demarketing or defamation of other candidates all in an ignorant bid to sell theirs to the electorate. Rule five of general persuasion says “focus on what is relevant to your audience”. I am sure the electorate will be more interested in how candidates want to better their lives as captured in the manifestos than concentration on defamation of other candidates.
It is possible to professionally apply SWOT Analysis to the manifestos of other candidates and use that strategy to effectively market or sell your candidate without mentioning, demarketing or defaming other candidates. That is, as campaign handlers or supporters, you can professionally scrutinise the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) of the manifestos of other candidates and tell the electorate that your candidate will do better things without actually referring to other candidates or their manifestos. That is, impersonal and mature communication. For instance, if other candidates promise to create two million jobs per year, you can persuasively say your candidate will create four million jobs without referring to what other candidates promise to do. That is, maturity of persuasion.
Politicians and their campaign handlers need to master political language, persuasion and communication skills because they must be able to convince the electorate and even win opposition over during electoral campaigns so that they (the electorate) can vote for them.
There is need to break the barrier of primitive persuasion and embrace application of effective persuasion if we must move forward as a nation, as individuals, organisations, etc. This is because persuasion is key to social harmony.
Persuasion is simply about convincing other people. It is noteworthy that after the unimpressive performance at the end of 2015 general elections, a major opposition political party took stock of its electoral fortunes and admitted that, among other things, the intensity of its hate campaigns (primitive persuasion) accounted for its misfortune at the poll. The party ignorantly did massive INDIRECT campaigns for the party in power now all in a fruitless attempt to discredit its presidential and other candidates. But it was counterproductive eventually. Almost all political parties, candidates, campaign handlers and supporters are guilty of hate campaigns one way or another now.
One major reason
One major reason for the prevalence of this communication barbarity in Nigeria is ignorance about political persuasion and presentation skills. That is why most of our politicians, campaign handlers and supporters abandon articulation or sale of manifestos and focus on frivolities like character assassination of other candidates. They continue in this crossfire of meaningless smear campaigns because there is demand for such by the electorate, probably due to ignorance and poverty which prevent them from demanding issue-based campaigns.
Most times, demarketing or hate campaigns backfire because they can make candidates you want to rubbish more popular. Such hate campaigns are like indirect campaigns for such candidates and your continuous de-marketing can elicit sympathy in the electorate for such candidates, especially if they (the candidates) ignore your defamation.
As a politician, you can outshine more brilliant but less articulate co-contestants if you are trained in the skills of political language, persuasion and communication. You need the skills of effective political persuasion and communication to succeed because you must be able to convince the electorate and even win opposition over during electoral campaigns so that people can vote for you.
Need for training
Politicians and their campaign handlers need to attend a political language, persuasion and presentation skills course and learn concepts and skills such as:
(1) Creative Political Campaign Strategies.
(2) Types of Political Messages and Strategic Situational Application.
(3) Application of Comparative Messages in Political Campaigns/Speeches or Brilliant Application of SWOT Analysis for Impersonal Reference to Opponents.
(4) Professional Reaction to Opponents’ Malicious (Verbal) Attacks during Political Campaigns/Speeches.
(5) How to Concentrate on Manifesto and Discard Defamation/De-marketing.
(6) Employment of Purpose Ladder Sequence for Practical Persuasion.
(7) Enhancement of Political Speeches with Persuasive Headings.
(8) Employment of Digital Tools/Social Media Platforms and Other Media for Impacts.
Other political communication skills
They will also learn other skills such as:
(9) Linguistic Diplomacy and Maturity in Political Speeches/Electoral Campaigns.
(10) Use of Powerful Intro, Agility, Deportment, Vocal Rapidity, Mixed Styles, Codemixing, Codeswitching, etc., in Political Campaigns.
(11) Use of Personal Voice, Emphasis, Rhetorical Expressions, Imperative Statements, Linguistic/Stylistic Simplicity, Complexity and Creativity in Political Campaigns.
(12) Use of Outline Notes in Public Speeches/Political Campaigns.
(13) Employment of Recognition Span and Rhythmic Eye Movement in Speech-Reading.
(14) Application of Adjectives, Adverbs, Grandiloquence, Repetitions/Synonyms, Ellipsis or Notional/Structural Cut-Off in Political Campaigns.
(15) How to Enrich Oral Political Campaigns with Effective Voice Control.
(16) Holding the Microphone Confidently and Using It to Achieve Effective Voice Control.
Politicians their campaign handlers also need to master concepts and skills such as:
(17) Strategic Decisions Critical to Political Speeches.
(18) Process of Preparing Excellent Political Speeches for Effective Delivery.
(19) Full Speech, Abridged/Executive Summary Speech and Presentation Guide.
(20) Oral Delivery Methods.
(21) How to Use Body Language to Enhance Presentations.
(22) Difference between Anxiety and Nervousness.
(23) How to Overcome Your Temporary Stuttering.
(24) How to Political Handle the Question-and-Answer Sessions with Ease.
(25) How to Motivate Audience/the Electorate with Strong Practical Commitment.
Positive intellectual mindset
So, as a political candidate, you must believe that can win elections without resorting to rigging through the skills of logical presentation, didactic articulation and linguistic simplicity and creativity. Simply put, you can achieve your political goal in life through exceptional political persuasion and presentation skills.
Any candidate that predominantly dwells on defamation or demarketing of others candidates or opponents is simply confirming the fact that he or she does not have any genuine manifesto or programme to present to the electorate. So also, the campaign handlers of candidates that resort to hate campaigns instead of issue-based campaigns or articulation of manifestos are simply confirming that they lack direction or have no programmes with which to persuade the electorate.
Just imagine a situation in which a marketer goes out to market to prospective buyers and instead of focusing on the qualities of his or her and the need for prospects to buy, he or she spends 99 or 100 per cent of the whole time condemning all other competing products. That demarketing of other products does not still project the qualities of his or her products. And another error is that he or she has only succeeded in telling or reminding the prospects that there are other competing products and has kept the memory of those other products in prospects’ minds. That is not wise enough.
In a related development, any political candidate that is focused on demarketing is like an examination candidate that concentrates the larger part of his or her time on reporting other candidates making noise, wandering and/or sleeping in an examination hall. Such an examination candidate has simply shown that he or she does not understand the subject or course he or she is writing.
First rule of persuasion
It is noteworthy that the first rule of persuasion is to establish your credibility, that is, believability. Politically, thus, there is need for credibility or believability of a message and even of those delivering the message, that is, the candidates and campaign handlers.
To achieve this, there should not be intimidation, expression of desperation in the form defamation or demarketing of opponents, confrontation or abuse of other candidates or those not yet persuaded by the message, etc. The message must also be devoid of suspicion of class, religious or ethnic agenda to be able to radiate credibility.
As already said, also important is the credibility or integrity of the candidates and campaign handlers. Their public credibility, reputation or perception will determine the level of enthusiastic acceptability of the message.
The fact must be stressed at this analytical juncture that credibility equally varies and is contextual. Credibility can be moral, social, intellectual, psychological, temporal (time-related), practical, vocational, theoretical, etc., depending on what a situation or context predominantly demands.
As regards intellectual credibility for instance, before you can voluntarily sit down to listen to somebody for impartation of knowledge, you must have had the confidence or assurance that he or she is intellectually qualified to impart the knowledge.
Moral credibility is about the ability of someone to have proven to have high ethical standards or value over a period of time. As far as context is concerned, for instance, if you want to attend a post-graduate course in Business Management in a university and you are given an option of choosing between an intellectually-sound but morally-corrupt lecturer and a morally-upright but intellectually-average lecturer, the better of the two lecturers in this context is the first one that is intellectually-sound but morally-corrupt. This is because you are in the university basically to acquire knowledge and not to upgrade your morality. After all, you will be assessed on the basis of your intellectual competence in the course at the end of the day not on the level of your morality.
In contrast, if you are asked to choose between a highly-intellectual but morally-decadent religious leader or preacher and a highly-moral but intellectually-average religious leader or preacher, the appropriate choice in this context is the one endowed with a reservoir of morality. This is because in the religious places of worship, it is about walking the talk or living an exemplary life not just intellectual acumen without morality.
Often times, credibility is not about status but psychology of practical ability. For instance, if an organisation wants to organise a seminar on punctuality and wants one of the staff is to be the speaker, a staff-member that people will be willing to listen to and that can effectively persuade them to embrace punctuality is the one that comes early and regularly to the office irrespective of his or her official position or title. So, an intelligent senior staff-member that usually comes late to the office lacks the temporal credibility to persuasively speak on the topic because he or she does not put what he wants to teach to practice. So psychologically, staff will not be persuaded by whatever he or she may be saying.
In the same vein, if you want to learn about practical business management skills, for instance, you will psychologically prefer a billionaire entrepreneur such as Alhaji Aliko Dangote to a theoretically or academically sound Harvard University Professor of Business Management that does not manage any business.
Candidates and campaign handlers
So political candidates and their campaign handlers need to be conscious of the different types of credibility and context central to efficacy of persuasion and exhibit varied relevant credibility to succeed in their efforts. They must be reputable, maintain social credibility in terms of human relations, have a good dose of morality and be intellectually sound.
They must avoid confrontation, controversies, etc. A credible or lovable candidate may end up having many enemies through unprofessional, confrontational, anti-social, immoral or abusive campaign handlers. That is why corporate organisations are careful about the choice of brand ambassadors they engage as their corporate representatives because their (ambassadors’) reputation will either enhance or rubbish the overall public perception and corporate reputation of such organisations, too.
Another rule of persuasion is that you should never expect an immediate positive response.
Building your persuasive message or case slowly but steadily will improve your chances of success in terms of persuasion. So, campaign handlers must not compel the electorate to embrace their message immediately.
It is like the advertisements of some products on television or radio. The advertisements may not appeal to us the first few times we hear them. But with time, we just discover that we have mastered all the wording of the formerly “anonymous” advertisements and we are even ready to buy the products because persistent persuasion has made us accord the products recognition eventually.
On a lighter note, stories abound of men that say their wives did not give them a definite positive answer the first day they proposed marriage to them. But with persistence of persuasion, the women were able to confirm the genuineness of the marriage proposal and marry them. If those men had forced such women to give them an immediate positive answer, the women might have given them a negative answer because it would have clearly shown that such men were actually not looking for wives but mere girlfriends needed to fulfil their despicable sexual desire.
Another related rule of persuasion says you must learn from rejection. That is, as candidates or campaign handlers, even if you try to persuade some electorate and you are totally rejected, you need to be calm and receptive to the outright rejection. You may even try to ask why such people reject you as candidates or your candidates if are campaign handlers so that you can make amends where necessary. And you may achieve a better result through the adjustment made in response to honest rejection. In fact, those who have earlier rejected you may later be persuaded by your message because of your exemplary humility, flexibility, sociability, personality, etc.
You should also know that it is not possible to convince everybody. Some will be supporters of other candidates or political parties while some that reject you as candidates or reject your candidates if you are campaign handlers may not even be supporters of any candidate or political party. But forcing, confronting or insulting those who refuse to be persuaded or support your cause will definitely rubbish your reputation as a candidate and project you as being desperate. The same thing applies to rude and unprofessional campaign handlers, too.
Starting criticism with objective commendation
As a political candidate, if the occasion demands comparison of your manifesto to those of other candidates in an organised debate, for instance, endeavour to begin on a positive note by first emphasising the strengths of other candidates’ manifestos. Then, without condemning theirs, professionally focus on how yours can proffer better solutions to identified problems or bring about greater development.
In the same vein, if as a candidate, you want to use the current deplorable state of the economy as a basis for justifying why you need to be voted into office, you can do so professionally without being abusive. You do not need to start by condemning the current government’s efforts totally.
The better approach is to first appreciate what the current government has done and then tell the electorate that the current realities have shown that the best of the current government is not enough to put things right and then prove how you want to improve the situation of things. Use your explanation to justify why you need to be voted into office to remedy the situation.
So, beginning criticism objectively and positively without defamation or insults naturally allows your listeners, electorate and even the people you are impersonally or professionally criticising to be persuaded by your points.
For instance, just imagine someone praising you for a long time and then casually drawing your attention to one habit that you need to discard. You will naturally not feel offended but will rather appreciate the friendly advice. However, your reaction will naturally be different if the person begins with harsh criticism or condemnation and even ends without mentioning any positive thing about you.
Political candidates and their campaign handlers and supporters should concentrate on issue-based campaigns, avoid use of foul language, defamation of other candidates and undergo professional Political Language, Persuasion and Presentation training to achieve effective persuasion and entrench political atmosphere of peace and development.
PS: For those making inquiries about our CV/Profile Writing and Speech Writing Services; Political Persuasion and Presentation Course; General Public Speaking and Business Presentation Course; Professional Writing Course, etc., please visit the website indicated on this page for details.
GOKE ILESANMI (FIIM, FIMC, CMC), CEO of Gokmar Communication Consulting, is an International Platinum Columnist, Professional Public Speaker, Career Mgt Coach and Certified Mgt Consultant. He is also a Book Reviewer, Biographer and Editorial Consultant. Tel: 08056030424; 08055068773; 08187499425