This Tuesday, Americans will go to the polls to elect the next President. While it is a little early to evaluate the overall effectiveness of the Obama campaign vs. the McCain campaign (the voters get to decide that), it is not too soon to start analyzing which tactics have worked well. Furthermore, if you listen to political pundits from both political persuasions, you will note that most agree that Obama has been much more consistent in his message and that this consistency has worked well for him tactically.
In contrast, few would say that McCain has been consistent. One week his campaign is accusing Obama of “palling around with terrorists”, the following week he is accusing Obama of being a Socialist and now, right before the election, he is focused on how Obama will raise your taxes.
Obama, on the other hand, has presented a very consistent message (i.e. that the middle class has been deeply hurt in the pocket book in the last eight years and that his administration will change some of the policies that caused this.)
The career lesson (or communication lesson) is clear. Picking a message and staying on that message is more effective than a shotgun approach. If you are looking for a job, don’t try to be all things to all employers. For example, if you are looking for a position as a litigation associate, don’t tell your audience that you are also happy to do work in their real estate or corporate practice groups. If you have two good examples of relevant work that you did in your current job, then don’t dilute your message by discussing less relevant work you did as a summer associate.
Telling stories is one effective way to sell yourself and stay on message. Find some good anecdotes which illustrate your past successes and make good use of them. Use the stories to reinforce your central message. Harrison Barnes, BCG’s CEO, just wrote an article about this. He talks about how Turkish rug merchants use stories to cultivate relationships with their prospective buyers. Follow his advice and maybe you too will have a shot at the Presidency!