As we settle into the new reality of American political society, it’s interesting to think about what, as an industry, we need to learn.
However you lean politically, if you’ve been elated or despondent over the last days, there is no escaping the fact that this election proved us all, in some way, wrong. About what people care about, about critical issues, about the moods of an entire country. Very few of us saw this coming. On either side.
Many people talk about the bias of conviction. That, regardless of the data put in front of us, we will interpret it in a way that fits our worldview, moral code, or just current mood. And today, inside our curated digital worlds, it’s easier than ever to have those biases affirmed.
We will never be able to take our own emotions out of the work we do. But how do we make sure we’re really listening to the sentiments, positive and negative, of our target audiences? How do we make sure our messages are the right ones with which to make a positive impact for our clients?
This last week has showed us that we can’t rely on polling and digital data alone. That they can overlook nuance, or when put through our own filters, even be misinterpreted entirely.
What about getting back to the practice of listening closely to the audiences we need to reach? Remember ethnographic studies in living rooms with real voices and feelings?
We need to remember that it’s through true immersion that actionable insights can emerge. And that analog data in today’s digital world is still very important.
I’m not suggesting the miraculous digital tools at our fingertips today aren’t changing our industry for the better. But I do think this election has showed us that we cannot dismiss the value of personal relationships, human contact and the practice of understanding and accepting behaviors and motivations we may never encounter on our own.
We’ve heard a lot about the need for inclusion lately. If we consider it our job to create the kinds of communications for our clients that will reach the right audiences at the right time and with the right message, then we need to listen like we haven’t had to before. As absent of our own biases as possible, and with an open and curious mind.