Remember when Bill Clinton beat Bush I with the simplest and smartest of messages - It's the Economy Stupid. Well guess what candidates - it's time for new messages. It's time to stop running around talking about big problems that require huge amounts of money. Talk to the American people about how scared they are. Stem the panic. Give them hope.
I have spent the last two election seasons totally frustrated by both Democrats and Republicans who never seem to get what the American people really want. On Tuesday night - as Americans watched their financial future take a total nosedive - the debate never got to the issue of what either candidate really intended to do about it.
Instead they took jabs at each other- you voted for it, you didn't vote for that, it's your party's fault, no it's your fault, I'm smarter, I'm more committed, it went on and on until it all became stupid droning elevator music. Why was the debate considered a tie? Because neither candidate said anything they haven't said many times before.
When it came to foreign policy - I wanted John McCain. Even though I don't agree with him on much he sounded more confident, like someone who could figure it out. When it came to the economy I wanted Obama - despite the finger pointing at least he got that the middle class is so unbelievably screwed. And he says he wants to do something about it.
Anyway what I realized, from a communications perspective, is I'm frustrated as hell - as my 401K disappears and the world financials crash - I want to know this is being addressed - at the highest levels of the world. I want messages. I want hope.
So here are the messages I would use if I was running for president - or if I was president. At the very least one of the top advisors for any of these people. Because they don't get it either.
CEOs could use these messages too - they are big, generic and hopeful. And that's what people need. It's like talking to a four year-old, acknowledge how upset he is, do something to make him feel better, focus him on the next thing.
1. This is Not the Great Depression - it's not folks. It's an absolute mess and there are many economic indicators out there that say it may continue for awhile - but it's not 1929. That market was completely different, we didn't have government involvement and they just let that sucker crash. This time it's not like that.
2. World Leaders are Working on This. We are doing everything that we can to stop this but it may go on for awhile. It's going to be a wild ride but we'll make it. It's not an American disaster it's a world disaster. And we are trying to fix it on that level - which takes time.
3. Americans Must Come Together as a Nation Now. Actually Obama started to say this in the debate and then he didn't really finish it but it's a great message. After 9-11 everyone in this country came together regardless of party, status, race, religion, it didn't matter. We were all Americans who wanted to help each other. We need to get back to that feeling - it was so positive - so we can do anything if we come together. And Americans need that now.
4. What Goes Up Must Come Down and It Will Go Back Up Again. The financial markets will recover and so will this country. The American dream isn't dead it's just on hold for awhile. Hang in there. Better times are ahead.