Message Consistency, Political Style
Pity the poor Republican Party. Senator John Cornyn of Texas (where I am writing this post) who chairs the campaign committee for Senate Republicans, is trying mightily to get his Party members in line from a messaging standpoint. He was quoted in the New York Times that he "was not happy when he heard other Republicans toss around the term 'racist'" about Supreme Court nominee Sonya Sotomayor.
“We are going to treat this nominee with the respect that she is entitled to,” Mr. Cornyn said in an interview this week.
Mr. Cornyn personifies the competing pressures Republicans face as they sort through how to handle the nomination of Judge Sotomayor, who is under attack from the right but is a symbol of pride for Hispanic Americans.
As a conservative former Texas Supreme Court justice, Mr. Cornyn might be expected to make a tough intellectual case against Judge Sotomayor. But as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, he also has to worry about how the confirmation battle plays across the nation. And his own future back home is somewhat tied to Hispanics who will be closely watching the confirmation proceedings.
One presumes his views may have influenced Newt Gingrich to dial back his remarks, admitting his initial statements were too extreme. But think about Cornyn's immense charter -- and the Party's issue in general regarding messaging. How do you get everyone in line and consistent when you don't have immediate authority or oversight over them?
We recently helped a global company conduct a worldwide launch of one of their brands. A key element of the launch was consistency of core messages in all of the regions. Naturally, there had to be some regional variations, but the overarching positioning had to be consistent for this to reestablish this brand competitively in the strongest way possible. We conducted message training with all key regional spokespeople as part of this successful launch which resulted in measurable consistency of message pull-through in all regions. The training was key, but even more critical was the emphasis on the importance of this consistency from the President and COO, who essentially led the launch and set the example by participating in message training himself.
As I read Gingrich's original attack on Sotomayor and then his recanting of his statement and Cornyn's interview, which seems to be an attempt to get other Republicans -- in office and otherwise -- to think before they speak and consider the larger Party issues at stake before spouting off, I realized just how massive an undertaking this is. Someone needs to get everyone in line and singing from the same hymnal when the stakes are high. I give credit to Cornyn for trying.