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BUSINESS LESSONS FROM THE 2016 US ELECTIONS by Irene Kiwia Frontline, Tanzania

Category: Latest from Our Blog

BUSINESS LESSONS FROM THE 2016 US ELECTIONS by Irene Kiwia Frontline, Tanzania

Category: Latest from Our Blog

Latest from Our Blog

BUSINESS LESSONS FROM THE 2016 US ELECTIONS by Irene Kiwia Frontline, Tanzania

I have spent the last 8 months like a lot of people hooked on this year’s US elections for many reasons; the most obvious being of course the anticipation of witnessing the first woman president of the free world.

Being a women champion and a communication enthusiast J, the 2016 US elections were somewhat of an adrenaline rush, to say the least!

I was very surprised with Trump’s win, and resorted to going back into time to understand how, what, where, when and why…this happened! It all went wrong, or did it? Anyway, here are key communication lessons to learn from the 2016 US elections: –

  1. THE PRESS TRENDS – TRADITIONAL VS SOCIAL MEDIA

The biasness of the media was evident from the word go. Traditional press machinery was pro- Clinton and Trump was portrayed as a losing candidate from the day he announced his presidency. The media manipulation was at its peak and none was the wiser.

At an era where everyone can break news and give opinions, and online ‘viral-lity’ supersedes TV ratings, Trump governed the social media. If one is to sum up the positive support for Trump on social media vs. the support on traditional media, the clarity of who takes the bigger share of voice is rather…clear.

This is a perfect example of how the traditional media has been engulfed by the social media.

Lesson: Businesses cannot ignore the social media anymore-they must invest in the digital world to reach their customers, and engage with them at the level they understand, in informal shorter characters! There are new influencers in town, and they are SOCIAL! They help shape opinions and influence reactions intimately and organically.

  1. IT’S A NEW WORLD

It’s a new world, calling for new ways of thinking, new ways of doing things; the novelty in the air is invigorating! You cannot put people in a box based on what ought to be anymore because with every second that passes, people’s perception and mindsets are evolving at a steadfast pace.

The normal norms are no longer. Lets look at everything around us… what is normal? From dress codes, to social conduct and languages that uses symbols to tell a paragraph, normality is dead! RIP

Hilary Clinton presented the “normal” candidate. Her dress code, speeches and mannerism were that of a typical politician, (well-informed on issues and policies)-whereas, Trump was trumping, from his outrageous behavior and code of conduct to his shocking lack of information on anything substantial. I did however enjoy his use of big words though. And by big I mean adjectives that emphasize like; massive, beautiful, amazing, tremendous, spectacular, et al! Now this is a language we can all understand, right? Well, clearly the voters seemed to understand his anti-establishment message put simply.

Lesson: In order to thrive, businesses should communicate in the same manner as their customers otherwise how else would they understand you? People don’t have time to analyze messages. At an era where the use of technology to simplify life is advancing rapidly so should communication campaigns be! Tremendous time!

  1. POLL WHAT?

The polls got it massively wrong!! Is it that polling techniques are outdated or people just do not care to participate in them anymore? Wait a minute: was polling advanced enough to include sms, whatsapp, Facebook, twitter and emails or is it still just COLD CALLING?? Mmmmhhhh! SMH!

Well, we have been told after the elections that the polls were ‘fool-proof’ but most Trump-leaning moderates were either non-committal in participating in the polls or they ignored them outright. This argument however, holds no water: why for instance, did these pollsters who are the ‘best in the world’ fail to reveal the apparent apathy to the polls from Trump’s sympathizers before the elections?

These could be mere insinuations from the US media (the likes of Washington Post and others) in order to save face from the resultant humiliation! But again, I might be wrong but am afraid, I could be right!

This is year 2016 when everything is almost about touching and sliding. Even pressing is becoming too difficult to handle unless the key travel fall is at a minimum.

Lesson: Yes research is still very important to business development. We must however consider capturing people’s emotions and sentiments. There are underlying reasons why people behave the way they do and perhaps businesses should invest more in articulating those underlying behaviors and taking them into consideration instead of the usual “face value” researches conducted.

Here, we are talking about the ‘new normal’ in a fast changing global “everything” landscape.

  1. TUNNEL VISIONED

The world focused so much on Trump’s imperfections and we let it blind our rational judgment of reality. With every news he broke, Trump gave us more negative things to talk about, which made us believe that the only direction he was heading was down.

The usually gullible masses were ready, this time round, to acquiescence to ‘going down’ with an ‘outsider’ (Washington has its own self-proclaimed Political Elite) and try out an ‘inexperienced’ Trump than continue ‘going down’ with an ‘experienced’ insider-talk of playing the Russian roulette!

If we were objective with our judgment we would have seen that Trump had the ear of his supporters. His message resonated and related to most voters. The American people were tired of the ‘normal’ establishment, and of getting the same promises, and not seeing changes, of not realizing the overly promised American dream.

Lesson: we should not take things on face value. We should not run campaigns that take things for granted, because we assume to know best based on how things look. KYC  – know your customers. We should not assume to do so. We should remain rational and objective irrespective of our personal feelings and emotions. In other words, the only feelings and emotions that count are those of our customers!

  1. THROUGH THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY

Having witnessed Trump endure one scandal after the other and still win the presidential seat got me thinking: does this mean that people are more forgiving nowadays? Or is it that thanks to social media, the world gets to see so many people make mistakes and hence the demise of the picture perfect phenomena; that what is scandalous has been redefined.

Lesson: What this means for businesses then is that people have seen it all, so much so that when we make mistakes what matters most is the comeback. How do we turn the mistakes into something remarkable? It could be how we talk about it, or what we do about it. In an era where we are seeing fans becoming protectors and gatekeepers for celebrities, companies can learn from this by investing and building fan bases that they can count on no matter what. In social terms this is called ride or die, I believe! How you engage your customers beyond your core products and services will help your business build a loyal fan base that will promote, protect and protest on your behalf.  In true Trump fashion and voice “If that’s not tremendously cool I don’t know what is!”

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THE STARTUP START-UP: 3 Key Guidelines

Like most people the beginning of the year serves an opportunity to reflect on previous successes and losses. I use the beginning of the year to strategize and plan on what to do. As I go through this process, this year in particular, my thoughts are locked on my journey as a “business woman”. The reason being that my country is at a time where more and more youth are opting for self-employment for many reasons, some of which might require articles of their own to explain.

In 2005, I set out on a mission to start my company. A 25 year-old young girl, fresh graduate, former beauty queen, TV presenter and new mom with very limited experience in business management. I morphed into a Managing Director of a “start-up” Public Relations and Communications firm and what I lacked in experience was compensated with sheer determination, passion, drive and an unquenchable spirit to succeed.

The common question at the time from family and friends was “why aren’t you looking for a job?”. How annoying it was to always have to explain to them ” but I already have a job” which was met by faces that looked like confused emojis! Thank God they totally get it now!

Corporate Volunteerism

Among the hindrances that I experienced in my start-up days was how tough it is to get business when one has no established track record. How does one give a “wannabe” consultant work when they have no prior experience to showcase?

This is a challenge to a lot of startups, especially those started by fresh graduates with only fieldwork experience and a lot of researched ideas from Google search.

Having survived the challenges, one of the major take-outs I can share is what I call corporate volunteerism. I knew that my first and second years in business would not be for making money but rather “gaining experience.” I basically volunteered my services for “almost nothing” just to showcase my abilities and fresh ideas. New ventures are often full of unique innovative solutions, and this is what you should leverage to get your foot or rather feet in. Knowing that the time you invest to “gain experience” will in the long run “earn you the income” you deserve and much more!

Leveraging Skills

Very often we tend to work in isolation and struggle to deliver what is needed to grow. Look around you: there is quite a large number of people out there with the skills that you need to nurture your startup. Some of these people are also looking for their big break and won’t mind “rolling with you”!

A start-up cannot afford to hire the right people for the job outright. However a startup can connect with peers on the same boat, with complimenting skills and, team up to offer their cutting edge solutions – leveraging skills is always a win-win for everybody!

I remember looking at the most crucial roles that needed to be filled in an assignment and sought out people with the right skills who were also looking to build their experience then, we teamed up to get the ball rolling. Today, some of those people went on to set up their own businesses and we are still cooperating on projects with many.

Organic Growth

Some startups are lucky to get funding from the word go and some, like in my situation, are just lucky that we have the business idea!

The whole point of a startup is getting off the ground at the most cost-effective manner. I believe organic growth to be most sustainable. Some people have great business ideas, but they won’t get started until they have the big bucks to invest in an office, buy furniture and hire an entire team outright! The end game of such ‘wholesale’ start-ups is usually not positive, with a large number crashing down with great losses.

I spent the first two years of my business being the secretary, the assistant, the tea lady, the cleaner, the receptionist, the consultant, the managing director and every other role! With every new client, I invested in more resources, more systems and structures – basically more upgrades! (I call it, “the growth by must have” aka Organic Growth!)

My advice is look at your current business situation. Yes, you need an office in the CBD, a grand reception, a clerk, and 5 departments filled with highly skilled employees, including a personal assistant, driver and a full time psychotherapist! It comes highly recommended! But the reality of the situation is that you are not there yet. So, focus on what your business can’t survive without and that is what you should invest in outright. Where possible seek innovative alternatives so as not to spend money that you don’t have. At the end of the day don’t lose sight of the long-term return on investment!

For now, let me wish you all the best on your startup journey!

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BUILDING A SUCCESSFUL CAREER: 5 USEFUL TIPS from my personal journey

BUILDING A SUCCESSFUL CAREER: 5 USEFUL TIPS

During the first week of December, I had the privilege to talk to a group of young women at the University of Dar es Salaam through ‘Her-Initiative’, a young girls’ empowerment platform. I was asked to give a presentation on “building a successful career”, a topic that got me reflecting on my own personal career and what key lessons I can share from it.

I realized that I have had the privilege to discover right from the cradle that I wanted to work in communication and media. That is after it finally dawned on me that I had the slimmest of chances of being a super model! (Blame it on the height genes, a big let down!).

After graduating from my ‘A levels’ (secondary school) in 1999, I straddled onto ITV Media (the largest media house at the time) and pretty much demanded for a job (in a much more courteous manner, of course!). Never one to be content with formal employment, my insatiable appetite to wade into the informal/private realm of communications and media continued to be whet as years wore on.

It is a lot easier when you know what you want to do with your life by the time you graduate from University. However, a lot of people don’t know, and that is ok too because you can immerse yourself in self-reflection and soul searching and the final outcome, could be the road-map for a successful career. The ability to have a vision for your future, a passion for what you do, and the drive to stick to it is key to building a successful trailblazing career.

Here are my top 5 lessons from my personal journey:

1. WHAT DO YOU STAND FOR?

When you don’t know what you stand for, you will fall for anything! The foundation to building your career begins with yourself: What are your values? I am talking about the important and lasting beliefs or ideals about what is good or bad; what’s desirable or undesirable for you.

Values have major influences on a person’s behavior and attitude and serve as broad guidelines in all situations. From deciding what career to pursue, to growing up a career ladder, values will guide you on “what, when, where, how, and with whom” to involve in making decisions that will help you determine your next phase of action.

One of my paramount personal values is leadership. This value pushed me towards opting for self-employment when I graduated from University with my first degree. When my peers were seeking formal employment, I knew the reverse was for me. So, I pursued the trail that my values curved out for me and that’s how I opened my own Public Relations company.

When you have your values in place, you will align with a career choice and path that satisfies and fulfills you as it will be adaptable to your principles of life and therefore worthy of your stand.

2. WHAT’CHU GOOD AT?

I think somewhere along the way, I got so tired of trying to make amends for my weaknesses (trust me; it’s a draining and weary path!) and just started playing and highlighting my strengths. To do that, one must first come to terms with what those strengths are, right?

So, list them down and have a field trip with them, enlist help from friends and family to enhance the list. Knowing your personal strengths and weaknesses not only gives you the insights into understanding and developing yourself, but also helps you make the right decisions.

Your greatest strengths will be what seems easy for you and probably might not be easy for everyone else. These are the things you do best and where your real talents are.

As you play out your strengths, learn to leverage on other people’s strength for the areas that you fall short on. You cannot know it all, but you can learn to exchange knowledge and skills to achieve your goals. Focusing on using your strengths to the fullest is critical because that’s where you have a competitive advantage and where you can create the most value for yourself and other people.

3. GET OUT THERE!

A job is not going to find you at home in your room, chilling and blaming it on your personal inadequacy, no! And the career ladder is not going to suddenly appear to you at your comfort zone. You must get out there and network, build a support system, enlisting assistance from people in your grid who are in positions of influence.

There are so many platforms where one can use to socialize and network with the right people, or at least the people who know the people ‘who know the right people’ (if you know what I mean).

Be strategic in your approach to career advancement: Where do you need to be, what do you need to get there, who do you need to help you get there, how do you go about it and when should you do what?

To date, I continue to plan my career roadmap. I envision where I want to be in 5 years and/or 10 years and work out a strategic map on what I need to do to get there. This requires honest, constant evaluation on whether or not I am on track and if not what must I do to get back on track.

When you approach your career path strategically you will never be caught off- guard, as you will be ready when opportunities present themselves. Think of it as being in the army: one must keep training, every day, for when war breaks, one must be in perfect shape and have the right skillsets or else… (Get the picture?)

4. GET A MENTOR

It helps a lot when you have someone to guide, shape and nudge you towards the right direction. At every step of your career seek out people who have gone through a successful path at different levels and ask them to mentor you.

People feel good when they are asked to share their knowledge and skills; it’s very rare that someone will say no to mentoring and pulling somebody else up. Make it your business to find the right people and approach them. Yes, APPROACH them!

However, you need to have done some soul searching and know where you are going so that you make it easier for the mentor to play the role of an aide. Be very specific of what it is you need help with. Learn to articulate your needs; be as direct as you can be and you will be amazed at the response.

Oftentimes we meet people who could help shape our ideas or even point us towards the right direction but fail to articulate that need and end up gushing about everything else but “the need”.

I remember when I got the opportunity to meet with the heads of Porter Novelli during a global mentorship program that I participated in, I directly expressed my interest to partner with the global PR Company. It was something that was in my “vision” from when I started my company. So I was ready, and articulate enough to present my wishes when the right opportunity reared its head. And when the partnership with Porter Novelli came through I sought out mentors to guide me. Mentorship is an evolving process where mentors get updated with times and situations.

5. DO GOOD, AND YOU SHALL DO WELL

What comes first: Money or Greatness? Some people choose to pursue Money, and that’s all they make. End of story. Some pursue Greatness after they have made the money once they realize that all the money in the world does not bring the satisfaction they long for. Others pursue greatness from day one, and the riches of the world follow, and, as promised in the Holy writ, it always does, without fail.

As you pursue your career think of the good you can do from your area of influence. Doing good should be part and parcel of your modus operandi: From the word go, how you deal with people, how you reason, your intents, your motivation and your actions should reflect the “goodness” that will ultimately add to your legacy.

When we started our company Frontline, right at the beginning when the company was still struggling, we launched Tanzania Women of Achievement (TWA), our women and girl’s empowerment platform. It later dawned on us that our passion to empower and transform marginalized girls’ lives became a reflection of what we stand for so much so that we gained incredible business credibility. And that same passion continues to ground us in how we engage with stakeholders and ultimately deliver our work.

At the end of the day we will be remembered by the mark we leave in people’s lives. How are you using your area of influence regardless of how small (you think it is) to effect positive change around you? This is a fundamental element on how great a career you will have.

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IT’S THE NEW WORLD! COMMUNICATION LESSONS FROM THE 2016 US ELECTIONS

I have spent the last 8 months like a lot of people hooked on this year’s US elections for many reasons; the most obvious being of course the anticipation of witnessing the first woman president of the free world.

Being a women champion and a communication enthusiast, the 2016 US elections were somewhat of an adrenaline rush, to say the least!

I was very surprised with Trump’s win, and resorted to going back into time to understand how, what, where, when and why…this happened! It all went wrong, or did it? Anyway, here are key communication lessons to learn from the 2016 US elections: –

 1. THE PRESS TRENDS – TRADITIONAL VS SOCIAL MEDIA

The biasness of the media was evident from the word go. Traditional press machinery was pro- Clinton and Trump was portrayed as a losing candidate from the day he announced his presidency. The media manipulation was at its peak and none was the wiser.

At an era where everyone can break news and give opinions, and online ‘viral-lity’ supersedes TV ratings, Trump governed the social media. If one is to sum up the positive support for Trump on social media vs. the support on traditional media, the clarity of who takes the bigger share of voice is rather…clear. This is a perfect example of how the traditional media is being engulfed by the social media.

Lesson: Businesses cannot ignore the social media anymore – they must invest in the digital world to reach their customers, and engage with them at the level they understand, in informal shorter characters! There are new influencers in town, and they are SOCIAL! They help shape opinions and influence reactions intimately and organically.

2.    IT’S A NEW WORLD

It’s a new world, calling for new ways of thinking, new ways of doing things; the novelty in the air is invigorating! You cannot put people in a box based on what ought to be anymore because with every second that passes, people’s perception and mindsets are evolving at a steadfast pace.

The normal norms are no longer. Lets look at everything around us… what is normal? From dress codes, to social conduct and languages that uses symbols to tell a paragraph, normality is dead! RIP

Hilary Clinton presented the “normal” candidate. Her dress code, speeches and mannerism were that of a typical politician, (well-informed on issues and policies)-whereas, Trump was trumping, from his outrageous behavior and code of conduct to his shocking lack of information on many things. I did however enjoy his use of big words though. And by big I mean adjectives that emphasize like; massive, beautiful, amazing, tremendous, spectacular, et al! Now this is a language we can all understand, right? Well, clearly the voters seemed to understand his anti-establishment message put simply.

Lesson: In order to thrive, businesses should communicate in the same manner as their customers otherwise how else would they understand you? People don’t have time to analyze messages. At an era where the use of technology to simplify life is advancing rapidly so should communication campaigns be! Tremendous times this is!

3.    POLL WHAT?

The polls got it massively wrong!! Is it that polling techniques are outdated or people just do not care to participate in them anymore? Wait a minute: has polling advanced enough to include sms, whatsapp, Facebook, twitter and emails or is it still just COLD CALLING?? Mmmmhhhh! SMH!

Well, we have been told after the elections that the polls were ‘fool-proof’ but most Trump-leaning moderates were either non-committal in participating in the polls or they ignored them outright. This argument however, holds no water: why for instance, did these pollsters who are the ‘best in the world’ fail to reveal the apparent apathy to the polls from Trump’s sympathizers before the elections? These could be mere insinuations from some of the US media in order to save face from the resultant shocker! But again, I might be wrong but am afraid, I could be right!

This is year 2016 when everything is almost about touching and sliding. Even pressing is becoming too difficult to handle unless the key travel fall is at a minimum.

Lesson: Yes research is still very important to business development. We must however consider capturing people’s emotions and sentiments. There are underlying reasons why people behave the way they do and perhaps businesses should invest more in articulating those underlying behaviors and taking them into consideration instead of the usual “face value” researches being conducted. Here, we are talking about the ‘new normal’ in a fastchanging global “everything” landscape.

4.    TUNNEL VISIONED

The world focused so much on Trump’s imperfections and we let it blind our rational judgment of reality. With every news he broke, Trump gave us more negative things to talk about, which made us believe that the only direction he was heading was down.

The usually gullible masses were ready, this time round, to acquiescence to ‘going down’ with an ‘outsider’ (Washington has its own self-proclaimed Political Elite) and try out an ‘inexperienced’ Trump than continue ‘going down’ with an ‘experienced’ insider – talk of playing the Russian roulette!

If we were objective with our judgment we would have seen that Trump had the ear of his supporters. His message resonated and related to most voters. The American people were tired of the ‘normal’ establishment, and of getting the same promises, and of not realizing the overly promised American dream.

Lesson: We should not take things on face value. We should not run communication campaigns that take things for granted, because we assume to know best based on how things look, what ought to be and our general overview of KYC – know your customers. When it comes to our consumers we should immerse deeper, listen better and sense sensibly. Businesses should remain rational and objective irrespective of our personal feelings, judgements and emotions. In other words, the only feelings, judgements and emotions that count are those of our consumers!

5.    THROUGH THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY

Having witnessed Trump endure one scandal after the other and still win the presidential seat got me thinking: does this mean that people are more forgiving nowadays? Or is it that thanks to social media, the world gets to see so many people make mistakes and hence the demise of the picture perfect phenomena; that what is scandalous has been redefined.

Lesson: What this means for businesses then is that people have seen it all, so much so that when we make mistakes what matters most is the comeback. How do we turn the mistakes into something remarkable? It could be how we talk about it, or what we do about it. In an era where we are seeing fans becoming protectors and gatekeepers for celebrities, companies can learn from this by investing and building fan bases that they can count on no matter what. In social terms this is called ride or die, I believe! How you engage your customers beyond your core products and services will help your business build a loyal fan base that will promote, protect and protest on your behalf.  In true Trump fashion and voice “If that’s not tremendously cool I don’t know what is!”