We're sure you've all heard stories of how hard it was in “the olden days" to do a variety of things we do today with the push of a button, or maybe you've heard about how someone walked five miles in the snow to go to school. You needn't journey back that far to imagine the pure nightmare it would be for you without your cell phone, internet or GPS.
For those of you who grew up with these gems of technology, these tools are as ordinary as bottled water. But for those of us growing up in the 60s and 70s, before they were commonplace, we never felt the lack of something we never knew.
Let's journey back a little to the 1970s and take a glimpse at life without these tools. To make it more fun, how about doing some job-hunting? I've been through this process both in the 70's and currently, and I couldn't be more appreciative of how much easier the process is now.
1. You wake up and immediately scan LinkedIn or Indeed.com to see what's available, right? Uh-uh! You've no internet, so you must get dressed and go pick up an actual newspaper to check out the “want ads."
Remember, even before the advent of the internet, networking was always important when job hunting. If you know it will be kept confidential, let your friends and business associates know you're looking. Most of the jobs I landed were actually through referrals from former bosses, co-workers or friends who had moved on to other companies. It's a lot easier now to contact those sources by email or text than when I had to play telephone tag before I reached them!
2. After identifying some prospects, you write a quick cover letter with a resume and email it to your prospects. No, No! Without email, you'll manually type a cover letter and prepare a resume. No computers yet.
Ugh, I remember when I had to do this. You might type your resume and then realize you wanted to change or reorder part of it, or maybe you wanted to experiment with different fonts (yes, Selectric typewriters had a changeable typeface). There was no cutting and pasting or selecting and changing. You had to start all over again. Then we had to take a perfect original and have it photocopied. You protected that original as though it were a world-changing document. Now you may go to the printer and have them run off some copies right from your phone. Also, if your job entails a portfolio, you can have it shown right from your iPad instead of carrying around a large, difficult-to-carry presentation.
3. Now, you'll either hand deliver or mail the hard copies. You may prefer hand delivery to insure they'll arrive more quickly.
4. For the next few days, you wait at home for a response, because without a cell phone you can't be reached if you're out and voice mail is still waiting to be invented.
That was terribly inconvenient, but unless you had a telephone sitter at home while you did some errands, you might miss that call.
5. One of your prospects finally calls to set up an interview. You usually Google the prospective employer so you'll have some input during the interview. Without the internet, you'll have to go to the library and use their reference books or buy some business magazines.
I still believe it's important to know as much as you can about a company before an interview. Besides helping you to ask the right questions, you might find something that makes you change your mind about pursuing this job. Remember, they need your approval as much as you need theirs!
After identifying some prospects, you write a quick cover letter with a resume and email it to your prospects. No, No! Without email, you'll manually type a cover letter and prepare a resume. No computers yet. (Photo by REX)
6. The day of the interview arrives, and you're eager to create a good impression, so you head out early to make sure you have no trouble finding the office. Uh! Oh! No GPS. You'll have to get a paper map. Maybe you can find a gas station that carries them.
Since I worked in New York City for most of my career, it was always finding the quickest mass transit route to take. Sometimes, I would make a dry run before the interview day just to see how long it would take. Besides the GPS, you now get this information right online, both the route and the average time it will take, whether by car or public transit.
7. Now you're on your way, armed with a genuine paper map, and you find yourself in a huge traffic jam. You'll just call your interviewer's office and explain, but there's no cell phone, so you search frantically for a pay telephone. None in sight. After all, you're on a busy highway. Then it starts to rain, and you realize you should have waited for the weather forecast at the end of the news. No, there's no weather app to scroll.
Besides no weather app, there was no cable, thus no weather channel, so the weather was always at the end of the news. Who had time to wait for that when you're getting ready for an interview?
I want to highlight something that was better in the "olden days." After interviews, the company always contacted you, either by mail or phone, to say whether you got the job, or they hired someone else.
8. An hour late, you reach your destination, a bit disheveled from the stress of it all and quite soaking wet from walking from the parking lot with no umbrella or raincoat.
You probably should still come prepared for the unexpected by throwing a few extras in your bag: i.e., umbrella, extra copies of your resume, etc.
9. It's difficult to stay confident and positive when you look like a drowned rat, but you do your best to ace the interview and just hope for the best. Despite the anxiety-ridden start, the interview does go well, and you're told you will be called in a few days.
I want to highlight something that was better in the “olden days." After interviews, the company always contacted you, either by mail or phone, to say whether you got the job, or they hired someone else. If you're a writer, you may spend your weekend doing a week's worth of articles and edits as part of the interview process, or you might go on 5 interviews with one company, and they don't get back to you either way! I remember just such a time, I had at least 5 interviews with the same company, and on the fifth one, when I stopped at the security desk for a pass, the guard recognized me but thought I worked there and just forgot my pass. That company never got back to me, and when I called for the status, they always said they had made no decisions yet. So maybe, that's the one facet of job-searching we wish would have remained in place.
10. Again, you wait for a call and even answer the phone with your normal voice whenever it rings.
This is opposed to the fake accent I used when I wasn't expecting any calls and didn't know who was calling. Without caller ID, you didn't want to take any chance of being trapped by a salesperson or someone else with whom you have no interest in talking.
Halleluiah, you got the job! Now come back to the current world and use all your tech tools, because you have been hired as a marketing director, and we won't even scare you with how you would have to do this job without them!
Not too many years ago, my advice to political candidates would have been pretty simple: "Don't do or say anything stupid." But the last few elections have rendered that advice outdated.
When Barack Obama referred to his grandmother as a "typical white woman" during the 2008 campaign, for example, many people thought it would cost him the election -- and once upon a time, it probably would have. But his supporters were focused on the values and positions he professed, and they weren't going to let one unwise comment distract them. Candidate Obama didn't even get much pushback for saying, "We're five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." That statement should have given even his most ardent supporters pause, but it didn't. It was in line with everything Obama had previously said, and it was what his supporters wanted to hear.
2016: What rules?
Fast forward to 2016, and Donald Trump didn't just ignore traditional norms, he almost seemed to relish violating them. Who would have ever dreamed we'd elect a man who talked openly about grabbing women by the **** and who was constantly blasting out crazy-sounding Tweets? But Trump did get elected. Why? Some people believe it was because Americans finally felt like they had permission to show their bigotry. Others think Obama had pushed things so far to the left that right-wing voters were more interested in dragging public policy back toward the middle than in what Trump was Tweeting.
Another theory is that Trump's lewd, crude, and socially unacceptable behavior was deliberately designed to make Democrats feel comfortable campaigning on policies that were far further to the left than they ever would have attempted before. Why? Because they were sure America would never elect someone who acted like Trump. If that theory is right, and Democrats took the bait, Trump's "digital policies" served him well.
And although Trump's brash style drew the most handlines, he wasn't the only one who seemed to have forgotten the, "Don't do or say anything stupid," rule. Hillary Clinton also made news when she made a "basket of deplorables" comment at a private fundraiser, but it leaked out, and it dogged her for the rest of the election cycle.
And that's where we need to start our discussion. Now that all the old rules about candidate behavior have been blown away, do presidential candidates even need digital policies?
Yes, they do. More than ever, in my opinion. Let me tell you why.
Digital policies for 2020 and beyond
While the 2016 election tossed traditional rules about political campaigns to the trash heap, that doesn't mean you can do anything you want. Even if it's just for the sake of consistency, candidates need digital policies for their own campaigns, regardless of what anybody else is doing. Here are some important things to consider.
Align your digital policies with your campaign strategy
Aside from all the accompanying bells and whistles, why do you want to be president? What ideological beliefs are driving you? If you were to become president, what would you want your legacy to be? Once you've answered those questions honestly, you can develop your campaign strategy. Only then can you develop digital policies that are in alignment with the overall purpose -- the "Why?" -- of your campaign:
- If part of your campaign strategy, for example, is to position yourself as someone who's above the fray of the nastiness of modern politics, then one of your digital policies should be that your campaign will never post or share anything that attacks another candidate on a personal level. Attacks will be targeted only at the policy level.
- While it's not something I would recommend, if your campaign strategy is to depict the other side as "deplorables," then one of your digital policies should be to post and share every post, meme, image, etc. that supports your claim.
- If a central piece of your platform is that detaining would-be refugees at the border is inhumane, then your digital policies should state that you will never say, post, or share anything that contradicts that belief, even if Trump plans to relocate some of them to your own city. Complaining that such a move would put too big a strain on local resources -- even if true -- would be making an argument for the other side. Don't do it.
- Don't be too quick to share posts or Tweets from supporters. If it's a text post, read all of it to make sure there's not something in there that would reflect negatively on you. And examine images closely to make sure there's not a small detail that someone may notice.
- Decide what your campaign's voice and tone will be. When you send out emails asking for donations, will you address the recipient as "friend" and stress the urgency of donating so you can continue to fight for them? Or will you personalize each email and use a more low-key, collaborative approach?
Those are just a few examples. The takeaway is that your online behavior should always support your campaign strategy. While you could probably get away with posting or sharing something that seems mean or "unpresidential," posting something that contradicts who you say you are could be deadly to your campaign. Trust me on this -- if there are inconsistencies, Twitter will find them and broadcast them to the world. And you'll have to waste valuable time, resources, and public trust to explain those inconsistencies away.
Remember that the most common-sense digital policies still apply
The 2016 election didn't abolish all of the rules. Some still apply and should definitely be included in your digital policies:
- Claim every domain you can think of that a supporter might type into a search engine. Jeb Bush not claiming www.jebbush.com (the official campaign domain was www.jeb2016.com) was a rookie mistake, and he deserved to have his supporters redirected to Trump's site.
- Choose your campaign's Twitter handle wisely. It should be obvious, not clever or cutesy. In addition, consider creating accounts with possible variations of the Twitter handle you chose so that no one else can use them.
- Give the same care to selecting hashtags. When considering a hashtag, conduct a search to understand its current use -- it might not be what you think! When making up new hashtags, try to avoid anything that could be hijacked for a different purpose -- one that might end up embarrassing you.
- Make sure that anyone authorized to Tweet, post, etc., on your behalf has a copy of your digital policies and understands the reasons behind them. (People are more likely to follow a rule if they understand why it's important.)
- Decide what you'll do if you make an online faux pas that starts a firestorm. What's your emergency plan?
- Consider sending an email to supporters who sign up on your website, thanking them for their support and suggesting ways (based on digital policies) they can help your messaging efforts. If you let them know how they can best help you, most should be happy to comply. It's a small ask that could prevent you from having to publicly disavow an ardent supporter.
- Make sure you're compliant with all applicable regulations: campaign finance, accessibility, privacy, etc. Adopt a double opt-in policy, so that users who sign up for your newsletter or email list through your website have to confirm by clicking on a link in an email. (And make sure your email template provides an easy way for people to unsubscribe.)
- Few people thought 2016 would end the way it did. And there's no way to predict quite yet what forces will shape the 2020 election. Careful tracking of your messaging (likes, shares, comments, etc.) will tell you if you're on track or if public opinion has shifted yet again. If so, your messaging needs to shift with it. Ideally, one person should be responsible for monitoring reaction to the campaign's messaging and for raising a red flag if reactions aren't what was expected.
Thankfully, the world hasn't completely lost its marbles
Whatever the outcome of the election may be, candidates now face a situation where long-standing rules of behavior no longer apply. You now have to make your own rules -- your own digital policies. You can't make assumptions about what the voting public will or won't accept. You can't assume that "They'll never vote for someone who acts like that"; neither can you assume, "Oh, I can get away with that, too." So do it right from the beginning. Because in this election, I predict that sound digital policies combined with authenticity will be your best friend.