Career 06 May 2018
After 15 years of consistent growth in the media industry, digital executive Fran Hauser was writing a post-grad playbook of how to launch a successful career when she received an overwhelming response from a blog post she published on succeeding as a “nice" girl.
“It's not just about winning, it's about how you win," shares Hauser on her decision to pivot her book's message to shatter the nuances between the correlation of success and kindness with “The Myth of the Nice Girl."
“It became clear I had struck a chord; this was a topic women were thinking about and they were struggling with."[thb_image full_width="true" alignment="center" image="9774" img_size="full"]
The original idea came to Hauser in 2009 when she was serving as the President of Digital at Time Inc. and realized connections from earlier in her career were reappearing in her professional life, which she ultimately ties back to how she built her brand. “If you win in a way that is not aligned with your values and you are hurting people in the process, that's going to come back to bite you; people's memories are long."
For Hauser, these values were kindness and strength--defying the mentality that you need one or the other in order to be successful. This, therefore, became a key message in “The Myth of the Nice Girl" as Hauser highlights the potential to lead with both kindness and strength through a combination of personal stories and anecdotes from notable names in her personal circle. Among them are Mindy Grossman, Susan Canavari, and Blake Lively, who support Hauser's personal narrative with tips and techniques from topics in their relevant fields, addressing mentorship to evidence-based confidence. “They are all women that really 'walk the talk' in terms of bringing both kindness and strength into their professional lives," says Hauser. “I really wanted them to share something that would deeply and richly support one chapter."
“It's not just about winning, it's about how you win," shares Hauser on her decision to pivot her book's message to shatter the nuances between the correlation of success and kindness with “The Myth of the Nice Girl."Hauser, herself, is seemingly a woman who “walks the talk" as she shares her experiences from building PEOPLE.com to advising consumer-facing companies, while remaining true to some of her strongest character attributes, which she defines as empathetic, collaborative and confident that there are enough opportunities to go around. “The last part is really important because it's this whole abundance attitude rather than a scarce mindset; when you have that [abundance], you're more generous."
Relating it to an experience in her early career at AOL, Hauser explained how she was promoted frequently but there was a coworker who viewed this growth as “overly ambitious." In one of the key messages of “The Myth of the Nice Girl," Hauser explores the idea that you can be ambitious and likable. “I didn't do it in a way where I was stepping on toes or being disrespectful. I was doing good work and, in that process, developing really great relationships with people."
She explains the ambitious-likeability factor as a double standard that you can take control of based on how you create “opportunities for yourself, while also elevating others." Along with describing this correlation, Hauser highlights the necessary balance between direct and kind feedback; firm and collaborative decisions; caring too much and setting boundaries; as well as strategic and empathetic negotiations.
“I'm not a pushover or a people pleaser. I'm direct," she says on the ability to depict the book's chapters on these coexisting qualities that are often overlooked.
She concludes with the take-home message, which is also the underlying theme throughout her book; finding the balance boils down to the interactions you have and relationships you develop. “Try to get into the other person's head, understand what's motivating them, what they value," she says, “because when you do that, it's empathy, and that will allow you to connect with anyone on a much deeper level."
“The Myth of the Nice Girl" is in bookstores now, and while Hauser first published it to encourage women in their early careers to excel with kindness, she's found a response from women of all ages as a transformative, learning experience.
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.