MWAURA: How to be in sync with the masses by appealing to brain, heart and stomach

In Summary
  • If you aim to succeed with the masses, you need to zero down your communication to three parts of the body—the head, heart and stomach.
  • Helping a needy case, how you dress, language, your rallies, roadshows, entertainment and other promotional materials count for a premium.

Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka addressing Machakos residents on Thursday during his campaign.
Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka addressing Machakos residents on Thursday during his campaign.

The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has happened”— George Benard Shaw

Dear reader, thanks for your continued loyalty.

Last week’s article generated heated debate. Today, we shall look at political connection through communication.

Have you ever wondered how a car resembles an animal, say, a horse or an ox? Look, the contraption has a head with the windscreen representing the face, The side mirrors look like ears, the side windows like the eyes, the bonnet resembles both the nose (breather) and the mouth, the boot represents the tail, the wheels are on all fours, while the engine is the ‘brain’, etc.

Actually, the Taitas call a car mwambondo, meaning a cow. At Githurai bout, a motorbike is known as a ‘goat’ due to its uncanny resemblance. Clearly, inventors of these ‘machines’ were inspired by what was used for travel in ages past. The animals have morphed.

It’s not so different in matters communications, after all. It also boils down to human anatomy. If you aim to succeed with the masses, you need to zero down your communication to three parts of the body, namely, the head, the heart and the stomach.

To begin with, the head is used to reason out issues and to rationalise them. Each one of us has one, but there are others who are wired or taught to use their brains much more than others. They like to reason out things, and will engage in long winding discussions before coming to a conclusion and/or making a decision. This group of people is usually the elite and the middling classes.

Usually the educated, the professionals and well-to-do people in society use logic as a means of engaging in politics. They don’t have time for ‘petty’ details and are often secondary voters, meaning they rarely participate in party primaries.

Constituting only 10-15 per cent of our population, they are the hardest to convince, yet the easiest to reach, mostly through newspapers, TV or social media (official, verified pages/sites), town halls and small interest-based groups.

Personal one-on-one interaction is minimal as it’s the most daunting mentally, with endless debates. Interestingly, they tend to be fairly conservative, since they are the petty bourgeoisie, having some interests here and there. Neither poor nor rich, they tend to associate themselves with the rich, since they aspire to be like them.

They occupy middle to senior positions within the ‘formal state’ that gives them a head-start and status. The way to target them is by communicating policies of concern to them such as health, education, taxation, infrastructure, etc. Conversance with a given subject matter and ideology may play a key part here. Generally, men fall mostly in this category as they undeniably control most resources and power in any jurisdiction.

The heart is the second target. It’s about emotions and how you make people feel. How does the candidate make the voters feel a certain way about a given situation? Talk about things like their background and candidates’ personal stories of struggle, like walking barefoot to school, hawking, being a child of a single mother and so on.

How the candidate creates a ‘narrative’ about his experiences of the felt need/problem bedevilling the community matters a lot. It’s not so much the solution but the identification with their suffering. To them, a solution is futuristic, but ‘unawafeel’?

This category of voters usually is populated by women, the do-gooders, and humanists in society. The more the local community is attached to an issue, the more one should identify with it. Reasoning takes a back seat as emotions are augmented to euphoria; some kind of mass love-fever to influence the choice at the ballot. Personality cults and ‘movements’ play a key role here as matters of the heart are deep and there is no single reason for them.

The stomach is the third target. Politics is basically who gets what where and how (Hayek). It’s competition for scarce resources and opportunities. While one may have lofty ideas on how to take people to the moon and back (India just did it), what matters to the local voter is the immediate gratification as “seeing is believing”.

This applies to the youth mostly, both male and female, and the poor in general. Due to limited resources, they live from hand to mouth, and what they get is what they go for. Two things are critical. Food and some little cash work wonders.

Recently, we were at a funeral that lasted eight hours, but the audience was patient as they had been fed in the morning. ‘Sorting out’ ferried crowds in buses after a political function is a common feature of our politics.

The ‘fare-earnings’ range from Sh100 to Sh500, to close to a daily wage (kibarua).

Helping a needy case, how you dress, language, your rallies, roadshows, entertainment, lessos, t-shirts, caps, wheelbarrows and other promotional materials count for a premium. A combination of the above will get your message home and to the right demographics.

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