How Politics is the Perfect Training for Marketing

I never knew what I wanted to be when I was growing up, so I picked politics because at least that was something I was. And now that I'm in marketing it seems a perfect fit - it's all about persuasive communication which is where I excelled in politics anyway. But I also feel like I missed out not having a background in marketing. I don't speak the language (I'm not ashamed to admit that I didn't know what ROI was until a few months ago). Yet, as I begin to read Joseph Jaffe's Join the Conversation, I am beginning to think that that lack might not be such a detriment after all. Jaffe cites the five (old) rules of content which are:

1) Content is created by corporations ("professionals")...

2) Content is consumed by consumers...

3) And the two shall never meet.

4) Consumers will pay for content. (That's not a belief - it's an order!)

5) Content is an end unto itself.

I don't care to speak to these point separately, but rather the entire gestalt at once. I am also thinking of politics in the way I experienced it - something of an idealized version, perhaps, but worth working towards. This post is essentially geared to a college kid who has strong skills and strong beliefs, but doesn't know how to translate that into a career.

Persuasion through human contact

Cutting my teeth in politics (rather than marketing, say) meant that my "product" (the candidate) was required to connect with consumers/voters. A case could be made that this connection was on a shallow or expedient level, but the better the product, the better the connection. It was a rough and tumble game of persuasion. Imagine if the entry-level marketer had to figure out not how to push their message on people through established mediums, but rather had to persuade people to turn on the television in the first place.

It is the third of Jaffe's points that is the most salient to me and in some way, it is a crux of his book. In politics, the content/product and consumer/voter engage all the time. Sure, I'm jaded too. I don't believe that candidates always listen at those forums as much as they ought to. But I have been to enough town hall meetings and church lunches and rallies to know that those meetings do have an effect on the people, and likely an effect on the candidate (the better ones, at least).

An army of advocates

In addition, one cannot forget the mass of employees and volunteers out there advocating on behalf of the candidate. That is marketing in it's purest form - person to person, heart to heart (if you'll forgive the schmaltz). I went from knocking on doors, making phone calls, driving voters to the polls, and holding signs outside of polling places to eventually running a modest field campaign. While the candidate can and should be making personal connections, the vast armies behind them definitely have the human touch.

Career planning

So this is why politics was a good entry to marketing for me: because I spent time in the trenches. While I read polls, I was also talking to people in their driveways. While I watched focus groups, I was also training groups of volunteers. Politics offers a human perspective and an opportunity to listen to the consumer that (I sense) a background in traditional marketing does not. (Maybe I'm not so behind - marketing language be damned.) In this new media environment, I would venture that politics is the perfect way to start a marketing career.

Yeah right!

Then again, Jaffe says, "The heat of passion, mixed with diversity of opinion, makes for an original exchange of viewpoints, attitudes, and perspectives" (pg. 133). Are marketing and politics too different? Am I wrong about persuasion and communication commonalities? I would especially love to hear from anyone who went the opposite route: marketing first before switching to politics.

Is there a connection? What would you recommend to a college student trying to find a career path?