For decades, Texas has been a deeply red state with strongly held conservative ideals. But it’s also home to sizable blue areas in major cities with diverse populations and more liberal viewpoints. That means issues and initiatives can rarely be viewed through a single political lens and can’t always be clearly labeled as conservative or liberal. They are simply Texan.
The upshot is that any issue or initiative has a chance to win support, you just need to understand how to shape your communications so they resonate with Texans no matter their political stripes.
If your approach to Texas is politically agnostic or flexible, you have a wealth of possibilities for how you can gain a foothold with audiences regardless of their political persuasion.
Find Your ‘Texas Truth’ When Seeking Support for Your Initiative
You need to understand how politics could play a role in your company’s efforts. More importantly, you need to understand and appreciate how those politics will vary from city to city and region to region. People and their political parties can have wildly different beliefs and behaviors in different parts of Texas.
Let’s get one thing straight. There is a big difference between a Texas Republican or Democrat and a Massachusetts Republican or Democrat. The realities of our states vary dramatically, from what drives our economies, our populations, our challenges and our approach to government. What would be considered extremely conservative in the Bay State would qualify as pretty moderate here, so please think twice before expecting to execute a strategy in Beaumont that worked in Boston.
Whatever initiative you’re pursuing in Texas, gauging how it will play across our political spectrum is critical. For instance, do you know how much a rural Democrat and an urban Republican have in common? Believe it or not, there are plenty of issues that band these opposite sides together throughout the state.
In fact, there is a lens through which Texans of all stripes tend to interpret issues – touchstones that emerge as common themes when it comes to evaluating a proposal, such as: Will this issue create jobs? Does it infringe on personal liberties or property? Does it improve our economy? Will it make doing business more difficult? Will it protect consumers? Does it give Texas an opportunity to lead?
This makes it critical to craft answers to these questions correctly right out of the gate, which requires understanding the political history of your initiative in Texas and how it came to be that way. Knowing whether your issue has the potential to unite or divide is key. And undertaking a landscape assessment is an essential first step.
Even conventionally conservative ideas and ideals have enjoyed support among more left-leaning companies, organizations or individuals. If you can find that sweet spot, your project has a better shot at success.
To that end, there’s no one-size-fits-all communications plan when it comes to Texas. To outsiders, it may appear that a conservative ideology is the only mindset. But the reality is more complicated.
Yes, conservatives have largely prevailed in setting public policy. And as such, conservative politics tend to drive a lot of the conversation. Nevertheless, larger cities comprise formidable pockets of blue voters. And while there are certainly plenty of disparities between the two sides, there also remains considerable agreement on a multitude of subjects, industries and initiatives, especially as issues become more local. You just need to figure out how you can link your issue to one or more of them.
How Can You Frame an Issue to Align with Texas Priorities?
When it comes to doing business in Texas, a reliable description would be “rugged individualism.” Texans tend to believe that most people can succeed on their own, and that government involvement should be minimal.
For a large number of businesses operating in Texas, the less government “helps” the better. Texans generally oppose government involvement in their affairs, especially when it comes to issues like oversight, regulation, and taxation.
This ethos of rugged individualism informs what could be considered the universal truths of doing business in Texas where companies favor:
- Free-market competition
- Private property rights
- Individual volition and responsibility (“pull yourself up by your own bootstraps”)
- Low taxes
- No government overreach
- Fortune favors the bold
Develop a strategy and tell a story that relates your initiative to one or more of these areas. In doing so, you stand a much stronger chance of that story resonating with your target audience. If you don’t, you risk alienating them or, even worse, inviting their opposition.
Energy is another issue that’s not as straightforward as you might think. It’s no secret that the fossil fuel industry is a juggernaut in Texas. From oil and natural gas exploration and extraction to refining and transportation, fossil fuel has reigned supreme for a long, long time. It is critical to our economy.
But guess what else is true. Texas is the United States’ leading producer of renewable energy. Texas generates more clean energy than the next five states combined. It’s a major driver of investment, local tax revenue and a source of innovation.
Plenty of Texas conservatives support renewable energy. But they’d rather suffocate than discuss renewables in the same breath as climate change, global warming or a “Green New Deal.” To them, energy is a business — whether it’s clean and renewable or it’s extracted through fracking or by pumpjack.
Referring to renewables in the context of climate change comes across as an attack on one of our most critical industries, which has helped shape the Texas identity. The more liberal or progressive your position sounds, the less likely it will receive a warm reception.
Instead, if you present a renewable energy project as an extension of free market competition, job creation, and an investment in the state’s energy infrastructure, you can expect less opposition and perhaps even gain widespread support.
Look at Your Business in Texas With a Broader Political Lens
In Texas, business and industry often supersedes politics. That doesn’t mean you need to ignore the political implications of your project or abandon your principles. It just means carefully adapting your message so it’s more likely to land with your audience.
If you’d like to hear more about how The Monument Group has helped companies like yours navigate the precarious Texas political landscape, let’s talk.