Why? Because it's tough.

(This isn’t a political post, bear with me)

If you’re following the presidential horse race, you may have read about the concern some pundits have about the fact that the top-tier (so to speak) Republican candidates have been blowing off certain types of debates, namely black and latino focused ones. The response from the various camps is that there were scheduling issues.

“We consider every debate invitation equally as they relate to the schedule,” said Kevin Madden, a Romney spokesman. “Unfortunately, our schedule considerations for the month of September were such that we had to decline several debate invitations and candidate forums from different groups around the country, including Wharton Business School and CNN.”

Fine, maybe there were scheduling issues. But let’s be real: public events are not created equal so don’t tell me that you consider each invitation equally. You don’t.

Whether political events or enthusiast community events, some pack a bigger punch than others. The goal is not attempted equality, it’s to determine which event(s) benefit both parties the best. The goal is to ensure that, as much as possible, Everybody Goes Home Happy. Community members understand that some events carry larger relative weight. Let’s be honest and simply say “Unfortunately with as many events as we’re traveling to this year, we had to choose which events will have the biggest impact on both parties.” Make decisions together with your community leaders about what events are worthwhile to attend/support/fund, and things will be just fine.

But while the GOP campaigns have generally offered no public rationale other than timing for missing the forums, an adviser to one suggested they had little to gain from attending an event such as Smiley’s.

“What’s the win?” said the adviser, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. “Why would [the candidates] go into a crowd where they’re probably going to be booed?”

Now, here’s the kicker – happiness isn’t instant. Getting to a place where everybody can indeed go home happy takes work. Showing up on the first date expecting to hit a home run before midnight isn’t the beginning of a relationship, it’s a one-night stand. Why would candidates (or marketers) go into a situation where they might be booed? Because it shows honesty. It shows that the company, by way of the individual on stage, finds it more important to interact with the customer than to be insulated from negativity.

At LEGO it took me a year (or more) of regular interaction, listening to complaints, and delivery of solutions with our adult hobbyist community before they stopped thinking of me as a marketing hack. I had an insanely uphill battle when I started due to decades of the company ignoring the community all together. Had I thrown in the towel at the first sign of “boos”, we never would have brought the Everybody Goes Home Happy mantra to life like we did. To this day, adult LEGO fans still tell me how my perseverance in the face of difficult interactions showed them how serious LEGO was about them and their needs.

So this random adviser asks “Why would [the candidates] go into a crowd where they’re probably going to be booed?” Because it’s tough, and they’ll respect you for it. Until you have someone’s respect, you won’t be capable of changing their mind.