Google key word search: How Federal parties label Canadians

NDP-cloud“The Conservatives refer to Canadians primarily as taxpayers, the NDP talks about the working class, and the Liberals like to say we are citizens,” said Liberal candidate Rob Oliphant recently at an All Candidates Meeting in Toronto.

Sounds good. It seems like a neat way to summarize the core difference between the parties.

Can we confirm Mr. Oliphant’s observation? We informally reviewed party platforms and websites for the type of key phrases they use. We used widely available online tools.

The Conservative platform refers to tax, taxes and taxpayers almost 200 times. The term hard-working family and hard-working Canadian is also used over and over again.

In contrast, the NDP platform refers to taxpayers four times, mentions citizens eight times and makes numerous references to working parents, working moms and dads, and the working poor. We could not find any references to the “working class” as a group.

The Liberals refer to taxpayers twice and refer to our role as citizens six times. Working parents are barely mentioned in the lengthy platform. (Then again, all parents contribute to society and work hard, including stay-at-home parents.)

What about the websites of the leading parties?

If you need more evidence the Conservatives like to control communications, here it is: several widely used online tools to analyze key words were unable to search www.conservative.ca.

In contrast, identical tools applied to www.ndp.ca and www.liberal.ca  reveal some interesting points. “Tom Mulcair”, and not much else, seems to matter most to the content writers of the NDP site; very few additional key words are used. The Liberal site uses key words such as “real change” and, as expected, the phrase “Justin Trudeau” pops up regularly. Middle class is also a key phrase on the Liberal website. Neither key word search produced our desired terms: citizen, taxpayer or working class Canadians.

So how would you prefer to be labelled, if you needed to make a choice? The Conservatives seem to have hijacked the term (hard) working (class) families while the NDP fails to claim its roots as a party fighting for the traditional working class. If the Liberals want to appeal to our pride as citizens, neither their platform nor website make much of an effort.

So, take your pick on October 19. What would you rather be: a taxpayer, a citizen, a member of the working class, all of the above, or just a middle class Canadian who wants to protect the economy while bringing real change to Ottawa during a time when we all worry about health care and the environment?

Leaders’ Debate 2015: turning point in Canadian journalism or predictable dud?

2015-debate

The Globe and Mail likely squeezed every bit of coverage from the Leader’s Debate it hosted last week, so let’s discuss why this political event may have long-term impact, or not.

The Globe heroically managed to distill not just Debate Highlights from the 90 minutes show between national party leaders Harper, Mulcair and Trudeau. Editors also treated its audience to Memorable Moments and Best Exchanges. Moreover, the newspaper made available an indispensable series of News Videos to highlight newsworthy items such as Harper’s ‘old stock’ comment (which we were all shocked to learn, no doubt, caused hype on social media). Numerous columns and stories provided further analysis and summaries in print and online.

Meantime, on debate night Sept. 17th, CBC The National broadcast a debate about the debate. (Correction: viewers were treated to an analysis by the country’s most-watched national political panel.) Host Peter Mansbridge, presumably in a moment of weakness, couldn’t resist pointing out that an event hosted in Calgary used a backdrop showing parliament buildings halfway across the country in Ottawa. Broadcast amateurs they all are, those folks at the Globe and Mail, right?

Rather than news coverage generated or voters’ response, what seems rather  revolutionary about the event is this. A stately print publication broadcast one of Canada’s largest national election events. All this while Green Party’s Elizabeth May, excluded from the debate, creatively managed to comment from the sidelines with a series of Tweets.

As online news platforms mature, the lines between broadcast and print continue to blur. This  Leaders’ Debate demonstrates just how far media outlets have ventured into their competitors’ traditional territories. Will this Globe broadcast come to be seen as a turning point in Canadian journalism when print, broadcast, social media and online news gathering inescapably merged into one joint news stream?

The jury may be out if this fluid media landscape will make professional, unbiased political journalism more or less accessible to average Canadians in the long run.
In terms of ratings, the new format seems to be a bit of a (predictable) dud.

One news outlet reports that 300,000 watched at least part of the political showdown on YouTube. News 1130 further reports that this compares to Maclean’s Debate earlier this summer which gained total viewership of 4.3 million. In contrast, 10.6 million viewers tuned into the 2011 English debate on national TV when in April CBC-TV/Radio-Canada, CTV, Global Television and TVA worked together to orchestrate the political showdown.

PR pros offer smart analysis of election adverts

In today’s issue of the Globe and Mail, several PR pros offer some interesting insights into the advertisement spots running during this election. If you want to have a look at the story, here it is.

Helen Pak, CEO and chief creative officer at ad firm Havas Worldwide Canada

“We’re hearing about Stephen Harper from what seems to be real people. But the delivery, for me, didn’t come across as authentic. When a real person is talking on camera, there are natural pauses. The delivery isn’t perfect. Those lines were either fed to them, or perhaps they actually said them but were directed to say them over and over again. With this documentary-style storytelling that we see more and more of in ads, people are savvy. They can spot authenticity and see when it’s not authentic a mile away. That’s not the impression you want to give.”

John Crean, national managing partner at National Public Relations

“Notice that they don’t refer to the Liberals, they refer to Justin. And they refer to the NDP, not to Mulcair. They’re trying to create brand imagery around the others. It’s very intentional that it’s not “Mr. Trudeau” or “the Liberal Party.” It’s part of the image of the young, inexperienced guy. They’re using “the NDP,” not “Mr. Mulcair” or “Tom.” When it comes to economic management, Mulcair could be argued to have a better sense of how to be a good economic manager, while the NDP has a pre-existing narrative as left-wing, socialist, spenders. The Conservatives would be trying to reinforce that. … It’s surprising to me, entering into what they call a “technical recession,” that they could continue to use the economic platform as a selling point. They’re making a big bet on the economy as the most important consideration.” Continue reading

Why Trudeau’s pics help cement relationships with young voters

TrudeauGlobe and Mail’s Daniel Leblanc recently asked photo editor Michael Davis to evaluate pics distributed by  PM Stephen Harper, and party leaders Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair.  His feature A Snapshot of How Federal Leaders Frame their Image deserves a second look now Canada Day officially kicked off the political BBQ season.

In evaluating the politicians’ images, Davis declares Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau the winner when it comes to building a positive brand image with his official pics. (Remarkably, Mr. Davis sifted through an estimated one million pictures while working as the lead photo editor in the George W. Bush White House. He can’t be accused of political bias).

Mr. Trudeau “is willing to be openly perceived as he is, not as he is crafted,” observes Mr. Davis. He adds, “It suggests he is much more open to being photographed. As a consequence, he comes across as a much more sincere, caring candidate and human.”

And, I suggest, this is yet another reason why Mr. Trudeau seems to appeal to younger voters. They have been surrounded by an unprecedented stream of social media images since their early teens.  Younger voters can spot a fake pic from a mile distance. Photo ops of smiling men in dark suits holding babies? The Snapchat, Instagram and Flickr crowd won’t buy the message.