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?

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

NDP’s new appetite for balanced budgets predictable. Learn why!

Icecream vendorsDon’t be surprised by the NDP’s sudden passion for balanced budgets during this election campaign.

It may sound like expedient role reversal, a cynical attempt to distill fears about the party’s big spending reputation.

However, I’d like to argue that Tom Mulcair’s appetite for balanced budgets was rather predictable for anyone familiar with a long-established theory. The Median Voter Theorem explains how political parties in democracies will by necessity move to the centre if they are serious about winning elections. It’s about brand building and PR, not ideology.

Have a look at this 6-minute Animation. It helps explain the Theorem by applying it to a non-political scenario. Two ice cream vendors (the parties) fight to gain customers (voters) in a city block. It also explains the Theorem’s origins in Harold Hotelling’s spatial model of firm strategies in a competitive marketplace.

So, expect more of the same from our political leaders as this campaign unfolds and the fight for undecided voters intensifies. All leaders will move as far to the centre as they can without completely alienating their core constituencies.

Selfies smart PR strategy for campaigning politicians

Selfietripper

Illustration by Paul Faassen first published in Vrij Nederland, 11July 2015

At a recent campaign event, Justin Trudeau was giving lots of kids the opportunity to take a selfie with him. Smart move by our Liberal Leader.

If nothing else, he validated the parents’ decision to drag their children out to a political event early in the morning. And, these kids may well boost voter turn-out among youth in the near future.

At times, it must be painful for our national party leaders to suffer through endless selfie assaults by the party faithful.

But it’s also a great PR strategy.

The selfie has become a mandatory tool to illustrate our success in life, says Dutch writer Els Quaegebeur, in her recent article in the weekly news magazine Vrij Nederland. She adds, when we send these pictures we no longer need to explain our success, we demonstrate it.

(Are these images are our new postcards? Forget putting a piece of cardboard on the fridge. We can now Tweet, post, share, email, text, and Snapchat the evidence of our latest adventures.)

Once posted on social media, our selfies are the new show ‘n’ tell: Look, I met a famous Canadian! Hey, I met Trudeau (or fill in ____ for your favorite politician).”

In the process, these innocent pictures turn into powerful brand building tools for political leaders. The selfies we share on social media turn into thousands of public endorsements. “Me and my smiling MP”; last time I checked, that’s free, positive PR and leverages the exhausting, costly campaign events politicians must attend across the country to get (re)elected.

Go ahead then, do your share to build the brand of your favorite politician – try to grab a selfie at the next rally you attend, enjoy the moment, and hit the social media circuit.

T

Social media’s selfies become legacy media’s sustenance

Wai Young, MPThis July 14 was an exceptionally heavy news day. The historic nuclear deal with Tehran, the Pan Am games, and the first photos of Pluto competed for airtime.

Yet, an obscure fur trader in St. John’s, NFL, and Conservative backbencher Wai Young in Vancouver made the editorial lineup on CBC’s The National.

Why?

Blame the “celebrity factor” for our furrier’s moment of fame. Bernie Halloran is a smart business man. One of Rod Stewart’s entourage asked him to rent some of his fur coats for the women about to accompany the singer on an outdoor stage in chilly St. John’s. Instead, Halloran offered to loan the outfits at no cost. Pure PR instinct, I suggest. The decision earned the merchandiser a selfie with the celebrity wearing a sealskin coat. Of course, the savvy Halloran posted the shot on his Twitter feed. Next, anti-fur activists responded by lambasting Stewart for wearing seal fur. In this case, all publicity is good publicity. “It’s the middle of July, people are talking about fur. It’s pretty cool,” concluded Halloran in an interview with CBC’s Ian Hanomansing.

Let’s blame the complete absurdity of our MP Young’s comments about the Air India disaster for her spot on The National. She delivered her talk at a relatively small church at the fringes of main stream Canadian Christendom. The pastor shared his selfie with the MP with his very modest number of Twitter followers. Next, the MP’s comments spread into the wider, secular world.

First, no matter who you are and where you are, watch those selfies.

And, of course, the two stories  demonstrate once again the fascinating interdependence of legacy media outlets and social media even on a day when history is made in outer space and right here on earth.

Selfie-Seekers test politicians’ patience

Selfie

“Who wants their babies kissed or their yard signs autographed anymore? This is the Selfie Election. And if you are running for president, you have no choice but to submit,” write Jeremy W. Peters and Ashley Parker in the New York Times.

Thanks to one of my readers for sharing this interesting NY Times story.

Photo by Dominick Reuter/Reuters

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.

Should you trust PM Harper’s Twitter account?

Harper TweetIs Conservative Leader Stephen Harper  still trying to suggest he is personally managing his Twitter account? And is it appropriate for @pmharper to stuff our news feed with Conservative propaganda during an election campaign?

Justin Trudeau’s Twitter account clearly states it is run by the Liberal Leader himself and campaign staff. Thomas Mulcair is rather blunt about the matter: “Account run by .”  Green Party’s Elizabeth May explains her Tweets are her own “unless signed by Hill Staff.”

I wrote about Mr. Harper’s Twitter feed earlier this year, asking a few simple questions: Where was Prime Minister Stephen Harper on June 10th?

And what was he doing, exactly?

Apparently, he was getting briefed on Black Sea Operations. He let his 815K followers know about it on Twitter.

First, does the Prime Minister really want us to believe that he is personally Tweeting while being briefed on military matters? Let’s just say: I hope not.

Indeed, let’s assume a PR staffer can post on behalf of our Prime Minister — using his picture and official Twitter handle.

This seems to raise some security questions. First, how many staffers have access to the PM’s account? Second, is the PM really aware of the content being posted on his behalf almost constantly? How long would it take him (or staff) to learn about a fraudulent post?

Are Canadians asked to trust this information distributed by Mr. Harper?

Or are we collectively asked to accept that Mr. Harper’s Twitter account is just a PR ploy? I suggest our trust in all information distributed by our Prime Minister may be undermined when it’s entirely obvious he isn’t personally sending this information to us.

Likewise the credibility of corporation, non-profit or professional services firm may be undermined by its Twitter account.

Often, organizations delegate the production of social media content to communication departments. Indeed, senior leaders have more urgent matters to attend to most of the time. A major law firm recently sent the following Tweets to its followers: “Just received a package from one of our favs, @CLEBC!” Or what about this one: “Appreciate my job/colleagues more & more now!” Another firm wants its followers to know one of its lawyers is interviewed by several media outlets. Are these organizations expecting their clients to care about these trivial matters?

Twitter can be used to help an organization share relevant news instantly and build brand. However, the platform’s instant, quirky nature and the inability to pull back information can likely harm an organization’s reputation more quickly than other media platforms. Moreover, organizations who delegate the production of social media content on behalf of their senior staff may need to review how this could impact credibility.

So, what were you doing on June 15th? Reading your Twitter news feed?

Fretting about vote splitting in this 3-way race? Worry about boosting voter turnout instead

Green Party’s Elizabeth May continues to urge voters to stop fretting about vote splitting and instead start a “buddy system” (a.k.a “refer-a-friend” strategy).

Bravo! If every voter in the last federal election recruits one other person to vote in the next federal election, Harper’s Conservatives will be toast this fall, argues May.

Fair enough. Why not try a grassroots campaign? Why not drag our kids, their friends and young colleagues into the voting booth?

The refer-a-friend strategy may indeed boost voter turnout. However, I fear my generation has probably squandered our credibility when it comes to promoting democracy among youth.

Take Michael Ignatieff. In his latest book, the former Liberal Leader provides his insights into political life. In Fire and Ashes he outlines his own political trials and tribulations with significant writing skill. The book is conveniently subtitled Success and Failure in Politics (Random House Canada, 2013).

Ignatieff explains his relationship with the media. “Obviously, a straight answer to a straight question is a good idea, and when citizens put a question to you, such candour becomes an obligation. They elect you after all. The rules are different with the press. … You try never to lie, but you don’t have to answer the question you’re asked, only the question you want to answer.”

I’m into PR. I think I understand spin. Actually, I’ll admit I enjoy spin. Also, I don’t want to underestimate the unrelenting pressures our politicians experience every day with a news cycle on social media steroids. We demand from our politicians instant responses and offer little forgiveness.

Nevertheless, it seems disturbing that a respected intellectual such as Ignatieff, a former journalist himself, feels politicians don’t have to answer questions from the media if not convenient.

“You try never to lie,” says a man who aspired to lead Canada. May this be one of the primary reasons younger voters often feel politicians can’t be trusted and don’t have anything to offer?

Can a refer-a-friend strategy get voters to the polls when our political leaders openly admit that it’s OK to avoid answering valid questions from the media (say, about the current refugee and migrant crisis unfolding in Europe?).

Ironically, social media platforms, even though they may threaten the long-term survival of mainstream media, may yet save our democracy by forcing politicians to try brutal honesty or burn (like toast).

Ignatieff says it well when he observes outsiders like Barack Obama can win elections by mobilizing youth by using the power of social media to draw them into a political campaign.

Buddy system sounds so baby boomer, Ms. May. Let’s share, re-tweet, re-post, recycle and re-purpose a very neutral message: Dude, go vote, now!