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!