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!

Intimidated by the velocity of change? Another way to stay focused

“Most of us feel lost in the dust kicked up by the pace of change,” says Nicco Mele, a self-declared IT nerd who memorizes poetry in his spare time. He has been recognized as one of America’s ‘best and brightest’ by Esquire Magazine.

In his book The End of Big, Mr. Mele says, “We don’t yet have an adequate vocabulary to talk about what is happening.” He adds, “Our End of bigpresent-day technology collapses time, distance, and other barriers. You often hear ‘social’ used in connection with technology – social media, social business, social sharing – but the consequences of radical connectivity on institutions are anything but social: they are disruptive.”

This disruption is felt acutely in academia and more generally in the knowledge economy. A popular blogger or intelligent contributor to Wikipedia can gain significant authority regardless of his participation in the academia.

Mele says, “From a purely reputational view, the Internet may think that a Wikipedia user who goes by the name Hoppyh knows more about Abraham Lincoln than famed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.” He explains that Hoppyh has made more than 1,339 contributions to the Wikipedia page on Lincoln. Kearns Goodwin hasn’t made any. And, even if she would start adding information to the Lincoln page tomorrow, Wikipedia wouldn’t give her any special status, observes Mele.

If you are a professional Subject Matter Expert, should you now be making regular contributions to Wikipedia?

Should you join the 164 million or so bloggers who are sharing their views on the Internet?

Does it matter that your clients may have instant access to information from reputable sources that may contradict your own views?

It’s comforting to hear that smart people like Mele feel intimidated by the velocity of change.

Meantime, busy professionals may want to take comfort in the old saying: do one thing and do it well. Or, as Google would say: It’s best to do one thing really, really well. In other words, pick and choose where you will put your energy to build profile online. It may be a blog, an e-zine, Google+, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, or any other platform – but, most likely, it can’t be all of them.

Do you really need to have an instant (Twitter) opinion on everything? One way to stay focused

Globe and Mail writer Russell Smith laments the pressure leaders in business, the arts, and others feel to take a stand on just about everything.

Smith writes, “It’s so easy taking a stand now, that you must have a stand: You must have a position right away and publish it, broadcast it, and you instantly have responses, arguments, and that’s thrilling; it seems all so very vital and important.”

He adds, “There is now pressure, real pressure, — rsmith-logoparticularly if you have a Twitter account, and especially if you have some kind of agent or publicist who says you have to ‘build your brand’ by using it — to take sides and issue opinions, all day long.”

The pressure to regularly add posts to social media platforms is real because failing to do so makes the owner of the news feed look inactive almost instantly. You don’t post, you don’t exist anymore. You may as well be out of business. The traditional print ‘news cycle’ of at least 24-hour has been reduced to minutes. It can be brutally difficult to appear current.

I officially follow a couple of hundred smart organizations and people on Twitter – mostly law firms, accountants, marketing gurus, news agencies and some leading non-profits. Unofficially, I flip through my Tweets while waiting for the TTC. When I feel like it, I admit it.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy Twitter. I can be nice about bad grammar (“Of these luxurious outdoor showers which do you want to get clean in?”). I try to put on my marketing hat when confronted with the overindulgent use of maverick symbols now lifted from obscurity.

Nevertheless, rather than feeling pressure to share a constant stream of modestly interesting opinions and news events – posting for the sake of posting to look ‘alive’ — organizations and their leaders may want to ask themselves a simple question: What do I want to be known for most on social media platforms?

Once an organization selects a few “hot topics” of choice, the pressure to post regularly may be replaced by posting and curating quality information when it is available. Information you know your readers want to receive. (More talk about curating in another post.)

Focusing on quality, not quantity may be one way to feel less pressured about sharing opinions and news on social media sites. Your followers and readers will understand quickly that you only post when it matters most.