Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts

Friday, May 16, 2014

Ban Politicans From Social Media And Content Marketing?

 Should we ban politicians from social media and content marketing for the sake of transparency?

I'm a content marketing fan.  But there are dangers when governments use content marketing to go direct to voters. It may be attractive for Ministers to craft content and use social media to release information, but essentially what they release is a formulaic, sanitized version of events.  

The core of the content marketing movement is directly engaging people of interest to you.  It is easy to see why that would appeal to bureaucracies.  It gives them a chance to control the message and avoid the spotlight traditional media might shine on their story. 

Social outlets are news sources for more and more Americans and Australians, and administrations frequently use them to go directly to the masses.  It may appear democratic to release information through social media but it is easier than standing before a hungry media pack asking pesky questions. 

Even if the pack reports what our leaders say, that information can be filtered and viciously edited for the evening news or tomorrow's paper. Social media and its cousin, content creation, let leaders meet people directly through digital chats, hang-outs, meet-ups and tweet ups.  

But remember these forums are imperfect platforms for ideas. A Government can choose not to answer questions or respond to comments and there is precious little time in such cyber sessions to question a President or Prime Minister.  And online questions can be vague and without the context and history a seasoned correspondent can throw around an issue. 

In Australia Tony Abbott uses Facebook and Twitter to broadcast policies more than to  interact with Australians.  Reading his Twitter account this past week you'd never know about the firestorm of protest over Tuesday night's budget. Yet traditional media - for all their faults - extensively reported the story. 

In the US the White House Correspondents Association have lodged concerns with the Obama Administration's use of digital to bypass news outlets and go direct to the public.  A recent edition of On The Media explored the issue in detail and it is worth a listen. 

Let's be cautious about proclaiming social media as a force for democracy even in Western societies.  In some cases it may mean governments have a communications channel that let's them control information while seeming to be open.  

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Social Media in Campaign Communications

Are political campaigns living up to the promise of digital technology?  

Professor Jenny Stromer-Galley, Associate Professor at Syracuse University, explores this in her book 'Presidential Campaigning in the Internet Age'.  She concludes digital is pushing politicians to reconsider how they reach and involve people yet there is still a long way to go.

Jenny Stromer-Galley
Obama's presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2014 showed the technical infrastructure to shrink the distance between candidate and community is with us now. The social media platforms we use every day offer the chance for electors to be more involved in the political process.  Never before have voters had access to so much information to share, re-interpret, re-purpose and organise.  So has digital delivered a new era of political emancipation?

The theory is good, right?  Digital should spell a rebirth in political conversations, yet Stromer-Galley thinks the promise is still to be met.

Perhaps because digital is about sharing, interaction, connection while politics is about control.  Control the numbers, control the cash, control the message.  And of all places in the political realm control is central in campaigns.   

I must win ... so craft me the right message, target the right group, bring in the cash and round up the vote. 

This makes most candidates reluctant to relinquish control preferring to use social media as a one way channel. We need to be into this stuff, but we don't really believe it.

Which of course runs counter to the two way world many of us live in, with friends, business and not for profits. It seems politics is slow to innovate when it comes to connecting.

To be fair, engaging in the digital age involves willingness plus patience, energy and time.  Consider how much time many of us devote to staying close to Facebook friends. But those resources are in short supply when the next election looms closer each day. And, many of the senior staff behind political campaigns are still old school intent on using traditional methods and media.

Campaigning like other forms of communications is at the cross roads.  Politicians need to innovate and experiment with the new technologies or risk coming across as old, outdated and one dimensional.  The ballot box prize in future may well go to the clever campaigns unafraid to experiment and really connect.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Branded Journalism: Texas Style

Branded journalism is standard in content marketing yet it's not new. Over 70 years ago it was being used to sway Texas voters.

In 1941 Lyndon Johnston (LBJ), later to become the 36th US President, was campaigning to become a Senator in his native state of Texas.  The election was hotly contested and the battle for the attention of voters was fierce.

The only source of news for many voters in rural Texas was the 25 newspapers that published weekly in farming and ranching communities across the State.  Few publishers were professional journalists and most were often short on cash and short on news to fill their pages. Some were prepared to print articles provided by the candidates in return for advertising. Payments for this political advertorial were small, because at that time local merchants could buy an ad for 50 cents or a $1.

Johnson had poached accomplished newspaper men for his campaign.  In an early example of branded journalism, these reporters provided the small rural outlets across Texas with packaged news stories and pictures of their candidate. Content could be a copy of a recent speech, a favourable item from the campaign trail or an endorsement by a local identity. And the content kept coming - edition after edition - throughout the campaign.

The payments paid off and Johnson received massive coverage throughout the State.  His team never rested, recycling particularly good print coverage as radio content in the numerous broadcasts Johnson's campaign arranged over the 10-week long campaign.

Ironically Johnson was beaten in the Senate race by then Texas Governor Pappy O'Daniel.  Pappy, himself a savvy media operator, used his popular, weekly hillbilly radio show to champion his claims for the Senate seat. 

Winning only by around 1000 votes, it seems Pappy's down home style and branded journalism out manoeuvred LBJ's more polished efforts. 

Which proves that many of today's communications approaches we hold up as new, someone somewhere has tried before. 

(Source - Johnson:The Path to Power by Robert Caro.)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Did This Blog Change Government Policy?

On Thursday I blogged on why Australian military officers should not be part of Government media conferences on Asylum Seeker operations.

Yesterday the Immigration Minister Scott Morrison announced changes to these weekly briefings.  These foreshadow a much more limited role for the  ADF spokesperson, Lieutenant General Angus Campbell.

Did my blogging cause a shift in the new Government's media arrangement?  Hardly!!!

My concerns were but one voice in a growing chorus of condemnation and frustration from traditional and online media about the way the new Coalition Government is so tightly managing information on Asylum Seeker matters. 

Along with other veterans who now work in PR, I'm pleased the Government has restricted the ADF's media profile.  Having said that, the communications strategy behind the "stop the boats" policy still needs a major overhaul.

As much as the Government tries to curb the flow of information by referring to operational security, people interested in the issue will skirt around tight Ministerial policies to get information somehow. They might seek it from from the Indonesian Government and other sources, concerned citizens letting the rest of us know what's happening on  Christmas Island, Manus or Nauru, or welfare groups across the country alerting the public to the ongoing plight of refugees. At this stage all seem willing to talk through mainstream and social media.

Government media mangers, no matter how shrewd, cannot contain news of Asylum Seeker issues.  The issue is too enormous, contentious and ongoing not to find a way to make it to the surface.

This is a story that won't be stopped, so watch this space for more changes to the Abbott's Government communications management of this issue.  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Australian Government Use of Social Media

My colleague Craig Thomler recently talked to IABC Canberra about how the Australian Government is using social media.  

Despite challenges, Craig gave government agencies a tick of approval.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Little Marketing in People Smuggler Campaign

Pity the Government marketers saddled with an expensive mass media campaign to reach such very small numbers. 

They must be scratching their heads and cursing the backroom operatives who dreamed up this campaign to 'win votes rather than stop boats' 

For several weeks ads like this have been appearing in Australian newspapers and broadcast on radio.

They support a recent change to the Australian Government's asylum seeker policies.  From 20 July unauthorised boat arrivals will no longer be settled in Australia but sent to Papua New Guinea or Nauru where their refugee claims will be determined.

Fierce criticism has sprung up about the ads in recent days. The Opposition claims they breach Election caretaker conventions which stipulate what governments can and cannot do once a poll is called.  

Bipartisan agreement is needed when communications campaigns run during an Election period. And in this case there is no such agreement.

The people smuggling ad spend is rumored is be around $30m, a hefty sum for the cash strapped government agency managing this campaign and which has probably struggled all year with its marketing budget.  

There is no issue with ads targeted at environments likely to reach people smugglers overseas or their collaborators in Australia.  I would have thought these audiences are tiny, and already known to the Intelligence services - or at least they should be. 

But how many people smugglers or their accomplices live, for example in Canberra or Sydney, where full page ads are regularly appearing in the metropolitan press. 

Why spend tens of millions of dollars for a mass audience campaign to reach a small handful of people here in Australia and overseas?  The Commonwealth must have other, far less expensive communications tools to send a stern message to these criminal elements?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Rudd and Abbott Use Social Media For Election. 7 Things to Watch

We're off and running to the ballot box.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has set 7 September as the date for Australians to go to the polls to choose a new government.

In the 2007 and 2010 elections social media was seen as something of a novelty. That makes 2013 Australia's first real social media poll because Australians are now terminally addicted to social through devices, phones, laptop and desktops.  In fact there has never been a more connected and potentially better informed electorate than today's voters.

Preparing for the upcoming battle the Labor Party recently hired three top American social media types who worked on the 2012 Obama campaign.  You'll recall that campaign set the gold standard for politics and social media.

So as we start the Election trail, how do the chief contenders rate on social media?

PM Rudd starts with a well established social media presence.   He's been in that space a long time. He has 1.3 million followers on Twitter and tweeted over 9500 times.  On Facebook he has almost 94 000 likes.  That's impressive, and the tone and level of his conversations on both platforms shows Rudd is comfortable with new media.

Mr Abbott starts the Election campaign with only 148 000 Twitter followers and 1350 tweets. His Facebook following of around 39 000 fans is almost one third of Rudd's numbers. In comparison Abbot's social conversations come across as more formal than Rudd's dialogue and at this stage Abbott does not show much online interaction with others. Still it is early days!

Interestingly both Labor and Liberal Parties have similar numbers of Youtube subscribers (around 3500 each).  This is likely to grow with many predicting Youtube will be where it all happens as the parties turn negative as they invariably do during Australian elections. 

Over the next five weeks it will interesting to see how both contenders adapt and adjust to social media.  

So keep a mouse ready and eye out to see how the two candidates use these new channels in their bids to win high office.  

Among the things that would indicate the candidates are serious about social, are their:
  • Frequency of using social media to get their Election messages out.
  • Level of interaction with followers and fans or do they stick with one way conversation?
  • Cross linking to others' commentary such as media and third party endorsements to portray credibility.
  • Ability to persuade voters to donate money or volunteer their time.
  • Use of imagery to bring emotion into messaging and cut through the clutter.
  • Willingness to bypass traditional media and use social to break news.
  • Capacity to inspire others to produce and share favourable content.

...and of course look out for novel or unusual online tactics as the campaign unfolds.
It is interesting times ahead.  So in the coming weeks check your screens for what could well be Australia's first social media election campaign.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Social Media Tactics From Obama and Romney

Watch out Wednesday! 

That's when the US Presidential race is finally over after a year of intense campaigning.  And, when there will be a vast outpouring of analysis on how the successful candidate used social media to support his bid.  

Both the Romney and Obama teams have extensively used social media to engage Americans through Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and other platforms. Early on they took heed of research showing social media users are more politically active, more issues-oriented, better connected and contribute more money than non-users.  

At least that's the view of David Almacy who spoke on social media in the US Election at the recent PRSA Conference. Almacy a senior executive of Edelman PR and a member of the Republican digital media team at the party's Convention in August, gave an engaging presentation, particularly for the few non-Americans in the audience. 

He believes both parties have used online channels to push out information, take the pulse of voter sentiment and draw people to candidate websites where they are invited to volunteer their time and money. 

What's missing of course is talk about engaging in real dialogue.  It seems minor candidates are more likely to engage in two way conversations than the two major parties, who remained focused on pushing out messages on an almost industrial scale, in the hope of avoiding journalistic filters.

Almacy also noted those participating in social media do not necessarily increase their political knowledge because most of the chatter has amplified traditional media coverage of events and issues.

An August article on the impact of social media on elections in the US publication The Atlantic reached similar conclusions.

Monday, September 6, 2010

More Parliamentary Voices Should Improve Communication

Since the 21 August Federal Election, Australians have faced a unique political environment - a hung Parliament in which four Independent MPs hold the balance of power.  

This situation has already driven old style party machine politics off to the sidelines - at least for the moment.  Potentially it can lead to the most profound political transformation Australian voters have seen in decades.  Instead of only two approaches to matters of policy and politics - Labor and Liberal - there are now five ways to explore, talk about and resolve issues facing the country.  Labor, Liberal, Greens and the four Independents will each play to different sets of community interests.

It's early days yet.  But this change could prove organisationally healthy and  improve the national political discourse. Now more perspectives will be offered from  the speaker's podium and the interests of 20 million Australians may be better served by a diversity of opinions and voices.

What do you think?

Monday, June 28, 2010

The PR of Changing PMs

This past week has has been history making in Australian politics. In a late night party coup Kevin Rudd was dumped as Prime Minister and within 24 hours his deputy Julia Gillard became Australia's first female Prime Minister.

In public relations actions always speak louder than words, so it will be instructive to see the impact of these events in the minds and attitudes of ordinary citizens ... in the lead-up to the next election and beyond.

Most likely we will see self referential communications come into play.  For those who like Mr Rudd last week's events will be seen as dastardly and disloyal.  To those who support Ms  Gillard they will have been necessary actions to get the Government and Australia back on track. 

However the rest of us - the so called silent majority - may feel a little queasy about the way Mr Rudd met his fate.  Australians pride themselves on giving everyone a "fair go".  In the workplace or market place the treatment Mr Rudd received - instant dismissal - is usually  reserved for those who commit criminal offences or whose performance seriously endangers the safety of others.

In the long run and in public relations terms the "Rudd dismissal" may have more impact on shaping how people view the character of politicians than on any changes it causes in government.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Assumption Effect - Never Assume Anything

This morning my wife and I had an interesting conversation.

We were half way through it when we both realised that we were each talking about a completely different issue. No wonder the conversation was not going very far.

In recent months I have been involved with two organisations where the same thing has happened. Senior managers assumed the people they wanted to reach knew what they were talking about. In both cases the intended audiences knew little if anything about the subject.

Both organisations exhibited self referential communications: a symptom which runs along the lines of I know what I mean therefore everyone else must know what I mean.

As communicators it is very easy assume because we have invested time and effort in producing key messages, designing brochures, distributing media releases etc, that people - apart from us - know what we are on about.

There must be some high sounding term in the science of communications to describe this effect. I'm not sure what it is so I simply describe it as the assumption effect and it has probably been the root cause of countless failed PR and marketing campaigns.

Never assume the people you want to reach know what you are talking about until they demonstrate that knowledge. That sounds simple but I wonder how many times your personal or organisational communications have been de-railed by making false assumptions at the outset.

That's why it always pay to market research your audiences, and if the data or observation are not there, never assume they either know or care about what you want to communicate.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Rudd, Turnbull And That Ute

This past few days accusations have been flying around the Australian Parliament about Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (or his staff) allegedly using his position to help a friend gain access to government-supplied finance.

The same friend has "lent" Mr Rudd a utility truck (ute) which he uses as a mobile billboard in his Brisbane electorate.

The Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull sees this a a flagrant abuse of Prime Ministerial power while Mr Rudd denies the accusations. An Auditor General's investigation into the matter kicks off shortly but right now it's a case of he said she said.

One PR outcome is certain. Either the Prime Minister or the Opposition Leader is likely to emerge with damage to his personal brand.

Mr Rudd has consistently advocated for open and transparent government. If the accusation is proven the Prime Minister's credibility and reputation will take a hit. He will be seen as failing to walk the talk on ministerial accountability and broken a key PR commandment: you can't say one thing then do another.

In the end if Mr Turnbull's charges fail he will be criticised for misleading the public. And many people will wonder why he chose to divert the national attention to a trivial matter and way from key issues such as climate change and an uncertain economy.

Meanwhile the rest of us will watch this issue unfold - mostly in the media - as both men go all out to prove their communications credibility. It's likely to prove a fascinating case study in media relations, reputation management perhaps even crisis communications.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Distancing Yourself From Former Clients or Bosses

I came across this Chicago example of a PR agency distancing itself from a former client.

In Rugby League it's a bit like confronting a Kiwi haka.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Stop Facebook Spam

Is sending media releases through Facebook spam?

I just got a media release on my Facebook page from Australian federal politician, Joe Hockey MP, about the Liberal Party's opposition to the Australian Government's latest Australian economic stimulus package.

I have asked to be removed from Joe's media release distribution list. Otherwise I'm happy to hear what he is up to in his electorate and his general comings and goings in the community.

Is sending a media release to Facebook friends (who you don't know) legitimate communications?

Or is it social media spam?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Three Learings From Obama's Online Marketing

It is just over a month since Barack Obama won his historic bid to become President of the United States. And as the dust settles you have to admire how his campaign used new media tools to get out his message of change to Americans and the rest of the world.

US viral marketer Jalali Hartman looks at Obama online, and concludes that by dominating the Internet Obama's message carried further and faster than his rival's John McCain.

Hartman's statistics tell it all. Obama had 5.5 million visitors to his website each month. McCain had 2.5m visitors. There were 442 000 Obama Youtube videos compared to 221 300 items featuring McCain. Obama had over 3 million friends on Facebook while McCain registered just over half a million supporters.

Obama's online campaign used three strategies others could use to promote their own issues and causes.
  • Share content Obama campaign managers had a no hassle copyright policy. They willingly shared the candidate's speeches, images, official logos etc with online supporters and encouraged them to re-purpose it for their own needs. Supporters could also download official campaign signs, literature and guidelines and receive up to date news of events.
  • Connect Facebook and other social networking sites connected supporters . Both Obama and wife Michelle had their own pages and friends created their own affiliated groups. The campaign also used Twitter (the micro blogging application) to keep followers informed about campaign developments such as appearances and speeches.
  • Make it easy to create community The official campaign website was structured to allow individuals to organise within their communities by offering tools, contacts and opportunities to share their own stories.

Obama's mastery of the online world contrasts sharply with the efforts of Australia's political parties in the 2007 Federal Election. A March 2008 report by the Australian Centre for Public Communication showed use of new media by Australian politicians remains low.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Stone Age Campaign in a Wired World

Canberra's political parties have yet to use the Internet strategically as a campaign tool in the 2008 ACT Election.

And compared with internet marketing in the US Election our local parties are stone age when it comes to the on-line age.

The US Election is running at the same time as our local race but the approach is completely different. Obama and McCain are all over the Internet, on Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and other on-line platforms. They are cleverly using blogs, video, sound files, downloadable programs, computer games and other social media tools to reach Americans.

As the Canberra Times reported we believe there is a 1998 approach to the Internet in the local 2008 campaign. And the ACT parties are failing to reach voters through their keyboards.

A few parties have ventured into new media territory in an effort to woo younger voters. But they show they just don't get the youth-oriented culture of social media when they disable the comments section on their YouTube videos and their Facebook ads feature candidates in collar and tie.

It's a shame ACT politicians are not fully using the new internet tools. Besides being cheap to use, they would allow more two way conversations between candidates and voters beyond the traditional door knock and mall meetings on Saturday morning.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Lipstick: Not on my pig thank you

In the past week we saw a media storm in the US presidential election following comments by Barack Obama about the Republican Party trying to dress up its policies.

He used a colloquial term‘lipstick on a pig’ which is a colourful way of saying you can’t make something attractive if it plainly isn’t.

The Republicans took this as a criticism of their Vice Presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, who the week before had used a lipstick reference in her acceptance speech.

The media picked up on the ‘he said she said’ verbal seesawing that followed between the two parties. The air turned thick with claim and counter claim about lipstick, pigs and personal attacks.

What a waste of precious time and energy that all was. Especially when global warming, terrorism, the state of the US economy and other key issues call for immediate attention.

The Public Relations Society of America was the only group to emerge looking good. On behalf of its 32 000 members the Society called on both the Democrat and Republic campaign managers to commit to the highest standards of ethical practice in their campaign communications and forgo innuendo, incomplete information, surrogate messaging and character attacks.

It asked both campaign managers to sign pledges to this effect but have yet to hear back from either. The Society also started up a Facebook group, “Clean & Fair Campaign 2008,” as a quasi petition to support their stand on honest and open communications in the Elections.

For years I have belonged to the Public Relations Institute of Australia, the Australian Marketing Institute and the International Association of Business Communicators. Yet I can’t recall those professional bodies saying anything in public about honesty in public communications.

Well done PRSA for taking the lead.