Setting aside the political wisdom or otherwise of establishing a ‘Women for Gillard’ campaign modelled on a US Presidential campaign strategy, today’s mishandling of the pre-launch story by Labor is yet another example of the party just not getting the basics of effective communication.
More often than not, communication roles in politicians’ offices and party headquarters are filled by former journalists. The rationale for this is that former journalists are knowledgable about what best constitutes news in the media’s eyes and have a network of contacts within news organisations that can be exploited to get stories placed and covered in a favourable light.
This is where the trouble begins. Former journalists in communications roles don’t/can’t see beyond the media when it comes to communicating with the public. Communications specialists know there are myriad ways and will choose the communications tool that best delivers the message to their target audiences – sometimes this will be the media, but many times it will not.
And in this new brave world of disintegrating news media, it is even more important to know and use the most effective way of delivering a message to target audiences.
Nevertheless, placement of the “Women for Gillard’ story in Sydney and Melbourne’s most read newspapers must be a pretty good way of getting a message across, no? Well, actually, no.
The other thing that differentiates (former) journalists and communications people is that the former are tactical, focussed on immediacy and how to get the best story up, while the latter take a strategic approach where everything is tied together to achieve a longer term objective. For a tactical person, getting a favourable news story up is an ends in itself. For a strategic person, the same news story is but one tile in a mosaic, which might be pretty on its own but ultimately adds to an overall bigger picture that is incomparably more attractive.
In a strategic approach to communications, nothing happens on its own. Complementary activities create a sense of completeness and momentum. A press statement here is echoed by a speech over there and a opinion piece somewhere else. Twitter and Facebook alert and direct to other versions of the same message. Eyes are directed to websites where more information is provided. Youtube videos and podcasts cater to other communication preferences.
Without these other pieces to help it tell the story, the narrative, one prominent news story on its own will be nothing more than a pretty tile.
And so we have today’s pre-launch announcement of ‘Women for Gillard’, complemented by a gaping hole of nothingness. No Twitter account, Facebook page or website towards which interested readers could be directed. Nada. Only a vacuum to be filled by those who find the suggestion that the PM is a champion of women galling in light of her government’s policies and her personal support of Faceless Feeney over the female candidate in Batman.
Undoubtedly, the official launch of ‘Women for Gillard’ on Tuesday will have all the attendant pieces; by then there will be a Twitter account to follow and a Facebook page to like etc etc.
But the next 48 hours is an opportunity lost; the battleground has effectively been declared but then left vacant for the opponent to occupy. When the time comes to record the whys and hows of the Gillard Labor Government’s tragic self-destruction, #PRfail will be high on the list of its flaws.