Thursday, October 23, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
To engage with middle America, to overcome negative connotations, to answer critics, to be visible outside the traditional confines of a campaign, to be human/authentic/real, to be seen with celebrities, to get the message across.
To appear on Saturday Night live, alongside Tina Fey (the best Sarah Palin lookalike around) to allow the cast to poke fun and take it in your stride, to appear with Alec Baldwin and others, to smile and look like you are having fun.
To achieve the long-term strategy, or to look rather false or silly, to trivialise the campaign and its issues. To actually be seen to endorse some of the negatives voiced by Baldwin and Amy Poehler in her rap.
Should she or shouldn't she - she chose yes but was this the right decision for her as a candidate to be Vice President?
Monday, October 20, 2008
I borrow the title from an article today's Independent written by Archie Bland who chatted to me about the issues on Friday. The article argues that a bad photo, or more broadly television appearance, can make or break a campaign. Quoting PR consultant Mark Borkowski, the thesis is that "If you ever stop thinking about how you look, you can get caught out." And this is the problem with such images of William Hague in a baseball cap on an amusement park ride, the strange image of John McCain tongue out groping for his seat that has gone viral online and across the media, Miliband and that banana, John Redwood miming badly to the Welsh National Anthem well we could go on. But the key about these images is if they sit comfortably with the voters frame of reference. Basically we all possess a range of perceptions about every public figure, these are called schema. If US voters have a John McCain schema that includes old and frail then these images will build up that perception and could be reasons why they should not elect him as president (this is the point I make in the article about Hague's perceived immaturity, the picture of him as a boy stuck and reduced his credibility). However this negative may be seen as an aberration from the schema, that this is not really him and he cannot be judged by a photo capturing him when off guard, hence then the voter will reject the inference. So while Borkowski is absolutely right about the importance of image the decoding of any image is also a function of existing attitudes and perceptions. For voters in the US, and particularly those floating voters in the swing states do perceive McCain as "a frail old geezer staring fiercely at the backside of the man striding confidently away from him, making a last, desperate play for the vote of the lizards" then the picture will compound that image if not it will be ignored and filed as rather nasty media hype of an off guard aberration by a man who has the qualities to be a President. So the key lesson is not just don't look stupid (though that helps) but don't look stupid in a way that plays to existing prejudices
Sunday, October 19, 2008
"My wife Jill is an extraordinary woman. Jill's passion has always been education, and even during the campaign she's been teaching class during the week and joining me on the trail on the weekends. But this week, she also found some time to go to campaign headquarters and call voters in crucial battleground states. Jill has always had a great time talking to potential supporters, and I'm sure her calls brought Barack and me a few votes closer to victory. Can you do the same?"
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Thursday, October 16, 2008
While Joe will not be in government he is being used as a representative of the floating voter in the swing state. He is worried about the economy and is unsure which candidate will work hardest and do the best job in protecting Joe's business, his home, his family during the recession. Obama telling Joe that small businesses like his would be exempt from paying Health Insurance for employees may be attractive, it certainly seemed to catch McCain off guard, but now Joe is, as the New York Times suggests, a "proxy for all of the country's working people", what is his verdict.
The new star of American politics was instantly interviewed and his words posted to YouTube. For him it was McCain that won the debate and his vote, Obama was a bit too socialist and perhaps parochial with "everything starting at home". But will this be important? If Joe continues to be used as a cipher there is the chance that this unscripted yet articulate small businessman could be perceived as the authentic voice of middle America and so Obama needs to consider how he can win him over between now and Nov 4th.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
It is hard to tell whether Sarah Palin is popular or not, some sections of the media castigate her, others talk of her as the saviour of the Republican campaign: the authentic hockey mom. But what is interesting is the fuss being made of her winking. There are a few clips on YouTube, such as the below to illustrate this:
The media seem to suggest that what she is suggesting is an understanding of her audience. That by winking it is an unspoken gesture of empathy and being at one with the people. Hence while many papers quote strategist Axelrod saying she would perform well but that you can not get away with just a nod a wink or a smile. However her great quality is her ordinariness and perhaps the nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more tactic will work for her.
Friday, October 03, 2008
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
From a very slow start, Lembit Opik seems to have launched a campaign for his bid to be LibDem leader. Interestingly the BBC picked up on the bit of the contest taking place on Facebook, both he and Ros Scott have '4 President' groups and in terms of membership Opik is winning 694 to 416. So does this indicate anything, no and numbers alone rarely do. Those supporting Opik are mostly UK based, but include people from the Caribbean, across Europe and one Alex Hilton the creator of LabourHome. Scott, on the other hand, has all the MPs showing their support and hers seems to be the site for the party elite and some of the activists.
In terms of content however, Opik's Discussion Board contains the question 'will he help or hinder the party' and there are 5 posts. Yes they all say he will help, but it does focus on some of the questions about whether he can be taken seriously as a politician. A clever persuasive tool is for the admin to put up the question and get the ordinary visitor to give an endorsement. Scott's page is a little drab in that respect, pictures of her touring the constituencies but nothing that shouts out at the visitor.
Ros Scott's website however is the focus of her campaign. Here visitors are asked to input a postcode or select a region and then you get endorsements from local party activists from the local MEP to councillors to an ordinary, new member of Poole Liberal Democrats. A very attractive site and perhaps pitched right for the target audience of card carrying members. Lembit Opik's is nicely branded, it is yellow, but far more haphazard and unprofessional. There are a range of endorsements from MPs, PPCs etc but it does not have the attractive presentation; but does this matter really?
Perhaps the telling difference is the statements. Scott talks in manifestos and there is a lot of words to get through, but this is ideal for those who have high involvement in the contest and its outcome. Opik offers 12 lines that are about his personal values as opposed to the nitty gritty of politics and the role of the President. It is a contrast between Opik's "President with vim and verve, who everyone knows" and "someone who represents that membership not just to the outside world, but internally, to the Leader". But it depends on the audience which will have the greatest persuasive impact. Is it a case of style versus substance, celebrity versus grassroots campaigner and if so which would you put money on to win?