04 September 2013

Political parties: Forget "message". Try vision, values and leadership

With three days to go, I've pretty much given up hope. But reflecting on this excruciatingly awful 2013 Federal Election campaign, I still can't help wishing for the impossible... a glimpse of vision from a political leader somewhere.

Ask a party leader why we should vote for him/her and the answer is inevitably framed narrowly, with reference to the other parties. Even the Greens pretty much go with "Because we're not them...".

Surely a better question is "Why do you want to lead us?" Forget the other parties and tell us what you and your mob actually believe in. What are your fundamental values? What motivates you? What's your vision for the nation?

Both major parties are so often heading down the same cynical path on issues like asylum seekers and climate change that we can no longer rely on observed actions and stated policies as a guide to their values and beliefs. Yet I think we crave something more meaningful.

To extend this a little, and with reference to what I do for organisations (businesses and not-for-profits), it continues to puzzle me why political parties spend massive amounts on communications and "message" consultants, researchers and pollsters, but apparently fail to work internally on their core strategy first.

Put simply, message doesn't drive meaning. What I consistently tell marketers is that they must identify or decide what it is they really stand for FIRST, before they even think about the implications for communication. I don't see why the parties that aspire to govern us should do things any differently.

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