7 Rules for Winning Campaigns

Welcome back!
It's been a crazily busy week but it's happening at a great time of year - the Fall. Golden leaves, crisp air, Major League Baseball Championships, and the sine qua non of life.....elections! I just came back from a trip to a truly hidden gem in America....Michigan!! Specifically, a town called Traverse City. Small, liveable, quintessential American Main Street, great restaurants, an opera house and a totally renovated movie house - paid for by one Michael Moore. [Regardless of what one thinks of his films, he knows how to recapture the glory years of cinemas from the looks of it.]

Give Cousin Eddie a Permanent Canadian Christmas!

Canada is a much sought-after haven for refugee claimants and the Harper government introduced this week its planned fix for dealing with the scourge of human smuggling. Too late, it seems, to deal with Hollywood refugees Randy and Evi Quaid who arrived in Vancouver on the run from California police and - after being arrested by police in Canada - promptly appeared before an IRB (Immigration and Refugee Board) judge claiming refugee status. So as an act of gratitude for his iconic role as Cousin Eddie in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, I suggest we give Randy and Evi complimentary refugee status. Heck, it's just as credible as some of the stories the IRB hears:)

BP still doesn't get it.
New CEO Bob Dudley, by all accounts a very sensible man, appears not to get the power of communications in the handling of a crisis. He still believes that the media and rivals did BP in on the Gulf Oil spill! the simple response to that is that BP wounded itself with its mishandling of the spill response, public expectations, contradictory messages, poor Congressional testimony etc. The media and rivals, smelling blood, moved in for the kill. One would hope that the new CEO would have learned this. Check this item out.

Change is in the Air - in Ontario and across the United States
With voters trooping to the polls across Ontario today, politicians are going all out to get their voters to the polls. With low voter turnout, many races will depend on the GOTV [Get-Out-The-Vote]apparatus. Robo-calls over the weekend inundated voters from Mayors to Councillors to School Board Trustees.

All polling indicates that maverick Councillor Rob Ford over former Ontario Cabinet Minister George Smitherman - in a shocking upset - will win the Toronto Mayor's race and that veteran politician Jim Watson will win the Ottawa Mayor's race over incumbent Mayor Larry O'Brien. We'll save post-debate analysis for the next blog posting but see below for 7 Rules for Winning Campaigns.

All the media coverage would have one convinced that the Democrats are going to have their heads handed to them on Election Day. No doubt that is true. Anger, resentment, frustration and fear are all potent mixes for big change. Not all Democrats are in trouble - look at what's happening in California, with Jerry Brown surging ahead of Meg Whitman. Incumbents are particularly vulnerable and any candidate who smacks of accepting the status quo is in big trouble. When 'change' is on the menu, the status quo is toast.

For many voters the ballot question in times like this is often, 'who speaks for me'?  The Tea Party activists are roiling the waters very effectively, but have they peaked too soon? They were surging in the primary campaigns in states like Delaware, but when it comes to the main race, every day is the dawn of a new error. Delaware Republican Senate Candidate Christine O'Donnell's I am not a witch. I'm you commercial being Exhibit A of political incompetence.

The problem with disdaining professionalism in political campaigns is that every little thread of an error is pulled by the organization that is professionally run. No one said life is unfair, but the earlier that candidates realize that the better. Professional doesn't mean selling out, it means doing it right. If it means distorting your positions to satisfy focus groups and pollsters, then it has crossed a line. However, if a candidate is well trained and ready to undergo lightning-fast aerial bombardments and below the water-line torpedo attacks [to my sensitive readers, pardon the war-like imagery, but when you are in the middle of such a campaign, that is exactly what it feels like].

All of this to say, here are...

7 Rules for Winning Campaigns

1. Understand your voter universe - who are potentially reachable by you and your campaign? Can they be motivated to move to you and based on what issues and messages? Being ignorant about that is unforgiveable and will be punished on election day.
2. Motivate your base, but don't be a slave to them. Your base is critical to your momentum. Sometimes, however, your base may be poisonous in your ability to grow beyond them. Understand them and respect them, and if you must take positions which are different from them, then explain yourself clearly and directly to them.
3. Reach your voters numerous times through traditional and social media. The recent victor in the Calgary mayor's race - who made national news as the first Muslim mayor of a big city - was able to mix the two brilliantly.
4. Never interrupt a hanging. [Notice the different imagery?] When your opponent is busy with self-inflicted damage, step back and don't create other news.
5. Have a clear message and drive it relentlessly. In the twittered, information-overloaded universe, it is extremely difficult to drive one message home so don't scatter your messages. Make sure the message is understood, succinct and matters deeply to your voter universe. Frame the message effectively - don't message on the defense [see Christine O'Donnell video above].
6. Manage perceptions well. The voters rarely get to actually know a candidate. They form their impressions through the media - traditional and social media. So what is the perception you want them to have of you? Down to earth...HOAG (helluva guy/gal)...straight-shooter....on my side. Lecturing people about what's good for them never has worked and never will. The voter has to relate to the candidate but doesn't want to be told what to do.
7. Be extremely well prepared. Know the issues. Get training in media, speeches, door-to-door, debates. A candidate will be tested every hour of every day. Trying to learn all that in the middle of a campaign is very difficult [although not impossible :)] You are asking the voters to put trust in you, so you have to define yourself before your opponents do. This dual definition has to start early and then continually throughout the campaign. Remember you must define yourself and your opponent.

So those are just some thoughts that one may ponder as we get ready for Election Night coverage.

Until next time.....


The Heroes' Journey

Welcome back!
Amid all the negative news around the world, it is so uplifting to experience the miraculous events at the mine site in Chile as the Los 33 miners are safely evacuated after 69 days in a dark tomb half a mile underground.

Crisis Management Tips from the Rescue of Los 33

1. Keep the team together - the miners were pulled together as a team working for the same goals, with no one person more important than the other.This will be essential in the days to come as they face the media. [Another reason why media training of the miners was a good idea IMHO].
2. Assign specific tasks - each miner was given a responsibility - a medic became the doctor, another was responsible for the transfer of the packages up and down the shaft, a chaplain, the foreman in charge, etc. The miners organized themselves into three groups in different parts of the mine and operated like shifts to proved 24/7 contact.
3. Manage their expectations - they were told that their rescue may take until Christmas. Much discussion had taken place as to whether or not to tell the miners that. In the end, they felt that being honest with them was the best policy to create trust.
4. Prepare Plans A, B and C - rather than put all their eggs in one basket. [Although why they didn't just shove golf balls down there and hope for the best is beyond me :)]
5. Anticipate and organize. Underground and above ground, they drew upon top resources and got everyone working together in the best planned rescue operation ever.
6. Keep the miners physically and mentally active. They not only needed to stay in shape for the physical challenges to come (such as fitting inside a 28"wide capsule) but also to be mentally alert in order to withstand the ordeal and be better prepared for the world when they were rescued.
7. Make communications a priority. It was the key to the rescue operation and to morale. Being able to communicate with their families and supplies have been delivered two-ways through the boreholes in special tubes nicknamed 'palomas' or 'doves'. Video updates from the miners raised the morale of families and the Chilean people - which was also essential to the successful management of the emergency.

Los 33 - Heroes' Journey

Our televisions and computer screens are filled with a story that - if someone had pitched it as a movie - would be laughed off as ridiculous. That got me to thinking what is it about this event that has so captured all of the world in their incredible journey?

First, it has all the necessary elements of drama. I have been studying in recent years, Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey the template of which is often used for movie screenplays. Here are some of those steps in that journey and how the miners' story has followed its core elements.

Step 1. The Call to Adventure - the point in the story when the characters learn that their lives are going to change. When the mine collapsed the miners' world absolutely changed - instantly and forever.

Step 2 - Refusal of the Call. Often when the call is given, the future hero refuses to heed it. In this case, they had no option. But on an emotional or psychological level they may have had trouble genuinely believing that their could be a journey out of their nightmare. The first seventeen days - in which they were out of contact and presumed dead, it would have been completely understandable if they had fallen into despair.

Step 3 -  Supernatural Aid - once the hero has committed to the quest, consciously or unconsciously, his or her guide and magical helper appears, or becomes known. From what we can see on our television screens, it was not just the engineering or science that they men relied upon, it was the spiritual, mental and emotional resources that they had to draw upon.  When contact was made a tiny shaft of hope was sparked.

Step 4 - The Crossing of the First Threshold - this is the point where the person actually crosses into the field of adventure, leaving the known limits of his or her world and venturing into an unknown and dangerous realm where the rules and limits are not known. When they began to communicate with the outside world, they became aware of the almost unfathomable journey that they were about to embark upon.

Step 5 - The Belly of the Whale - represents the final separation from the hero's known world and self. It is sometimes described as the person's lowest point, but it is actually the point when the person is between or transitioning between worlds and selves. In the case of the miners, the separation has been made and is being fully recognized between the old self and the potential for a new world/self. It is often symbolized by something dark, unknown and frightening [is this a screenplay or what?]. By entering this stage, the person shows their willingness to undergo a metamorphosis, to die to himself. [We are starting to learn of the miners' renewed commitments to family, and to make their lives truly meaningful, rather than taking them for granted.]

There are twelve more steps on the Hero's Journey. But the last four steps are worth noting here:

Step 9 - Rescue from Without - in Chile's case a throughly professional team approach from the rescuers brought them home.

Step 10 - The Crossing of the Return Threshold - the trick in returning is to retain the wisdom gained on the quest, to integrate that wisdom into a human life, and then maybe figure out how to share the wisdom with the rest of the world. This is usually extremely difficult.

Step 11 - Master of the Two Worlds - for a human hero, it may mean achieving a balance between the material and spiritual. The person has become comfortable and competent in both the inner and outer worlds.

Step 12 - Freedom to Live - mastery leads to freedom from the fear of death, which in turn is the freedom to live. This is sometimes referred to as living in the moment, neither anticipating the future nor regretting the past.

Of course the stories of the miner with a wife and girlfriend only fuels further interest in the story. But let's not lose sight of the hero's journey and what it truly means about the human spirit and the power that all of us have to transform our lives. We don't need a mine collapse to make such a transformation, but it often takes something cataclysmic to do it.

With all the talk about movie deals and sponsorships, little wonder that the 'Los 33' story will be coming to a movie theater near you!

Until next time....


When we make 'inartful' comments

'Welcome back!
Well it looks like we are finally getting some of that beautiful Fall weather we have been so missing in these parts. How about where you live? All I have seen in the media - besides political muggings - is floods, hurricanes and the occasional tornado!

I have been busy as always, but managed to squeeze in a round of golf last week, and am hoping to get another round in this weekend.

I also managed to do a few interviews during the past week - one was my comments on David Johnston, Canada's new Governor General and on Stephen Harper, Michael Ignatieff and Jack Layton: Barry on CTV's Power Play

'Inartful' Comments

Last week, CNN's Rick Sanchez, the (now former) host of Rick's List made a few CTCs [Career Terminating Comments] about Comedy Central's Jon Stewart which his bosses at CNN thought were so incendiary that they fired him in record time. [Even faster than their hiring of that other paragon of virtue Eliot Spitzer...but I digress.] His comments speak for themselves and you can judge for yourself if they were worthy of the firing offence: Rick Sanchez melts down

In my view his comments were stupid - and as he himself called them 'inartful' - they weren't quite up to the  standard that one would hear on Fox News or by talk radio hosts across the fruited plain. It might have been better to pair him up with Jon Stewart and watch him be annihilated live on national television. At least Rick faced the music and apologized to Stewart. Jon Stewart Takes Rick Apart

So here is a rule for making 'inartful comments:

1. Never attack a satirist especially if a) he is intelligent and witty and b) has his own show.

So until next time...be careful about who is the target of your 'inartful' comments!