The Rules for Going Negative

Welcome back!
To the land of snow and freezing temperatures, and as we dig our way out of winter's offerings, right about now we start to dream of heading south, once it reaches the intolerable level, or 'March break' as it's known. It's easy to get into a negative 'funk' at this time of year....something to do with Vitamin D deficiency, I believe.

I was happy to see The King's Speech win all those SAG Awards. Not only was the movie enjoyable and the acting by Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush terrific, but it gets at a sensitive subject of overcoming one's barriers in life - no matter how exalted one's life appears to be. As a kid who had a stammer - although not a stutter - I have always had a great empathy for people with speech impediments or communications difficulties. [And probably contributed to my chosen field of coaching executives and others to communicate more effectively.]

Speaking of movies, I presume most of you have seen the highly enjoyable "The Social Network' and its tale of intrigue and disloyalty behind the runaway success story of Mark Zuckerberg? Ironically, half way around the world, Facebook® is playing a role in the revolutions underway in Egypt [as well as Tunisia  and Yemen.] The people have become empowered as they learn that they are not alone.

If you get a chance, check out the always compelling Bob McKeown of CBC's The Fifth Estate as he uncovers the extent of the Mafia in Canada, in The Death of the Don - about the killing of Nicolo Rizzuto in Montreal. Thanks to brave journalists and authors, along with highly dedicated police specialists, they serve to remind us of this dangerous menace in Canada and the United States (let alone Italy and Sicily).

You Too Can be a Pundit!
It seems that our television and radio outlets have gone pundit-crazy. If you're thinking of becoming a TV pundit, check out this clip of the BBC interviewing a cab driver who had shown up applying for a job, only to end up on-air as a putative IT expert. What is amazing about this video clip is not only that he pulled it off, but that the BBC host/interviewer didn't seem to notice! See, there's hope for everyone!

The Launch of Negative Political Ads in Canada
For those of you who may have caught the interview I did last week on the CBC National with Wendy Mesley [first news item] , you would have seen me commenting on the ads launched by the Conservatives and the Liberals. The Conservatives are employing a two-pronged strategy to position themselves and the Opposition parties. Their goal is to position Stephen Harper as the hard-working steady leader toiling away on Parliament Hill while the world outside goes to hell in a hand-basket. In the Tories attack ads on Michael Ignatieff, they aim directly at Michael Ignatieff, with the tag line, "he didn't come back for you." Those spots represent a return to the old "just visiting" attacks on Mr. Ignatieff. If it worked before (which it did), they are going back to their greatest 'hits' [pun not intended]. The attack ad on NDP Leader Jack Layton links him to the failed attempt at a coalition government within weeks of the 2008 election. They continue to bring up the spectre of a coalition with the separatist Bloc Party. Again, that strategy got them out of a jam two years ago, so they are following the rule, 'go back to what works'.

The Liberals on the other hand are using the tagline "Harper's Canada" as they attack the government for the F-35 fighter jets and the planned corporate tax cut.

So let's say that you are in a political campaign and wondering about the effectiveness of negative, 'attack ads', what 'rules' should you keep in mind?

The Rules of Engagement  for Negative Attack Ads
1. The ad has to resonate with the public's perception of your opponent. For example, don't try to paint your opponent as a stumble-bum who is totally incompetent if the polls indicate he/she is highly competent. [For example, Stephen Harper scores highly on competence but may be vulnerable on other perceptions.]
2. Don't distort the truth - otherwise you end up on the defensive and it will backfire on your Party or candidate.
3. Don't over-reach. The Tory attack ad on Jean Chretien in the 1993 campaign was seen as crossing the line from 'tough' to 'mean' as it appeared to be a personal attack on his dis-figured face. [Chretien's response really stuck the knife in, when he said in media interviews, "I can't help it. That's the way God made me." Ouch!
4. Keep the focus on policy - not on personality. Both the Liberals and the Conservatives are hitting hard on the other's leader. But the lines start to blur the more each hammers the other.
5. If you don't have anything nice to say...speak directly into the camera. The Tea Party brought out Rep. Michele Bachman [R-Minn] for their Response to the State of the Union, but bizarrely was advised to look into their website camera - not the pool camera. Decide for yourself if that was a wise idea? This same rule would apply if planning a negative attack ad.

Until next time....stay positive!

No comments:

Post a Comment