Six communications lessons this week

Welcome back!
It's been a crazy week of highs and lows in the worlds of politics and media, with a few lessons to keep in mind for all of us.

Laura and Barry "standing on guard for thee"
Lesson # 1 if you can't make it better, make it different. President Obama's second Inauguration was a great experience to attend. Even without the euphoria that pervaded Washington the first time around (and with a noticeably smaller -but enthusiastic - crowd), nevertheless it was an historic experience unlike anything any other country's experiences. In Canada, such 'celebrations' of power might include a double-double Tim's coffee and delicious donuts for a handful of invited guests indoors, away from the prying eyes of the media!
Four years ago, Laura and I had a blast doing the VIP welcome at the Inaugural Balls. Check out this earlier post.  For this second inauguration, alas, Laura and I turned down an invitation to volunteer at the White House Ball on Tuesday night due to business commitments, but our son Brendan was a volunteer at the Official Ball on Monday night at the Washington Convention Center. It was a great opportunity for him to learn how a large enterprise comes together,  involving all the complexities of holding an event with 35,000 people celebrating.
Lesson # 2 Better to make it real, rather than a 'perfect' imitation
A lot of social media coverage focused on Beyoncé's lip-synching of the National Anthem. Given the frigid air, I can't say that I could particularly blame her. Nevertheless, in the Twitter-verse world of today, the result was a distraction from the coverage of the ceremony.To be honest, if the President had lip-synched the speech, I don't think the crowd would have noticed, at the time.
Lesson # 3 If you can't be a symbol of unity, then fire up your base
A more passionate 2nd Inaugural Speech
President Obama's first Inaugural was a truly historic occasion - one that many had never imagined would happen. He responded with a unifying theme, but after four deeply divided years, he knew that he was not the symbol of bipartisanship. There was no doubt that his second Inaugural speech had a strong partisan streak running through it. It was, however, delivered with more passion and energy. On Martin Luther King Day, he was clearly motivated to pick up on Dr. King's theme of equality and applying it to women's rights, same-sex marriage, and, in one that surprised quite a few - climate change.
Lesson # 4 Bipartisanship is a lot more useful than pure partisanship
Speaker Gingrich and his wife Calista 
Laura and I had a terrific time with the best view on Pennsylvania Avenue - the roof top level of the Canadian Embassy. Ambassador Gary Doer played host to Minister John Baird at a dinner the evening before as well as the next day's luncheon. What was intriguing was how the conversations cut across the usual partisan lines at both events.
Between the two events, we had some great chats with Ambassador Gary Doer (NDP); former Senator and now Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, Christopher Dodd (DEM); Speaker Newt Gingrich (GOP); North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp (DEM); former Canadian Ambassadors Frank McKenna (Liberal), Michael Wilson (Conservative); former Minister Jim Prentice (Conservative); former U.S Ambassadors to Canada (Gordon Giffin (DEM) and David Wilkins (GOP). It was a thrill to meet broadcasters Robert McNeil and Jim Lehrer, whose essential decency and professionalism still stand out today.
Lesson # 5 If you're going to apologize, do it earlier and really mean it
Lance Armstrong's two part apologia on Oprah Winfrey's show was a must-see for all who have watched the many years of Armstrong's denials and truly wanted him to come clean and be humble about it. Well, he told the truth (mostly) and he was not-quite-humble-but-sorta-justifying it all. From the social media reaction, he didn't get the response he was hoping for. Most saw it as a start. He could earn his way back, but people can tell if you've had a true change of heart.

Lesson # 6 Momentum is more important than gender or sexual orientation in politics.
The Ontario Liberal Party has just elected Kathleen Wynne as their new leader, and Premier. Not only is she the first woman to become  the Premier of Ontario, but the first openly gay leader of either gender in Canada. Following an impressive speech to the Convention, she was able to build on that momentum throughout the balloting. Although she was a few votes shy in the first two rounds, she pulled ahead of Sandra Pupatello when the other candidates - notably Gerard Kennedy - brought their supporters over to her.
What will it mean for her election chances within the next year or so? She will have an extremely difficult balancing act to perform. Whenever a new leader replaces an incumbent leader, they almost always fail to pull it off. (Think John Turner after Pierre Trudeau; Kim Campbell after Brian Mulroney; Ernie Eves after Mike Harris; Paul Martin after Jean Chretien and on and on.) The key for her will be to re-brand the Party while maintaining its supporters. My instinct is that she has the potential to take votes from the NDP's Leader, Andrea Horvath, but not as many from the Tories under Tim Hudak. Pupatello had the voter universe on the centre-right side of the spectrum; however, she wasn't able to build momentum in the final days of the campaign.
Until next time.....

1 comment:

  1. RE: #6

    Trudeau would have been a hard act to follow for anybody; Turner's stiffness was starkly contrasted. Kim Campbell? Canada's first female PM got handed the kitty litter. She lost because of Mulroney and probably anybody would have (in this respect I agree with your hypothesis.) Ernie Eves got thrashed because he was Harris' Finance Minister who tried to rip the people off of their publicly owned Hydro producer. Somebody else might have won but he lost on his own, not because he followed anybody. Martin and Chretien both deserve blame for their party's demise; it would have been the same problem if it'd been the other way around (the coup de grace was when the Liberals elected Dion, then, disappointed, anointed by appointment Ignatieff; it was his illegitimacy that finished them off.) Martin, once he'd secured the office he'd worked years to get, finally did himself in by convening the adscam/gum-ball inquiry; ethically correct but politically fatal.