Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Creation of a celebrity Prime Minister in a 2.0 world

We all know John Howard loves cricket, Paul Keating loves french antique clocks, and we all know KRudd loves to hobnob with celebrities to give himself increased self importance. But Julia, she just wants to be a brand. A brand of PM who is marketable and appealing to all walks of Australian life with her voice, image and message paired with every kind of interest group she can dabble in.

The main theory behind social media strategy is fairly simple:- to tap into relevant interest groups it’s important to engage in the right passion points. For example, if a brand wants to get the mums, the brand picks a passion point that mums care about and then develops an engagement strategy around it. For example, Kleenex create PooPoo island to help mums teach kids how to be toilet trained and Kleenex sells more toilet paper.

To illustrate, these are the handful of associations and parlaying I have seen over the last year that are all aboard the express PooPoo train:

  • Junior Masterchef guest appearance: Yet to air but the PR machine is set at full power. The show has a huge reach and will hit a large proportion of voters. My pick is we’ll see the Julia brand tick off the issue of “I don’t have any kids but still love ‘em”.
    Textbook ALP strategy.

  • Cover of Australian Women's Weekly: Michelle Obama and Jackie O take easily to Women’s leisure Magazines because they are the more traditional image of a woman, wife and mother. Michelle Obama does not make political decisions, she is a presence who uses her notoriety to draw attention to issues she feels are important to her country. Issues which don’t require a vote or bill to be passed for them to take effect, only the need for the individual to participate.
    In contrast, Julia Gillard appearing in these magazines spreads herself too thin and removes focus on her policies. She tries to create an image of herself as the woman who cares about the home and family, making herself relatable to a similar kind of audience. However it’s fake for the time being, her time is spent being PM. It’s not the real Julia and she still reads as unrelatable.

  • World cup bid: If John Howard were still PM, maybe he would have endorsed the World Cup Bid. Maybe. You know for sure he would have endorsed anything cricket related, but that would have been it. He has a huge passion for the sport and is honest about it. Here again it seems Julia is trying to appeal to another code’s demographic to be more relatable and respected amongst the audience.
    With ever increasing audiences and interest points it seems Julia Gillard just wants to appear in front of another camera to get more Australian eyeballs to see her outside the backdrop of parliament.

  • Western Bulldogs Supporter: This at least is a little bit authentic. The Bulldogs are her team, she wants to support them. Go Julia. There appears to be a time and place where politicians can participate in down time and subscribe to their passions and interests. It’s not about getting in front of the cameras, it’s about allowing that person to enjoy what is important to them. A stark contrast to Gillard’s additional forays.

  • Kicking the footy with President Obama: They’re both at fault here. An unnecessary photo op that leaves bad taste in mouth. It was purely designed as a stunt to get news coverage. You could even call this a viral. But like any viral, it made you mildly happy for half a second and at the next inhalation it’s forgotten.
    Gillard’s team needs to realise that the strategy they have in place needs a solid story and flow to maintain momentum and build the cohesive image of a Politician, rather than some ‘happy go lucky’ type who knows how to have a good time with other politicians when they have down time.

  • Blue September: Gillard won’t paint her face blue, but she is certainly amongst it supporting awareness for cancer suffered by men.
    I’m not sure why this organisation requires Julia Gillard to endorse it? She is a known Australian personality, but her reputation as a PM is sinking fast. The only connection is that Tim Mathieson endorses the cause and for valid reason. Here is an appropriate endorsement and one Gillard should take a lesson from.

  • Gillard begs the Wallabies to do her proud: Another sport endorsement. Tapping into the Australian male audience across the country. Yes, Gillard can make a good joke about sledging and ammunition against her Kiwi counterpart, but because it isn’t isolated, and not part of her fabric as an individual, it again seems shameless, forced and unnecessary.

  • Playing Pool at a retirement village: What?!

  • 60 minutes appearance: Tapping into the voyeuristic celebrity culture that we live in, Julia Gillard aims to become more accessible. 2.0 attributes includes the increased accessibility to brands, celebrities or spokespeople, so there is no wonder her team have suggested this.

    Tim Mathieson is presented as the homemaker and you’re meant to feel more connected to Julia because now you know who she is at home. But is there a reason to know who Julia really is? Not really. As a tax payer and with the ability to vote I’d rather see her act more like a politician in political channels. Janet Albrechtsen of The Australia, articulates the appearance much better than I can.

  • Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, MySpace (?) and the ALP community site: These are the spaces for community interaction and the place to be a bit more relaxed with followers. It’s a great start and where we actually see some good happening regarding communicating to the people about what both Labor and Gillard are involved in. Whether it’s actually JG writing a post or the JGTeam you know it. Either her or her team appear accessible, but accessible politically.
    However, the team is not responding or engaging at all on Facebook with the follower comments. Some issues have over 2,000 comments yet not one word from the JGTeam. Not even a simple acknowledgement. Every community manager knows that isn’t a good look for any community activity.

    @JuliaGillard on Twitter has some leeway to talk about JG’s endorsements and sadly, this happens more often than actually talking to the people. Again a lack of priority in the strategy to really make JG the politician she needs to be. Twitter needs work.

    MySpace and Flickr? Both of these can get dumped. They waste resource and FB does it all.

    The ALP website is both a shrine to Julia Gillard and incredibly confusing. They don’t call her the PM, they label her Julia Gillard. I say credit where credit is due. She has her name all her life, I don’t think she will be PM for too long! I’m not sure why there is a need to detract from her title.
    On the confusing part, I don’t even know where to start and this post is too long already. One example is the page encouraging members to call talkback radio with a 2 step plan-
    Step 1:
    find a radio station, and
    Step 2: Call the radio station.
    Don’t believe me, see it here. A “click to call” might help!

Yes, the real Julia likes her down time, likes to relax, take the piss like any other Aussie and is a real human being- all conventions and wisdoms of a web 2.0 world. We see brands taking on that human voice and interacting with the public as people because we know there is always a voice behind that brand. However, the key difference is that these brands’ marketing strategies are largely cohesive and represent a brand with a singular core message. They have well designed umbrella strategies, know their purpose in each and every channel and have taken wisdom from what's gone before them- knowing that they need to be authentic or consumers will turn their backs.

Furthermore, brands don’t tend to sponsor several different sport codes and countless charities. They pick those causes that align strongly with their brand message and create committed partnerships in those relationships. Another reason why all the partnerships Gillard has on her books are rank with the bouquet of fake Julia. There is no long-term commitment or duality. Her finger is just in every pie.

If I was in Julia Gillard’s PR machine, I’d strongly suggest a review. Look at where Gillard wants to be politically and focus on achieving those goals. If there is a group that wants to align with Ms Gillard, carefully consider each and every one and then align with what’s selected and stick with it. A one off photo op may just be a one off photo op, but Gillard’s priority should be being PM and not utilising these side issues to increase her reach across different demographics to gain attention. It's attention for the wrong reasons.

…already, I’m starting to have more respect for her. Little fanfare and focus on what’s important.

Please, let those dog days be over. At least they're both redheads.