public relationsCEO’s and public relations experts can learn a lot from watching politicians, in this case it’s the vision-thing.

I still don’t know what Turnbull stands for. Where is his vision that is going to define his period in government? Paul Keating called it his ‘Big Idea’ (at 19:20 in this interview). Once the honeymoon period is over, tradies and city workers alike will
need to know what MT stands for.

So far there have been short-term corrections that give us an indication of his style, and generally we like them:

  • It was important that he stopped destructive point scoring in parliament
  • It’s great that he’s pro-innovation and supports the CSIRO
  • It counts that he’s been received warmly overseas, with no embarrassing ‘shirtfronting’
  • And that he’s said ‘No’ to the US about more troops into the Middle East.
  • It’s matters that he seems to have effectively managed the Jamie Briggs and Mal Brough controversies.
  • And it’s a positive that he has a varied and successful career

But these aren’t a replacement for a vision that a will unite an Australian majority? The absence of one is clear if, for instance, you read the longish transcript of the 3AW Neil Mitchell interview (Jan 29th).

Will he be the PM that turns Australia into an innovation nation, or a country that’s sustainable, steering away from coal mining and heading towards carbon-neutral, or a quality food producer to exploit the approaching global food crisis, or all of the above?

This need for a vision is a challenge for every CEO, talked-up by public relations advisers and marketers, and I argue there’s ample evidence that people (voters, investors, employees, customers) are much less tolerant in the digital age of leaders who don’t deliver.

Public Relations checklist

It’s a public relations challenge, and when I start working with a new client there is a check list I use to forecast the level of difficulty of our task. To engender trust and loyalty in a changing environment every company needs:

  1. a strong united values-driven leadership team, driving
  2. a compelling vision expressed in clear, concise messages;
  3. a good spokesperson;
  4. a communications plan that excels at the fundamentals of spreading the message;
  5. nimbleness

It looks so simple, but it confounds so many. MT has issues with #1, but every political leader has a fractious party; however, falling short on #2 presents a challenge of his own making.

You can argue that we know a lot about Turnbull’s beliefs, they are on the news nightly. But in all communications there should be two messages, the ‘Incident Message’ (about the issue of the day) and an over-arching ‘Brand Message’, and it’s the latter that’s missing. And then it’s up to the public relations advisers and marketers to make sure we hear it, often: ‘Repetition = Penetration = Impact’.

It’s going to be made a lot harder too, as the election year will be dominated by tax reform (mainly a GST debate), which is a tough sell – complex for people who try and understand it and generating distrust amongst those who don’t.


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