In my last blog I wrote that the federal Liberals had a competitive advantage over the Harper Conservatives because they weren’t saddled by the “rigid command-and-control mentality that … characterizes Conservative communications strategy”. But a failed Liberal PR stunt earlier today suggests that a little planning, control and message discipline still have their place in effective communications.
This is what CBC reporter Rosemary Barton had to say about it:
“Running communications for a political party is a trying task at the best of times.
Even more so when you’re competing with…yourself.
Picture it: the Hall of Honour of the Centre Block. Liberal MP Wayne Easter and the party’s spin-machine, Warren Kinsella, camped outside the door to the Conservative caucus meeting. Clearly waiting to do something.
Three sombre -looking Liberal staffers stand behind Easter with 8 x 10 photos of Conservative MPs who have, according to Easter, denounced the whole cheque-signing “scandal”.
Easter explains how this is must be stopped.
Wouldn’t be a bad little stunt if only: in the room right next door the Liberal caucus is launching the Pink Book on women’s issues.
Cameras and reporters gathered around Easter.
And although there were other reporters and cameras in the room for the launch, one media event can’t outdo the other.
Suddenly, Ignatieff’s director of communications, Jill Fairbrother arrives in the scrum and abruptly whisks Easter away.
She didn’t look pleased.
And the “stunt” ended awkwardly.
A sign of duelling communications strategies?
For the record, Jill Fairbrother says the two events were intended to take place 20 minutes apart, but ended up being at the same time because the Conservatives left from the back door.”
The problem is not so much crossed wires or the Conservative caucus’ disappearing act but that the Liberals planned two “competing” media events on the same day.
Planning a PR stunt designed to embarrass Conservative MPs on the same day that the party’s Women’s Caucus releases its platform recommendations was bound, at best, to limit media attention to both. At worst, it ran the risk of crowding out coverage of an event designed to showcase, among other things, the role and place of women in the Liberal party.
Talk about mixing messages.