In what, at times, seemed like the longest, nastiest political campaign in recent memory, hard on personal attacks, soft on critical issues and short on platform substance, Canadians have cast their ballots rewarding the Liberal Party of Canada and leader Justin Trudeau with a minority victory.
Last night’s political punditry run of show was a true nail bitter until the final ballot was counted.
What’s the key PR takeaway from this election campaign?
Social media has changed all aspects of our political landscape. It’s never been easier for political parties and government bodies alike to get their messages across to target audience segments quickly. But it’s also never been easier to spread disinformation and amplify personal partisan attacks – this was particularly evident this past federal election campaign where the tone and language often seemed cynical, divisive and polarizing.
The result? A nearly deadlocked election which saw the Liberals and Conservatives duking it out within the polls’ margin of error.
The lack of a truly defining breakaway moment during the campaign was consistently reflected in the polls. The resulting minority that has followed suggests to us that there is a strong disconnect between political campaign messaging tone strategy versus what resonates with Canadians.
This is perhaps the single most important PR lesson politicians, industry and business leaders alike can take away from this election: If you don’t take the time to understand what motivates your audience, you’ll be hard pressed to successfully gain their buy-in on your narrative.
What happens next?
While there are no firm dates for a cabinet swearing in or a Speech from the Throne at this early juncture, we anticipate Prime Minister Trudeau will be keen to do both as quickly as possible with the goal of recalling parliament back before the end of November.
The path ahead for Prime Minister Trudeau will come with its fair share of hurdles. To avoid a collision that sends an unmotivated electorate back to the polls too soon, the Prime Minister will, whether through a formal coalition or through a vote by vote, issue by issue approach, be working on a strategy to establish the confidence of the House of Commons. Meaning, he’ll be looking to strike deals with potential allies across the aisle in order to gain the majority support he will need to succeed in moving his legislative agenda forward.
In a minority setting, where the only thing certain is uncertainty, allies are everything.
How do we establish relationships in this new government context?
So how does this new governing context impact your organization’s ability to advance and build awareness of causes or policy issues of importance to your industry?
First, it will be important to develop a thoughtful government relations strategy that deploys a multi-pronged approach to build relationships with key members of each party. While we always recommend organizations develop immediate relationships with key Ministry representatives, department officials as well as Shadow Cabinet members, in a minority context, establishing multi-party relationships and developing a tailored pitch accordingly, are critical to meaningful engagement.
This will mean getting to know where each of the parties stand on the issues that matter most to your organization.
Second, it will be important to evaluate all the communications channels you have at your disposal – some of which are better suited to relationship and credibility building than others.
Direct engagement with key decision makers combined with a proactive, public relations for government relations strategy, will help your organization narrow in on the right mix of tactics – from researching public opinion, to developing a proactive traditional media strategy to implementing a targeted social media campaign – to ensure you meet your outreach objectives.
Michelle Coates Mather, Director Strategy and Public Affairs