The key to success in PR (you can take that to mean public relations or proportional representation in this context, if it’s not too early in the morning) is to stick out- to say or do or create something original, something that sets you apart form the rest. Something that shows your customers or voters that YOURS is the camp to be in.
Something that showcases your ability to be cutting edge as you face into the future. Something that shows that YOU are the guy or the girl with the Big Idea.
Forty-eight hours into the election campaign and as yet, there are no Big Ideas.
There is predictable waffle about the old reliables- Fine Gael’s pathological fear of taxation means the usual bleating about not raising them in the coming mandate period (a promise they will find it very hard to keep), whilst Labour will look to spread the burden more fairly (ditto).
With a manifesto that perfectly echoes their name, Sinn Féin will tell everyone to get stuffed as they go it alone through our crisis. Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil and the Greens are so utterly discredited that it’s not even worth paying attention to what they are saying just yet, but can be summed up as “we got everyone into this mess, ergo we know best how to get us out of it”. Which, of course, is rubbish.
So from all sides there is nothing new, but even if no fully-formed Big Idea has taken hold, the seeds are there, just waiting to be watered.
This is the most switched-on election in our history- people are more politically and economically aware than ever before, and the dormant power of the internet and social media hangs over Old Irish Politics like the sword of Damocles. The politician or party that is first to learn to harness that power will sweep away Old Ireland forever. Think Twitter. Think being able to sum up your ideas in 140 characters or less. And if you can’t, think again, because your long-winded ideas won’t wash with this electorate.
But no- so far, our politicians persist in putting up posters and knocking on doors, as if we walk the streets giving them marks out of ten for their wan smiles and cheap suits and vote accordingly.
They come to us on the doorsteps, ascertaining in a split second if there’s any chance we’ll vote for them or not before moving on to brave the next irate pensioner or unemployed stoner with a half-finished degree in revolutionary philosophy.
In a country where resources are getting more limited by the day, it’s a criminal waste of time, doorsteps and lamp-posts. Even the stoners have better things to be doing.
The only really big idea- the Democracy Now project- has been more or less stillborn, but it might yet provide the spark for the kind of change the country needs. David McWilliams has pulled together a posse of volunteers to provide economic advice to candidates who otherwise couldn’t afford it, which could prove invaluable in the war of waffle that will continue for the next three weeks. The idea of doing something for your country for nothing is a revolution in itself, and if nothing else comes out of this election, I hope this one takes hold.
And if David and the Independents he is assisting can formulate their Big Ideas and communicate them to the electorate for next to nothing, Old Irish Politics will be left counting the cost as they stuff their failed election posters into Gormley’s green bin.
If you want to learn how to use PR to get your message across, I strongly recommend doing the Mediacontact.ie course “PR on a shoestring”, which I did myself back in January- more details here: http://goo.gl/I9Zwf