Canada’s New Government Embraces Authenticity in Communications
Communications in politics can be a tricky game or a no win situation. While the pendulum swings from highly secretive to mildly open, the temptation among politicians is to keep information locked down, only to allow highly-orchestrated displays and never to give access without expecting something in return.
All of which makes Canada’s new federal Liberal government a breath of fresh air. Let’s be clear, this isn’t a partisan argument. Politicians of any political stripe, if they believed strongly enough in their own message, ideas and policies, should be happy to communicate them broadly and openly. Clearly, even the federal Liberals are still not telling us everything (nor should we really expect them to), but it’s amazing what clear, regular communication can do for a political agenda.
Within days of the election, not only did every cabinet minster have a Twitter account, but the volume of activity on those accounts suggests that the infamous three-week approval process on tweets had been lifted.
We saw unprecedented access to Catherine McKenna and the government team at the COP21 climate conference, including frequent YouTube vlogs being posted directly from the site. Since the election, the Environment Canada YouTube page has seen 11 new videos posted—more than the rest of 2015 and all of 2014 combined!
Do YouTube videos make for better government? Not on their own of course. However, if the role of government is to be “for the people” then letting the people know what you’re up to is probably a good start.
We’ve seen Minster of International Trade Chrystia Freeland on Bill Maher’s HBO talk show Real Time; Prime Minister Justin Trudeau host a Google Hangout the day after his election victory; and the Minister of National Defence, Harjit Sajjan, become a viral social media sensation for being a “bada$$”.
Critics might see this as fluff, and surely a lot of it lacks in serious substance, but as a communications strategy not only is it brilliant, it seems genuine! It’s not easy to fake the kind of real enthusiasm seen by the Liberal government to connect, listen, and engage with Canadians. Sure, the public won’t be invited into the cabinet room anytime soon, but it’s clear the Liberals understand the value of authenticity and engagement. It’s easier to forgive blunders, policy failures and disappointments if the people making the decisions are seen as actual breathing humans with personalities.
This kind of authenticity in engagement is exactly what great brands have been doing for years. Showing a personality along with their business messages. And just like with brands, its pretty easy to tell if the personality is a ploy. When a brand, politician or individual believes in something it’s usually quite evident in how they spread the message.
Prime Minister Trudeau’s Twitter feed has been a hive of activity, and even as the government has launched an official @canadianpm Twitter account for official tweets, it does not appear to have reined in the frequent personal updates from the new PM.
Of course we should never mistake excellence in communications with excellence in policy. However there is something to be said for a government that isn’t afraid to speak openly about its ideas and values.
Authenticity in voice, tone and content is the communicator’s new secret weapon, and it’s nice to see the government reflecting this new reality.