Thursday, October 29, 2009

Premier Ed gets in on the Social Media Wave! ( At least he is trying...)

I was surprised to see this mass email in my inbox today, which I have posted below:

Hello Shane,

Welcome to the first Message from Premier Ed.

This is a new way to reach out to those who are curious about what our government is doing and why we are doing it.
In subsequent messages you will hear directly from me on issues that are on the minds of regular Albertans. At the bottom of these emails, including this one, there will be a link which you can click to take your name off our list. You can resubscribe or unsubscribe as many times as you wish.

Also coming out this week is a new web-based newsletter from the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta, containing interesting articles and other information about our party. Look for it soon in your email inbox.

In the past, we would communicate with the public through phone calls, advertising and direct mail. Today, the internet provides us with much faster, simpler and cheaper ways of getting our message out. We will not abandon the old ways but we are offering this and other new ones to reach as many people as possible.

Times have changed quickly. A mere decade ago, there was no Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or YouTube. Google is not much older. Yet many Albertans regularly use these sites to get information and stay in touch with their friends, relatives and colleagues. I have already set up a Facebook supporter page and a Twitter account and now I hope you will read these emails from me so we can stay in touch.

Kindest regards,

Ed Stelmach
Premier of Alberta

  Many of you know that I am a supporter of the PC party and some have picked up on my recent frustrations with my party. I am often frustrated because I feel that this government is failing at the most crucial skill set required....COMMUNICATION. The people of Alberta have historically been able to accept bad news, low oil prices and even a recession or two....but they will not accept poor communication.

  Former Premier Klein was a master of this concept.  He could spit out the worst news possible, but explain it to the public in simple terms.  The people may not like some of the things he had to say, but at least they understand what was done, why it had to be done and what the results will be.  People typically like (and vote) for people who they can identify with and that have some charisma.  If you lack charisma ( ahem.....) then you better be able to communicate your principals and priorities to the public effectively.  The government does not need to buy infomercial time to try and sell vague ideas to the people of Alberta, they just need to communicate their platform clearly and simply.  They have access to every news camera in the province, but often fail to control the message being sent out. 

 The biggest problem of this government right now does not lie in the leadership, but with their communications.  The old saying holds true "if you do not define your message, someone else will define it for you".  This is where the Wildrose Alliance has an advantage with Danielle Smith.  She is a veteran broadcaster ( just like Ralph Klein) and understands how to convey her message in nice little 30 second sound bites.  The PC MLA's are always shown on the news "scrambling" from one error to the next, doing damage control and trying to "change" the message that has been already sent out by the opposition.  When they focus all of their attention to putting out these fires, they fail in their communications to the people of Alberta.  The result?  Instead of looking like a strong, well run government, they often look inept and incompetent, which is not the case at all.

 How can the government improve their communication?  The answer lies in doing something different.  The Premiers social media strategy is a great start, provided it is done well in the future.  I hope that Premier Ed's "messages" are written by him alone not by some unknown staffer.  People are smart and will see through a canned or contrived message. 

 My advice to Ed?  Be honest, be yourself. 


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  1. His tweets are made by a staffer, so I can't imagine he will do his own emailing. I don't even think the above email was penned by Ed.

  2. Sorry Shane, but I'm not sure this classifies as even "trying". In the email he talks about trying to use new media "Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or YouTube" to catch up and communicate with Albertans the way they would like him to. So his solution is to have a staffer write regular e-newsletters? And only send them to PC supporters?

    I expect better. And so far no one in any provincial party is doing better. If that's the standard he's trying to hold "himself" to he's lucky. It's a pretty low bar at this point.

  3. Thanks John & DJ... I agree that it may seem kind of too little/too late, but this is the source of my frustration. I think some of the advisors need to go.

    As for the message only to PC supporters, I dont think this is the intention (I hope) and I see a mass facebook push, but who knows?

  4. Shane - a clear message came from the convention that the "message" has to be clearer. This morning, I stood up and suggested that as a blogger, obtaining clear and accurate "talking points" to challenge the media would be a minimum to assure that we are able to respond to the usual media garbage.

    ie) Our MLA's are the 5th best paid in Canada (after their raise). You don't see that in the Calgary Herald. Funding of health care has gone from $3.5 billion, to $7 billion, to $14 billion in about a decade. And the budget will again increase this year. Tell that FACT to "Friends of Medicare" who continue to lie to Albertans about "cuts".

    I agree they've done a piss-poor job of getting honest and accurate information out to Albertans - and, personally, I think that it's about time some of the old-guard communication guys go the boot (can you say everything does not start and stop with a newspaper?)

  5. Great Points Rob. I believe that Bloggers often have the true "feel" as to what is happening out there. I think the government would be wise to use social media to picl up on the trends of this generation.