The previous two ‘Letters’ dealt with the sower (leader) and the seed (vision/message). This ‘Third Letter’, the last, focuses on the harvest (the PR). Appreciate, immediately, that it is the quality of the PR which, in large measure, determines the size of the harvest. The key role of the PR is to realise the Party’s mission of being elected to form the Government of Grenada.
Expressed quantitatively, and in context, the PR must preserve the twenty-two thousand votes won by NDC in 2018 and add twenty thousand whenever the next General Elections are called! Herein lies the primary justification for this ‘Letter’.
Whatever the political party, the historical evidence is that the Executive office of ‘PRO’, by itself, is incapable of achieving the mission. Such office-holder, especially if not specialised in marketing communications, must function as an arranger and organiser of media events, and facilitator of information supply to the media from other kinds of activities undertaken by or connected with the Party.
The quality of such events and activities will depend on the capacity of the Strategy Committee whose role is to provide the substance and do the targeting. The PR must operate as a ‘harvester’; meaning that it must have relevant capacity to cover spread (distribution), to generate the right optics and to enlarge the pool of support.
Accordingly, the NDC would do well to acquire specialised PR assets capable of getting the job done. The sheer magnitude of the task at hand and its criticality to electoral success justifies that course of action. Is trite to observe that the skills of a competent apprentice are not the same as those of a competent master-craftsman.
Recognise that there are two limbs to the PR function. One is carefully-prepared content directed at specific sections of the population. The other is messages that are received and processed by the public at large without having been directly targeted. In this respect, communication is received from information surrounding, for example, the composition of the Executive, faces and voices put on display, surrogates, connections/ties, etc.
This means that the entire habitat of the NDC is under informal but consequential scrutiny. That being the case, the PR must operate effectively to promote/sell the Party’s best interests and to defend or mitigate against attacks, vulnerabilities, and other negatives.
While the Strategy Committee builds content, execution falls to the Party Leader, the PR machinery and the Polling Division groups; these three comprise the ‘PR engine’. The latter must understand the mission and the messages and do the retailing on the ground.
One expects that the PR machinery would equip them with communications vehicles that are market-friendly and impactful. For the retailing work to be effective, there should be adequate use of the latest Census Report to aid in the correct identification of the class and demographic characteristics in each constituency.
The important point here is that there must be proper alignment between message, messenger, and targets. The Party’s base must never be taken for granted in the PR. But the heavier burden on the PR is to cause an additional 20,000 votes to be cast for an NDC victory!
This group of voters are message-oriented. They read the play beginning with the leader and other messengers, as much as they evaluate the substance.
Therefore, a substandard and untalented PR effort will do more harm than good to NDC. The question is whether the PR, as it stands, is capable of securing that goal?
There are some concerns based on acts and omissions of the current PR effort. To be kind, the PR actors may be well-intentioned, but their persistent ‘dropping of the ball’ demonstrates that no evaluation is taking place to enable corrective actions in good time. Equally, no test is being done to ensure that PR actions are mission-valid.
- Patchy events not aligned with the targets thus incapable of contributing to achieving the mission.
- Misuse of the Press Conference model with uncoordinated, half-baked presentations, worsened by the absence of ‘sting’ and lacking post-event retailing.
- Folly in thinking that regularity in the media space (a ‘rush-to-media’ mentality) with feverish militancy could win acclaim, unmindful of the fact that the more substandard content is fed to the public, the more the Party gets marked-down. Regularity may show that NDC is not sleeping, but by regularly serving poor content the party runs the risk of rapidly becoming a laughing-stock!
- Evidence that care is not being taken in understanding the voter population…who, what makes them tick, what information they require, where they get their information, who influences their thinking, etc.
- Lack of clarity, conviction, correctness, connectedness, and simplicity.
- Insincerity surrounding open invitations issued and solicitations made to join in the NDC’s effort…more on this and on the treatment of criticism another time!
- Little attention to the importance of image/optics, especially on national TV and sub-optimal use of social media.
- Individuals who are ‘wise in their own eyes’ by engaging in harmful reliance of academics/qualifications, unable to show good judgment or humility.
The NDC’s PR needs fixing! Better to focus on this defect objectively than to ‘fuss and fret’ over this elementary lesson in PR. If you own the problems and say that you do not need help to fix them, then do just that, fix them, with urgency! If they persist after this open assessment and other contributions, then blame yourselves for another 15: 0 result.
The PR function is not to be taken lightly. Even with a credible leader and a superior message, the harvest will be defeated unless the PR works at an extremely high level of competence, sensitivity, conviction, and purpose.
Altogether, NDC must decide whether to let-down their followers while indulging in misplaced and baseless self-praise. If you are happy to beat your chest then do not weep when you get beaten and burnt into ‘Yellow Ashes’ by the ‘Greenery’!