While there are words and phrases that work in political communications – a good rule of thumb are small words and short sentences – there are photo opportunities which work too. These photo-ops put politicians in everyday, often hum-drum, situations such as a factory floor or a supermarket.
A favourite of many a political tour is to take a classic working class environment such as one of London’s historic markets which includes a breakfast stop on the itinerary for a bacon sandwich or full English. The pictures provided by these visits often fill the news that day and help to position a politician as being in-touch with the working man.
Ahead of the local and European elections last Thursday the Labour leader Ed Miliband undertook a visit to Covent Garden flower market which included the obligatory photo-op stop for breakfast.
The problem came when Miliband tried to eat his bacon butte.
His face contorted into a series of bizarre grimaces as he took a few bites before admitting defeat. Meanwhile his media handlers recognised the danger to their leader so tried to prevent any photos being taken therefore defeating the point of the whole exercise and making the situation even worse. Subsequently a rash of media stories were written describing Miliband as weird.
The majority of human interaction and communication is non-verbal which is why pictures like these of a man who wants to be the UK’s prime minister in less than a year’s time will be damaging. When a person’s image clashes with what they say no amount of precise and on-message communication can save them.
It is a simple part of success in any walk of life but essential for political candidates – connection is a two-way process, and if you don’t connect on a personal level, you will not win. As Roger Ailes, media adviser to three US presidents puts it, “The messenger is the message.”
With voters increasingly having doubts about Miliband and thinking him to be ‘weird’ the message coming from this particular messenger is far from positive which is why Ed Miliband is my Mis-Communicator of the Week.