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Lesson Learned From The Federal Election: Tell Us What You Are, Not What You Aren't

It’s all over. Looks like Stephen Harper gets to stick around 24 Sussex Drive.

Despite hand wringing over the Conservatives’ hidden agenda, their desire to be the lapdogs of the United States, Harper’s frightening helmet hair and general plans to destroy the country, Canada awarded the Conservatives with more seats than they did in 2006.

From a PR standpoint, there’s some valuable takeaways to be learned about why Canada chose Harper and the Tories.

Don’t Talk Down Your Opponent Without Talking Yourself Up: I think this was the most important deciding factor in the election’s outcome. The Liberal, NDP and Green Party campaigns suggested voters choose them because Harper was such an inept and dangerous leader. What they didn’t do was emphasize why Stephane Dion, Jack Layton or Elizabeth May were a better choice.

The Conservatives, meanwhile, gave detailed reasons why Harper should remain as Prime Minister. Without any other plans to go on, Canadians went for the Tories.

Not to mention, the constant attacks on Harper only reinforced his reputation as top dog.

Beware of Brand Confusion: The Liberals, NDP and Greens all presented a united front and urged Canadians not to vote for the Conservatives. In theory, the strategy works. Translated in real life, however, it left voters confused about which “brand” to choose. Those who despised the Tories voted against them, to be sure-but they also scattered their votes across the three parties. In the end, the brand that stood out won over the homogenous ones.

Apply Basic Communications Rules To Social Media Tools: As we’ve said before, this was the first Federal election that’s made use of social media and Web 2.0 tools and it’s made a difference in the turnout.

The NDP really understands how to use the web to their advantage and it probably accounts for their improvement in this election. Frequent Twittering and their interactive website orangeroom.ca kept supporters up to date with clear, two-way dialogue.

On the other hand, “attack sites” by the Liberals and the Conservatives seemed to leave as sour a taste as conventional attack ads in the minds of voters. The Tories’ notaleader.ca and the Grits’ bushharper.com could be seen as clever at best, but once again, did little to explain why other parties were a better choice.

Interesting how, with all the digital media tools at their disposal, the Libs and Tories still made the old communications mistakes.

In the end, the Conservatives had the most effective communications strategy because they created a clear, concise set of messages that stood out from their competitors. It’s something to keep in mind the next time you’re creating a plan to make a client the top of everyone’s list.

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