a weekly blog for all interested in professional communications issues

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Branding skill won't prevent disasters in public relations

There isn't much doubt that the current federal government has done a very good job at branding itself as the party of ordinary, hardworking Canadians -- the Tim Horton's crowd as their strategists say.

In addition, the government of Stephen Harper practises the most disciplined messaging Ottawa has ever seen, and likely will ever see.

So how does a government that understands branding and message control so well get itself into so many public relations disasters?

Copenhagen, Afghanistan and Richard Colvin, most of Jason Kenney's speeches -- there is no point in listing them all. Canadians have grown used to being offended by the Harper government as much as they admire its ability to hold power.

One reason for this dichotomy might be this government doesn't do well in situations it can't control. In the current Afghanistan affair, there have been just too many wild cards -- such as a civil servant who insisted on telling the truth no matter the consequences -- for the government's message managers to handle. It was a similar story in Copenhagen.

Once the Harper government loses control of the narrative, it has trouble regaining it.

Another reason is there is a difference between brand management and reputation management just as there is a difference between gaining power and maintaining it.

Brand management is making your brand or mark over your competitors and then validating it. Reputation management is protecting the precious brand. Fortunately for the government there may be plenty of time to learn this because the Liberals don't seem to understand either.

Finally, the Harper government may want to send some of its leading tacticians off to the public relations course at Algonquin College in west end Ottawa. This government doesn't practise public relations. It practises propaganda.

The practice of public relations is winning over an audience with solid narrative built on facts that can be documented and validated. Propaganda is smearing opponents with half truths and outright lies. Sooner of later, Canadians will grow weary.

As always, I welcome your views.


  1. I'm only hoping they'll grow weary before the next election!

    I agree with your view, but I'm still surprised at how the Conservatives have held on to power despite their constant public embarassments. It's almost impressive.

  2. While the corporate communications department will handle social media and ... Will customers stop advocating for the brand while they liked it so much ... And when a crisis occurs, it doesn't take long to escalate into a disaster. ... yourself and your employees, your communication plan won't be perfect.
    Branding skill won't prevent disasters in public relations