a weekly blog for all interested in professional communications issues

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

New GG announcement well executed

There has been plenty of criticism in this blog about the federal government's communications techniques. So let's look at something that went right in terms of strategy and tactics.

Last week's appointment of academic David Johnston as Canada's new Governor General was well executed by Tory spindoctors.

We have all read, copiously by now, about how our new GG was a practical joker at Harvard and the inspiration for a character in the book Love Story.

What we haven't read much about is how the prime minister owes the new GG for getting his government out of a dangerous situation with the Mulroney/Schreiber affair. We also haven't read much about how this had been expected to be an Aboriginal appointment.

This is probably because the Prime Minister's spindoctors didn't want us to.

The government followed the time-honoured tradition in Ottawa of the strategic leak. On the eve of Johnston's appointment, the identity of the new GG was leaked to CTV News in time for the late night network newscast.

By the following morning, the rest of the media had picked up the leak with attribution to CTV.

When it came time for the government to make the actual announcement, the media were loathe to simply repeat what had already been reported overnight. Quite naturally, they were looking for a fresh angle.

And lo and behold, the media somehow found their way to former roommates and old anecdotes, courtesy of sources only too happy to assist in getting that fresh angle.

Aside from the book connection, Johnston was also the man who wrote the terms of reference that kept the Airbus scandal out of the Oliphant Inquiry and protected the Harper government from being pulled into a long-running scandal.

Had the media not been spoon-fed anecdotal material, journalists likely would have focused on how the government owed Johnston, big time.

In the current media climate, the narrative of least resistance wins every time.

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