I had the opportunity to attend the Manning Centre Conference in Ottawa last weekend. A conference like this is a great opportunity to sit back and listen to how others approach certain issues. A bit of opposition research if you will.
The first and possibly most interesting session was a journalist panel that touched on lessons that communications officials could learn from the previous government.
The Harper government tended to see the media as the enemy. They developed an issues management structure where top stories were treated as crises. Mercedes Stephenson, from CTV’s Parliamentary bureau, said that young Conservative staffers would rarely contact the media while other parties were reaching out. She pointed out the importance of the relationships being built by other staffers while Tory staffers only reached out when there were problems.
By not talking to the media when the media needed them, the Conservatives made it much less likely that the media would listen when Tory staffers needed them to.
In fact, the whole panel touched on building relationships and telling positive stories.
Anthony Furey raised another important point – when you want to talk to the media about your issue, you need to have a story to tell. You need to be prepared to explain what you mean and why it’s important.
That, of course, is excellent advice for anyone in any kind of communications trying to get across any kind of message.