Much is being written about yesterday’s leadership change in Australia’s Labor Party and government. For those of you reading those outside Australia, simply enter “Julia Gillard” or “Kevin Rudd” into Google.
You can argue that communications were very much at the heart of what worked and what didn’t in Julia Gillard’s terms as Prime Minister, and Kevin Rudd’s return.
By any reasonable and neutral objective of Gillard’s term, the policies brought to Parliament (and passed, it should be noted) were progressive, certainly not trivial. They deserved serious thought and consideration, and they will affect most Australians directly.
You can also argue that the politics of the term were reasonably sound (in the context of probably the maddest three years of Australian parliamentary history). Gillard managed a minority Government, brought disparate partners together and kept them together long enough to introduce legislation, and even (until yesterday) managed the internal strife within her own party.
So the bit that was missing was effective communications, either as a political weapon or as tool with which to engage the most important audience of all, the voter.
Communication is about emotion as well as facts. People want to believe in something as well as understand it. You carry the day if you can create the belief along with an understanding. Belief is about making me care, and to do that you have to communicate with me in my language, on my terms. If you want a rule of thumb, the best is that I walk away saying “I don’t agree, but I get why”.
Communication is about being concise, cogent and clear, often. The more complicated the topic, the more important these three tenets are. Being concise does not mean dumbing down. It does mean craft and deliver a message fit for the audience. It’s difficult and can take forever. To win the day and the argument, it’s got to be done.
Communication means having a clear eye on the real objective. And that objective can be woven back into the message itself. If it’s to make money, say so. Businesses create products and service to do just that.
If it’s to get re-elected, the message is different from that if the objective is a more altruistic view of what’s good for the country.
Neither is better than the other, just don’t confuse the one with the other.
The events of the last few days in Parliament can act as an example of how communications, all other things being equal, make or break an organization.
Those of us operating outside the Australian Labor Party should grab the example and learn from it.