Park politics for a moment: succinct communications thinking

John McTernan, former PM Julia Gillard’s communications director, has a piece in today’s Sydney Morning Herald. Park your personal political persuasion for a moment and read it, at


It’s a wonderfully succinct piece of strategic communications thinking.

I’m often asked for comms plans, strategies and positioning, and there’s usually an expectation that the finished document should run to many pages. McTernan’s summary shows that you can nail it in under 1,000 words.

How does it rate against the six tenets that underpin corporate communications?

On never forgetting the ultimate objective, it’s clearly hooked into the only thing that should count: get the ALP re-elected.

On being concise, cogent, clear, it ticks all three. Of course, whether any of these messages are communicated often, the final tenet element, remains to be seen.

He doesn’t touch on how the ALP cohort should act as mutually supporting ambassadors, but it’s clear that if they are of a mind to operate in this way, this would be a clear mantra to communicate.

They certainly tap emotions as well as facts. (For example, he describes the Gillard legacy of Better Schools as a cut-through policy of positive differentiation.)

The two tenets not looked at so much are how communications should create value and then help people find it; and that comms move to quickly today, so work out how to let go. In the context of the ALP that’s probably understandable.

Of course there’s bias, but’s that’s also the point about communications. There always is, that’s why corporations, organizations and political parties need to create effective communications programmes that are clear and that deliver.


About alansmithoz

Head of Strategic Business Communications at Australian social analytics technology company Digivizer, with a background in corporate public relations and marketing. I do what I do because I believe communications can make a difference.
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