Sunday, October 17, 2010

To Calgarians with love...

Before the polls close tomorrow, I wanted to take the opportunity to thank everyone who allowed me to have a voice during this election. My interest in the race started after I read “Yes We Did.” I was inspired and fascinated by the communication and marketing strategies of Obama campaign. They seemed to effortlessly blend innovation with simplicity when it came to crafting and delivering their messages.

From the beginning and especially when Calgarypolitics.com asked me to join the crew, I made it clear that I was writing from a public relations lens that was infused with a very dry sense of humour. Slightly embarrassed, I quietly admitted that I actually didn’t know a lot about politics. And that was point. I knew I wasn’t alone, and I thought if I shared my journey and restless thoughts that it might encourage other young voters to hit the polls.

So regardless of tomorrow’s results: thanks to each you who encouraged and debated me along the way. It’s because of your no-holds-bar conversations that I was able to learn, understand different viewpoints, and make a choice that I can stand behind. Oddly, it’s a choice that I wouldn’t even have considered a few weeks ago or at all if it wasn’t for this platform of interaction.

As Calgarians, I think we can take an unapologetic moment to realize the contribution we have made to the future of our city and the amazing people who live in it. Regardless of tomorrow’s turnout, you made a difference. Your voice was heard.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Take that and rewind it back

It’s the talk of the town today – Barb Higgins vs. Mike McCourt. Rather than get into the political semantics of this discussion, I’m going to do what I always do and examine this encounter from a PR perspective. A couple of months ago, I was in a discussion with a lady who’s a client of Shawne Duperon (North American’s Network, Media, and Gossip expert – who’s in Calgary next month btw). She said something that will probably stay with me for the rest of my career because before that moment, I too would have geared my client up for any media opportunity that came our way. She shared Duperon’s position on doing an interview with a program similar to 60-minutes. Paraphrasing it went something like this, “I would never – in a million years – let my client appear on that show. Yes, they reach a lot of people but you know their angle is to be out for blood.”

In the words of Barb Higgins, “with all due respect” Mike McCourt could easily fall into this journalistic category as well. His segments are often a reach up the criticism tree. If he’s calling my office, I know I better be prepared and on top of my game. He’s certainly not out to promote me. Which begs the question – why are the candidates taking interviews with him in the first place? None of them are coming off well. Heck, during an interview published by Metro, he called Lord and Burrows losers and then asked them to defend that position. (See full article here: Lord vs. McCourt) Wow…

In the world of transparency and accountability – two words favoured by so many candidates – there still needs to be control of their message and brand. I’m not sure taking an interview with McCourt accomplishes any of that.

However, Higgins played her hand well and that was no accident. She strategically showed enough emotion to glue people to their television sets and social media feeds this morning (we all know what happens when the polar opposite of that occurs, hello robotic BP CEO Tony Hayward) and yet she managed to address the questions of her political campaign hiccups without repeating any of the negatives. Listen closely, she never mentions her former campaign manager’s name, she links her answer to a broader scope of Calgarians contributing to the election, and she honestly admits her feathers were ruffled but then explains why very succinctly and puts McCourt on the spot in the process. Mission: tables turned. Accomplished.

In the end, I think they were both left speechless, which is an accomplishment in itself when it comes to McCourt. The only thing I would tweak is Higgins’ appeared rush to leave the set and smacking those papers down in front of the camera (which I liked on a personal/entertainment level by the way). But, with Higgins as a media veteran, I would expect her to remember one of the fundamental rules to Media Relations 101: Never forget the camera is still rolling and the mic is still hot. Just like the race for mayor.

Watch the video

Just my thoughts on a better yyc.~ Jennifer

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I shaved my legs for this? Ward 11 Forum

If it wasn’t for a commitment to Calgarypolitics.com, I definitely wouldn’t be at the Ward 11 forum. The season finale of Teen Mom is on tonight for goodness sake and all I’ve had time to eat today is half an apple and a grande Starbucks. So ya… I’m a little cranky. This better be good.

At one point, I was really looking forward to tonight. I won the small victory of confirming what Ward I lived in. Now, I was at the next step of getting to know the candidates a bit better. I know absolutely nothing, actually. I am a clean slate. My vote is waiting to be won.

When I finally find the theatre on the MRU campus, I’m greeted by a lady running for school trustee. She asks me if I support public or separate. “I don’t know,” I answered.
“Well, what did you indicate on your taxes,” she asks, assuming that I own. “I didn’t know then either; I don’t have kids,” I blurted out. Luckily, she lets me off the hook with a flyer and encourages me to call her if I have questions.

Well, I have lots of questions – she just caught me off guard. What do these people do? Why are they elected? What can we expect from them? And unless she tweets to me, I probably still won’t know post-election because I am certainly not going to call her to find out. That’s just the way it is.

I suppose the same questions can be applied to the Aldermanic candidates. I want to get the heart of issues, and get a clear understanding of the candidates’ position and what they stand for.

After 25 minutes of introductions and house rules, my ADD has reached its peak. Finally, we get into some questions. I’m looking forward to hearing from the Ward candidates what mayoral candidate they stand behind and who they want to work with. Next, I want to hear HOW. Give me the dirty details.

Well fast-forward another 20 minutes and I feel like I am trying to decipher an incomprehensible conversation from Jersey Shore. It’s been a whole lot of explaining what they know and not how they are going to make a difference or a contribution. As a PR professional, I know when someone is talking around an issue. So fancy phrases and pretty words like “accountability, honesty, and integrity” mean nothing to me. Those are qualities that I expect. It doesn’t show what a candidate is bringing to the table over the next three years. What else do you got? And don’t tell me to go read up on some policy. That’s why I showed up to the forum in the first place (besides the obligation) – it’s the chance for the candidates to tell me themselves.

The first few questions revolve around the airport tunnel, urban sprawl, and transportation. While I understand these people are a voice on city council, I don’t necessarily get how these particular issues affect my Ward. We are in an established community (actually Garrison Woods won a development award – so why not build on our accomplishments? Literally!) that blends various residential and commercial densities, we’re 10 minutes in rush hour from the core, and the tunnel is on the other side of the city.

What I want to know is: are we getting community program support through facility upgrades or accessible admission prices? Will snow removal be an issue again this winter? What about affordable parking or better yet where they stand on the proposed property tax increase?

But having said that, the questions they were asking were from an online poll submitted by Calgarians. That’s pretty cool – I have to admit. So, why is it that over 1,400 people submitted and voted for questions, yet only just over 50 of us show up to hear the answers? And let me tell you, I am by far the youngest person in the room.

Well, all I can say is after 45 minutes I was less than impressed and felt my time was better served elsewhere, so I left. If only I lived in Ward 8, my vote would already be decided. Zak Pashhak is definitely the hottest candidate.


Just my thoughts on a better yyc.~ Jennifer

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Ask and you shall receive

During my last blog post, I was still scratching my head about what Ward I live in. Then I saw on the news that they ask you at the polling station. Gosh! Now the pressure is really on. I don’t want to look like an idiot. After all, just when I thought I knew what Ward I lived in, I got promotional pieces from candidates in Wards 6, 8, and 11. One was a message in my community newsletter (which ended up being from a candidate not running in the Ward I actually live in), so that really threw me for a loop. No wonder voters are confused! So, I checked a Ward map and I am right on a boundary. Sigh…

But fear not, the City of Calgary distributed a very comprehensive voter’s guide this week. And if that’s not enough or you’re part of the technical movement, you have the option of downloading a free app from http://ow.ly/2Ppcw
And, if you are still undecided about who to vote for or where to cast your ballot, the Calgary Herald really stepped up to the plate with a one-pager on the election. Find Ward contenders, mayoral candidate platforms, and hot topics at: http://www.calgaryherald.com/news/election/index.html

Then get out and vote! Your voice counts.

PS – I live in Ward 11. Thanks. (insert hair flip here)

Just my thoughts on a better yyc.~ Jennifer