Thursday, October 15, 2009

On image management

There have been plenty of strong argument raised against the Cons' attempt to attach party logos and MP names/faces to federal spending. But I have to wonder whether the debate so far - consisting largely of opposition supporters pointing toward the Cons' cheque photo-ops attached to critical statements - is playing largely into the Cons' hands.

After all, there's a reason why the Cons were perfectly happy to make sure that Gerald Keddy, Peter Van Loan, Scott Reid and others were photographed in ways that mixed up partisan and government messaging: the image of an MP delivering a cheque to a riding is generally seen as a plus, meaning that the normal result would be to build a positive association for the Cons' partisan symbols. And while there's certainly reason to try to reverse the usual associations by tying the Cons' images to scandal and waste, I have to wonder whether the current path will prove to be an example of the theory (attributed to Ronald Reagan's image handlers) that "the eye always predominates over the ear when there is a fundamental clash between the two" - in other words, that viewers will ultimately pick up more from Con-friendly visuals than they will from the scandal being discussed in the background.

So I'll suggest that a change in tactic is in order. Rather than spending a lot of time discussing and pointing to the Cons' photo ops themselves, better to play up the fact that there's a need to counterbalance the Cons' use of public money to build up their partisan symbols - and use the wonders of Photoshop to attach those same symbols to rather less flattering images associated with the Cons' actual or potential negatives (closed factories, environmental devastation, etc.) And if the Cons want to complain that their symbols shouldn't be used that way, it'll be awfully difficult to dispute that it's their own MPs themselves who first extended their use beyond legitimate activities of the Conservative Party.

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