And some advice for party leaders.
Policy doesn’t really matter.
We’re about 5 weeks from going to the polls in New Zealand to elect either a fourth term National government (with too much experience) or a first term Labour government (without any experience).
The one constant in these conversations is our old mate Winston Peters – the champion of the people. Winnie has been around for years, but he’s got one thing down pat that the other political contenders are struggling to get to grips with.
It’s why he’s the most likely person to be in government in six weeks, regardless of the result of the election.
What is it?
The ability to tell a story.
This is why policy doesn’t really matter.
For as long as I can remember, politics has been about telling the electorate what you’re going to do. Every single campaign glosses over what people care about – the why.
Purpose is really important, so why do political parties ignore it?
Because standing for nothing means you can stand for anything, and that means you can pivot to whatever the electorate wants.
This has some major problems. Every brand has to stand for something, and the most successful brands are beginning to tell compelling stories on digital channels.
It’s about time for our political parties to wake up and realise that the best way to connect with voters is to tell a compelling story.
Winnie does it well – it’s in the name of the party. New Zealand First – it’s point one of the NZ First 15 fundamental principles (15 is about 10 too many but you’ve gotta start somewhere right).
You might love him or hate him, agree with him or disagree with him, but you can’t deny that the New Zealand First story effectively engages his target audience.
That’s why he’s the most likely person to be in government come the end of September.
So, what should our contenders and pretenders do to tell some compelling stories and win an election?
Bill English – National
Bill has a bit of a problem. Kelvin Davis was right when he pointed out that he isn’t the most charismatic guy (generous paraphrasing).
He’s also trotting out a message that isn’t that inspiring – steady hands, steady growth, steady future – and doesn’t have the showmanship to sell it like his old boss did.
But changing leaders isn’t practical, and improving charisma isn’t that likely – reference the pizza incident and walk-run-walk…
Our advice for Bill & National: Focus on the future. Instead of worrying about the steadiness of the present or attacking your opposition, show you have a vision for the future, and tie your experience back to being the way to get there.
Jacinda Ardern – Labour
Everyone knows about Jacindamania. She’s made one hell of an impression in her first three(!!) weeks as leader of the Labour Party, but she’s not quite there yet.
The story is there, the motivation is there, and the audience is there. But there’s a bit more that Labour can do.
Our advice for Jacinda & Labour: The story is everything. You have a chance to present a true change manifesto, and people want to listen. So stop talking about free driving lessons, because no-one cares. Focus on the big picture stuff that moves the dial.
Winston Peters – NZ First
Just keep on being Winston. And if we (or anyone) had any advice for Winston, would he actually listen anyway?
James Shaw – Green Party
Requiesca tem pace Metiria. Now Mr Shaw is the solo co-leader (however that works) of the Green Party, he’s got to find a way to connect with the party’s core ideals and base. Metiria Turei’s admissions of benefit fraud may have been her eventual downfall, but she held all the cards connecting with the Greens’ base. Before she lost control of it, Metiria was telling a story that really resonated - #IAmMetiria.
Our advice for James & ___ & the Green Party: Three stories. Tell them together – the poor, our cities and the environment. This is where the Green Party excels – focusing on issues people feel so strongly about that they’ll vote without worrying about the other stuff.
Plus, the young talent in the low single digits on the list (Chloe Swarbrick/Golriz Ghahraman/Hayley Holt etc) is too good not to get in. Jimmy – you owe it to them.
The Gareth Morgan Opportunities Party
The party with a chance to have the biggest impact on the election may end up being a bit of a non event. The policy is great, the messaging is (sometimes) on point, and the analysis is top class.
But data doesn’t have emotion. And you need emotion to tell stories.
Our advice for Gareth & TOP: Find some emotion. Find some compelling ways to communicate the great platform on a mass level. And engage with voters across the board – don’t rely on social media and some billboards to win the 5%...
Our advice for everyone else
Read this post.