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What makes a successful social media politician?

The potential benefit of social media for politicians and other public figures has always been that it allows them to engage directly with the public—unfiltered and in real time. Done right, it provides politicians an opportunity to communicate about politics and public policy in a way that shows their personalities. Amid increasing voter apathy—turnout in Canadian federal elections has trended steadily downward since the late 1950s—platforms like Twitter, Snapchat and Vine help turn the tide of cynicism among millennials and post-millennials toward politicians that make the social media efforts.

Done right, social media is effective and endearing. Done wrong, it’s embarrassing.

In mid-July, Toronto residents had the opportunity to see a bit of both: some politicians knocking it out of the park and others falling flat.

City councillor Norm Kelly is best known for his much-needed steady hand as deputy mayor during the Rob Ford administration and his impressive @norm Twitter account. With nearly 18,000 followers and more than 4,000 “favourited” tweets, Kelly is city council’s social media super star.

Kanye West, Kim Kardashian and dead raccoons

Over the past several days, Kelly, a historian and former federal parliamentarian, got called a “thug” by an obscure rapper from the United States while trying to defend hometown hero Drake. But the highlight of Kelly’s recent activity on Twitter was when he joined the #DeadRacoonTO conversation, which began when City crews failed to clean up a dead raccoon that was laying spread-eagle beside one of the city’s busiest streets. What resonated with people is that as Kelly joined the conversation he used his social media influence to shed light on concerns regarding the state of the City’s services, while still maintaining a sense of humour.


We asked Kelly for comment on his social media strategy. He refused but a staffer did say that Kelly writes all his own tweets.

Ontario’s transportation minister, Steven Del Duca, also capitalized on an issue trending on social media when he welcomed Kanye West to Toronto and gave a shout-out to unpopular temporary HOV lanes in the same tweet. The decision to feature the American rapper in the closing ceremonies of the Pan Am Games had been criticized by many Canadians on social media and the HOV lanes were even more unpopular.


Mayor’s social stumble

Contrast this with Mayor John Tory’s bad social media week. A few days earlier, Tory, a straight-laced businessman, heaped praise on Kanye West and the Toronto music industry that turned him into an internationally-recognized artist. (West was born in Atlanta and spent his childhood in Chicago and China.)

In response to the embarrassment, Tory’s PR team dug the hole a little deeper, posting an unfunny video to Facebook called ““Yeezus, can’t believe I didn’t know @KimKardashian’s husband wasn’t Canadian!”. To make matters worse, the video was removed due to copyright restrictions. While the mayor should be acknowledged for his willingness to take a risk, it wasn’t clear what he was hoping to achieve.

Tory hasn’t been all bad on social media. Days earlier, he successfully engaged Torontonians when he asked on Twitter where the newly-iconic TORONTO sign should go. Within 36 hours, the hashtag #TORONTOsign generated more than 8.3 million impressions, on a topic that hit more traditional John Tory brand: public engagement and civic pride.

What are the lessons learned?

Politicians can successfully use Twitter to engage with the public, so long as their personality comes through. When social media is stage managed, it’s inauthentic and ineffective.

Social media audiences are receptive to humour—as long as it’s funny. Being funny isn’t being easy, so politicians may first want to master credibility, authenticity and consistency before turning to lulz.

At the end of the day, when it comes to social media, it is perfectly acceptable to let down your guard and show the public that you have a fun side, but social media stunts should still have an underlying message. Trying to be funny for the sake of being funny usually falls flat.

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Oil and water: how research and PR are learning to get along

Contributed by Nick Drew

As a career researcher who joined the public relations industry relatively recently, one of the most intriguing aspects of my job is in the dynamics of combining PR and research, two of the most uneasy bedfellows. Traditionally, they’ve occupied opposite ends of a spectrum: as researchers saw it, research and analytics was about facts and what can be proven to be right or wrong, with little grey area in between.

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If the shoe fits and looks great, do ethics really matter?

I recently purchased a suit from the Canadian apparel company Judith & Charles. I was drawn by the cut and fabric, and sold on fit and price – at 30 per cent off, it was a steal. Days later, when removing the tags, I learned that my new skirt and jacket had been “tailored with love in Canada.” I went online to find that the company designs and manufactures ninety per cent of its collections locally. According to the website, it does so to be “supportive of the local economy… and have full control over our production, pushing our strongest assets – fit and quality – to the forefront.”

While “fit and quality” compelled me to buy, I’d like to think that the line’s commitment to doing business in Canada will transform me into a loyal customer. For me, it means most pieces are manufactured in an environment that is worlds away – literally and figuratively – from the deplorable conditions that were exposed when the Rana Plaza factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh collapsed killing more than 1,000 workers two years ago.

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2015 Ontario Budget Analysis

The 2015 Ontario budget, announced yesterday, reflects the four priority pillars outlined by the Liberal government in the last election: investing in a skilled workforce, building modern infrastructure, creating a dynamic business environment and strengthening retirement security. Against the backdrop of a $10.9 billion deficit which the government has committed to slaying by 2017/2018, the budget contains two measures that will help the government move forward in these priority areas while driving towards a balanced budget:

  • A plan for increased asset optimization that will add an additional $2.6 billion to the government’s coffers beyond what was anticipated in last year’s budget, and
  •  A fiscal plan that will see increased revenues while program spending is essentially flat-lined over the next three years. The fiscal plan incorporates program review savings targets of $500 million in each of the next three years

To read our full analysis of the 2015 Ontario budget, click here: 2015 Ontario Budget Analysis

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Federal Budget 2015

Yesterday, the Harper Government unveiled the final Budget of its majority government mandate today in advance of the fixed election date of October 19, 2015.

Serving essentially as a Conservative campaign platform, and peppered with announcements intended to have wide appeal, Budget 2015 represents a politically bold and strategic attempt to bolster long-standing populist themes which, taken together, have been their hallmark since taking office in 2006.

Read FleishmanHillard’s full analysis: Fleishman Hillard Budget Note.

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FH Power of True Salon with Special Guest: Deb Matthews

On Thursday, July 10, the FleishmanHillard Public Affairs team launched the first event in our new political insight series, FH Power of True Salon.

FH Power of True Salon is an informal, bi-monthly breakfast series that covers topical events taking place at all three levels of government.

We were thrilled to have nearly 100 friends from a number of sectors and Queen’s Park join us to hear from our special guest Deb Matthews, President of the Treasury Board, Deputy Premier and co-chair of the successful Liberal election campaign and FleishmanHillard’s own Paris Meilleur, Deputy Director of Communications for the Liberal campaign, who shared their experiences and insights from the campaign, discussed the implications of a majority government, and looked at the Liberal government’s priorities.

FH Power of True Salon

Special guest, Deb Matthews, speaks to the crowd at FleishmanHillard’s first event in our new political insight series, FH Power of True Salon.

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2014 Cabinet Shuffle Analysis

This afternoon, Premier Kathleen Wynne swore in her newly appointed Cabinet. The new Cabinet is comprised of 26 Ministers – 18 of whom are Ministers in new positions – plus the Premier, and includes: 22 full-fledged Ministers, two Associate Ministers, and two Ministers without portfolio, including the Chair of Cabinet.

Wynne has made significant changes to the Cabinet, including a new structure that reinforces the government’s key priorities: jobs, infrastructure and transportation, and pensions.

Significantly, files held by the Ministry of Finance have been rearranged, resulting in three finance-related portfolios. Charles Sousa remains as Minister of Finance, and will oversee broad economic policy and budgeting. Minister Sousa will be joined by Mitzie Hunter, a first-time Cabinet minister and the new Associate Finance Minister, responsible for the implementation of the new Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP).

To read our full analysis, click: 2014 Cabinet Shuffle Analysis

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Ontario 2014 Election Watch: Issue 6

The results of Ontario’s 41st provincial election are in, and with Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals defying expectations and winning a majority government, the people of Ontario have spoken loud and clear.

Read our full analysis of the 2014 Ontario Election in Election Watch Issue 6: 2014 Ontario Election Watch – Issue 6

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Be As You Wish To Be Seen

This is my first post as General Manager of the FleishmanHillard Toronto office. While I admit I’ve taken too long to put thought to keyboard, I am truly excited to begin a conversation about the ever-changing world of communications and how authentic engagement is critical for success.

As most people that work with me – colleagues and clients alike – will attest, I believe that impactful communications is rooted in research and insights. Nothing irks me more than jumping straight to tactics, or as I often say “throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks,” when tasked with solving a client’s business need or issue. And so, it’s with this conviction that I’ve chosen today to make my debut here.

This morning, FleishmanHillard launched results from its Global Authenticity Gap study with Canadian data included for the first time. What does this mean for FH Canada?

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