Opening the Pandora’s box of political communications…

As we all head into the polling booths in Australia tomorrow, with over a million people having already voted in our federal election, do we really know what we are voting for? 

This is the second federal election I have voted in and with less than 24 hours to go, I still have no idea.  I don’t consider myself to be the only person in this position.  Here is where I think the issue lies:

1. A Lack of Clear, Consistent Communication

We are all in the business of behaviour change in one way or another; whether that be getting fussy children to eat their vegetables or advertising to make people buy a product or change a behaviour such as quit smoking or stop tanning or a politician trying to change votes.  We are all in the same business, facing the same challenges.

It seems obvious to me then, if you are trying to get a child to eat their dinner for example, you use a consistent approach.  So why do we get mixed messages from politicians? Why is it so difficult to work out what each party stands for?  If parties could decide on a strategy from the outset, believe in themselves and stick to it, the decision would be a lot easier for voters to make.

2. Forgetting about the young voters

There are a huge number of voters voting for the first or second time.  Many of these do not have a strong opinion on who to vote for and are in a very impressionable position (myself included).  If a party could speak to us in a non-convoluted way, it wouldn’t be difficult to sway votes away from donkey votes.

There has been an effort on behalf of some of the parties to speak to young voters this election through social media platforms including Instagram, Snapchat and Grindr. the thing is, this needs to be done in a way that we use social media for it to be effective.  A Snapchat filter saying ‘Vote Liberal for a plan that works’ doesn’t work! It would be more beneficial to say ‘Vote Liberal for X, Y and Z’ to show the benefit to the consumer.  Politicians having their own Snapchat accounts is good in theory but I’m not sure how well it worked in practice as most followers would have been heavy supporters to have known about the account in the first place!

I think the best use of social media this campaign has been the moving portraits by Fairfax Media photographer Nic Walker, in a joint project with Instagram and Facebook (see them here, here and here). At least these demonstrated a personal nature to the politicians we rarely see, especially when everything else seems so staged.

3. A lack of faith in humanity

In light of recent political events including Donald Trumps success in the US, Philippine Presidential Candidate Rodrigo Duterte’s supposedly acceptable comments and even more recent Brexit, I feel there is a catalyst for change within society.  We don’t want to play it safe anymore.  The Brexit was a clear demonstration of people voting without understanding the consequences of their vote, but risking it for the excitement of the ‘what if?’. Previously we have had leaders, such as John Howard, who made major decisions (such as gun control in Australia).  It’s time we had another leader who was prepared to make the tough decisions and literally risk themselves for what is right for the country and so we can progress as a society. 

So where does that leave us?

I feel it is ridiculous that after 13 years of schooling, 4 years of university, 1 Bachelor of Management (Marketing) and over two-thirds of a Bachelor of Laws, I can’t make a decision on who to vote for.  I can’t be the only one in this position and I wish there was a better way to be either a) better informed or b) not vote. There are multiple issues I feel strongly about for which different parties have conflicting views. Who knows what the outcome of tomorrow will be but let’s hope for a government that can lead Australia safely into the next term.  And in the mean time, I’ll work out who to vote for.

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