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Market-Oriented Communication Strategies for Political Leaders

The next speaker in this CMPM2014 session is Edward Elder, whose interest is in how leaders may maintain public support once elected. Political leaders in recent decades have tended to gain power through market-oriented behaviour, but maintaining such market orientation once in government becomes a lot more difficult, due to the pressures of office – including time constraints, the public desire for leadership, contradictory negative reactions to expressions of leadership which go against public opinion, and the communication strategies of government.

Voter/leader communication changes markedly after election, therefore. Edward compared post-election communication strategies used by Barack Obama and John Key, and explored what elements of their public persona they were trying to promote. He found that such strategies varied by issue type, communication medium, and the timing of the communication in relation to when a decision was made. Communication of leaders' personal features was also backgrounded substantially once in government.

Governing leaders still tend to focus too much attention on selling a particular decision at the expense of promoting their market-oriented qualities, however – even when their texts had been created with this goal in mind; this made the texts seem hollow. In order to promote having market-oriented qualities leaders do actually have to practice these qualities, and to do so when performing for the media as much as when they're not.

From this, a framework emerges. First, the quality of being in touch with the public needs to be done by acknowledging public concerns and criticisms; by communicating that the leader is listening to the public; and to communicate an emotional bond between leader and public – all this even if the leader is taking an alternative course of action. Second, the quality of leadership, which needs to be communicated as leadership strength and leadership competence through various visual devices as well as through matching rhetoric. And third, the quality of credibility, by communicating honesty and authenticity, which again must be done through visual and rhetoric dimensions.