Move online – or move over

In my previous incarnation as a Digital Communications consultant for Westpac Banking Corporation, the internal communications managers and I were lucky (!) to hear a personalised speech towards the end of 2006, from the Australian Liberal Party’s Spin Doctor. A farmer’s son from the northern, drought stricken area of South Australia, he was an arrogant and boastful guy, intent on bragging about his great initiatives that kept the wheels of John Howard’s bigotry bus spinning round, including his role in the Tampa children overboard incident.

My favourite highlight of the presentation was his answer to a question about the Liberal Party’s online strategy. Mr Liberal PR said he didn’t believe online was important at all, and he cited how he used his evil ways to bring down a Labor candidate in Kalgoorlie in WA.
The Labor candidate had a website, and Mr Liberal PR had gone through Mr Labor candidate’s website links. He clicked on every link on the site and did not stop searching and clicking on links until he found that there was a link (many sites down the line mind you) to a porn site. Mr Liberal PR then ran a calculated smear campaign along the lines of “Labor Candidate for Kalgoorlie suports online porn”. Needless to say Mr Labor Candidate lost the election.

Mr Liberal PR was very proud of his reverse online strategy – the Liberal Party was never going online as a consequence of it being too easy to bring people down by distant associations to online porn (six degrees of separation style). It was fascinating to see the inner workings of a truly unscrupulous communications mind, and I was happy to see him and his archaic strategy come undone in the last Federal election.

Compare: Kevin07 campaign running hot in Facebook and online. Mmm… funny that, Kev won, hands down and whatever happened to the Liberal Party in the 2007 Federal election, let alone their online strategy? Oh, yes that’s right, complete annihilation.

Having experienced first hand Mr Liberal PR’s terror of the interweb, I laughed out loud at the headline in last Sunday’s Herald “Libs hope answer to woes is online” The synopsis of the article is that the Coalition failed abysmally to fully recognise the importance of the internet during the 2007 federal election campaign (well now you know the real reason why:)), and that John Howard’s YouTube videos only produces the worst kind of PR, because he was stiff and scripted, turning off huge amounts of voters.

The other piece of gold in the article cites that only 3 (yes 3) formal senior Liberal Party members could use a computer. Malcolm Turnbull is one of the 3, so it seems logical that he is their only hope for the future:)) Another Liberal bigwig is quoted as saying the Liberal party “must invest in the internet to become a modern political party”. Check out the full article at http://tinyurl.com/67yhdk

Having heard straight from the horses mouth how far behind the Liberal Party has been in terms of its online strategy, its going to take a lot more than physical investment in technology to bring the Liberal Party into the 21st century. The cultural shift required to bring a bunch of old men who have never bothered to even learn how to use a computer, will be a far more daunting task. Because they had the mistaken belief that the rest of Australia also lived in their warped 1950s view of the world, it was a classic case of reality distortion not working at all – they underestimated the power of the digital channels to their peril.

Prioritising the importance of an online platform is only step one, actually using that platform effectively may only happen once the “old world” generation move on, or get with the program. Given the admitted lack of any computer skills whatsoever, I would say that the Liberal Party’s ability to make the giant cultural leap required is not a bet I am willing to make.

Kevin07 all the way!