Time for politicians to embrace social media

Time for politicians to embrace social media

Australia’s politicians could learn a thing or two from David Cameron and Barack Obama’s successful election campaigns, claims Havas global CEO David Jones.

Jones worked for three years with Cameron in the lead-up to his 2010 election bid.

Jones is also the author of Who Cares Wins, a book in which he argues that the new price of doing well is doing good, and warns that businesses that aren’t socially responsible and honest will pay the price.

Speaking to B&T during his trip to Australia last week, Jones said: “If you look at the new rules of leadership, they are the same as the rules of social media: transparency, authenticity and speed.

“This is the first time in history that technology doesn’t help the world’s leaders. Every other piece of technology, from the megaphone to the radio to the TV has helped them. The spotlight is now on the leaders – they are under more scrutiny than ever.

“But, that said, look at the US election. Obama, both for his first election and this time, used the power of social media and data brilliantly. Romney had a private fundraising dinner and said that 47% of the US population were spongers. He got hit – someone filmed his speech.”

By taking to social media and showing they are human after all, Australian’s politicians could change their reputations, Jones argued.

“Look at the Australian government spill the other week,” he told B&T. “Julia Gillard is on Twitter – but she did not even acknowledge that it was happening. There is a complete lack of understanding of transparency and authenticity there. The opportunity is to just be true and human.

“I think Julia Gillard could rebuild her entire image and campaign – on reality and not image. If she had been tweeting the other week, real time, about the spill and how she felt, the public would have an entirely different perspective.”

He added: “In the UK, when Gordon Brown made the ‘bigot’ comment, no-one from his team even acknowledged it. But if he had just come out on Twitter and said he had made a mistake, it would have been a different story. People respect honesty.

“My number one piece of advice would be that there is no such thing as ‘off the record’ any more. Anything you say can, and will, be shared with everyone. You don’t have to be perfect, just be honest.”

Jones said he learnt some big lessons during his work with Cameron (pictured left) in the UK.

“I learnt of the speed at which things happen," he said. "Speed is critical, and momentum is everything. Also, it never plays out the way you think it will.”

“Right now, there is not a sane person in Australia who thinks Gillard will be the next prime minister – but it never plays out the way you expect.”

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