Stepping on the message - keeping your candidate in line

Messaging and presentation are essential for spokespersons - that's what we repeat ad nauseum in our training sessions and during pre-interview prep. Especially at events. So much effort, money and time goes into preparing for the perfect event that PR folk, spokesperson and management can fixate on getting the right message out - over and over and over again. In a political campaign, like the national election happening up here right here, right now (mp3), the message and attendant event become essential components of the campaign and, hopefully, of the media cycle. Candidates and party leaders are increasingly blunt in exposing the mechanics of messaging and repetition as they battle for a toehold in the evening news.

Last week, the leader of the Conservative Party let it all hang out. He even got a bit of grief about it from the media. Here's what CBC radio reported.

SUSAN MURRAY (REPORTER) : The local candidates are there, but as usual, he avoids the general public. It's become the Harper style. Holding just two or at most three events a day, surrounded by supporters. Harper was asked about his controlled campaign.

STEPHEN HARPER (LEADER OF THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY OF CANADA) : I don't know if I should talk about communication strategy at all this, but you know the gold rule: you don't walk on your own message.

MURRAY: His message? It's time to defeat what he calls a tired and corrupt Liberal government. And yesterday, when a question was asked off-message - what would he do about farmers, the big issue in Saskatchewan - Harper seemed (...).

HARPER: Well, that's... Farming is obviously not the subject of this particular announcement, but... Yeah, well... We're doing a message event here...