From the budget to the degeneration of ‘Brand Labor’

I’ve decided I am NOT going to write about the budget this week because the media is saturated with coverage and it’s left me cold in terms of supporting small business.

As a Political commentator colleague of mine stated, it’s a typical old fashioned Labor budget which claims it’s about working families — I am part of a hard working family and single mother – not sure it’s providing much good for me. It’s a political budget aimed to shore up those traditional Labor voters who for the first time are thinking of voting something other than Labor. Why? Because Brand Labor has failed to protect the home base and the budget, amongst other goals, is geared at holding them. The polls show that Brand Labor may have already lost.

So why is the brand of Labor so damaged and what can they do about it?

Politics as much as any corporation is about the brand of the leaders, the brand of the mission statement and the brand of the supporting team. While the Coalition may not be held up anytime soon as a showcase Political brand building case study, the reality is that Brand Labor is at an almost head shaking low.  In a conscious competitive strategy, Opposition leader Tony Abbott has stayed relatively quiet. He doesn’t need to attack the government. Left alone they are doing a fine job of reducing Labor’s brand value all by themselves.

So where has brand Labor gone wrong?

Confused vision, changing strategy, broken promises and now wracked with leadership scandal plus poor PR handling of staff accused of wrongdoing. While it is admirable for any leader to support colleagues and I would be the first to show loyalty to my team – in this case the leadership decisions around the treatment of Speaker of the House Peter Slipper and MP Craig Thomson are creating high risk damage and unparalleled ‘brand slides’ by the day.

While former staff member James Ashby has accused Peter Slipper of over-using his taxpayer-funded taxi entitlements and has lodged civil claims of sexual harassment, the Australian Federal Police are actively investigating the claim.  Peter Slipper’s role as the 27th Speaker of the Australian House of Representatives, after serving as Deputy Speaker following the 2010 election, is one of the most powerful in parliament.  He has the power to halt, stop, guide and re-direct debate. The fact he is under investigation for fraud is a matter of all seriousness for the stability of the House – however one is innocent until proven guilty. Slipper maintains his innocence and is conducting business as usual after leaving the Coalition late last year when Labor offered him the role of Speaker, to the outrage at the time of Abbott and the Coalition.

Surely the mission of ‘Brand government’ is to protect its people and global reputation.  I understand Slipper is chairing key parliamentary committees such as the House Selection Committee and evidently hosting at least one overseas delegation. What do our global visitors think of brand Australia?

Labor need to focus on strategic brand protection and reputation re-building. When Gillard’s government – at a time when the brand was already suffering – offered the position of Speaker of the House to an opposing Coalition voter – in doing so removing a vote from a precarious fairly equal balance of power – perhaps they should have thought more strategically about the Labour brand long term.  There is little gain in short term thinking and actions when they affect long term brand reputation and protection.

Craig Thomson is accused of misusing more than $500,000 of union members’ funds for inappropriate uses while head of the Health Services Union. The Slipper and Thomas affairs show that due diligence and careful management is of paramount  importance to successful brand maintenance.  Today the Labor brand is more damaged with claims the Government is paying legal aid for Craig Thomson.

Can we be responsible for the actions of others?No not always. But we can show leadership and strong brand values by reacting true to brand when difficult circumstances arise. Even social media has not been harnessed successfully to re-build and protect Labor’s brand. Although Peter Slipper tweeted that there were two sides to every story and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Bob Carr, has been using Twitter to question the bona fides of Ashby’s claims.

Why is it important to protect your brand every day? Brand reputation is somewhere you can’t hide and hope it will go away. According to AON’s Annual risk survey, brand reputation is still the leading concern of leaders in terms of risk to an organisation. Brand reputation is a conscious decision to act within agreed brand values — and if it isn’t working call in the experts!

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