Had Tim Hudak’s promise to create jobs not been so precise, his party wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in now. Like other parties, Ontario PCs could have simply pledged to help reverse losses to Ontario’s manufacturing base, and then some. If asked for details, it could have ducked behind the same vague messages parties always use to describe how governments create private sector jobs. (Haven’t you guys heard of trickledown economics?).
But Hudak promised one million jobs—not one more or less—over two terms. He even called his party’s election platform the Million Jobs Plan.
Now math—and marketing—are proving to be his greatest foes.
Hudak’s very bad week began with this analysis in the Ottawa Citizen. Economists later said the Million Jobs Plan confuses person-years of employment with permanent jobs—an error that has led PCs to vastly overestimate their plan’s job-creating potential.
In Mr. Hudak’s defense, the Million Jobs Plan was always a shrewd marketing ploy. It’s catchy, it’s memorable and it looks good on a backdrop.
One million is a concrete number—and one we can easily debate around the water cooler. It’s also polarizing. It drives a stake into the hard soil that says, in no uncertain terms: “Here is where we stand, and here is what we stand for.” And, for a time, it really seemed to be capturing the lion’s share of media attention, leaving other parties scrambling to neutralize the impact.
Until, of course, it started capturing the wrong kind of media attention.
Corporate communications profs love to talk about the seven Cs of clear communication. One of those Cs stands for “concrete.” Concrete messages, including clear numbers, vivid images and ideas presented in ways that appeal directly to the senses, are more compelling to the human brain than abstract ideas.
The Ontario PC party clearly gets this. It’s why they called their election platform what they did. But in doing so, they may have overlooked a more important C in the hierarchy of clear communication, the one that stands for “correct.” It’s the most important C of all.
When an important fact doesn’t stand up to public scrutiny, your audience will begin to question your entire message. This is true in politics and beyond. If you want the right result for your party or your product, you have to make sure everything adds up.