Politics and PR go together like oil and water
There is no escaping the tight rope walk that faces practically every politician in democratic jurisdictions, especially when a subject touches a nerve in the community, and people react in a way that sends a message they are far from satisfied.
It is also a true test of courage, when a politician is willing to re-examine an issue to determine whether there was a flaw in its presentation resulting in anger, rather than the intended objective of building confidence, while keeping good public relations intact.
Public relations and politics, most of the time, is just as challenging as trying to get oil and water to mix. A major problem is that too often not enough thought is given to public perception, before fully explaining a policy that could hold benefits on the long term, but is likely to upset those who feel such a policy if carried out, would threaten their job security.
It is not up to the free press to provide netting when a politician stumbles on any issue. Their task is to find out if possible, what went wrong, and accurately inform the public on every aspect to keep clarity at the forefront.
This is something every democratic Government is confronted with throughout the free world, and very often the gap between proper information, and public perception, is too wide to prevent that political tight rope from swaying.
Throughout our political history, many politicians have learned the hard way that mis -reading public sentiment can be costly in the political arena. Many Bermudians still believe that the Progressive Labour Party’s removal from power, was largely attributed to the PLP turning a deaf ear to major public complaints.
True or false, the recent election spoke volumes that the public was demanding something better.
The new Government, One Bermuda Alliance, is also facing that tight rope walk and they must be extremely careful, because, even those who helped to put them in the driver’s seat, will be watching their every move. This is to be expected since the previous administration came under fire often for not coming clean on a number of issues.
In other words the public has no taste for politicians who play games with words, when all they want is the truth.
Bermuda certainly is not out of the economic woods, and there are many families in a daily struggle to make ends meet. Although many Bermudians will be expecting some type of miracle from the OBA, the daunting task of trying to improve conditions that existed even before they took office, will require input from every single Bermudian. Most importantly the Government must ensure that the people and their concerns remain the priority at every step of the way.
While there are major schemes being floated about that promise this that for improving our economic plight, most people want know more about what is feasible and realistic and how it will impact Bermudas way of life. These are concerns that cannot be swept aside as simply finding fault with new projects because it will mean change. Even if that is a factor, good clear information will always sit well with the public.
Governments come and go, but the public is always there, and they are the ones that matter.
Perhaps it was the strength of public reaction in the United States over the recent verdict in the Trayvon Martin case, that prompted President Barack Obama, to speak from his heart on the matter, even though he was aware that he would be criticised for inserting his feelings about a subject that a court had already ruled on.
He respected the court process, and even commended the judge. But he also knew reaction to the not guilty verdict, had sparked a nation wide outcry from blacks and whites, and had reached a point where he could no longer remain silent.
His address was aimed at both calming and encouraging healthy exchanges on improving racial conditions throughout America.
He cited significant progress over the years, noting that things are getting better. But, he also pointed out that America is far from being as united as it could be. Some observers feel his remarks may have been his Gettysburg address for his presidency.
History will have to judge that.
The bottom line here is that our leaders of the day must never stray from keeping in close touch with public sentiment no matter the issue.
There is a great deal of work ahead to get Bermuda moving again, and the public, who want success, will be watching very closely.
Good public relations could go a long way in making Bermudians feel a part of helping to improve, not only our economic situation, but also our way of life.