Rudd headline was clearly a major focus of a considerable amount of effort for Kevin Rudd and all of his staff. This applied equally to his role as the Member for Griffith and to his role as Shadow Minister for Foregin Affairs. The far more important thing to note about Kevin Rudd's insatiable desire for media coverage was how focussed it was. Especially in the early part of his career, when he was still very akward ("nerdy"), it was very apparent that the media component was something that he did not like (hated?) - but he knew it was a necessary part of gaining power.
In the day to day thrust of the media, it is very easy to be drawn in to a vast array of quite different subjects. The media messages that work are those that are consistent regardless of what is happening around it. Reviewing the Rudd media messages over many years is a case study in how to stay "on message". All of the components present a common message - education (symbolised here by the University of Queensland) is large and at the core and standing up for your rights is the second main message.
Weaving the message in with personal achievements added a high degree of credibility. Rudd's widely known ability to speak Chinese gave extra credence to his donations of LOTE (Lanaguage other than English) Awards across his electorate. Note how it is education at the core - but the donations are very targeted. It continues to focus attention on his ability as an Australian to learn another language - providing an aim for all Australians while also being inclusive of non-English speaker voters in the electorate.
The intensity and level of commitment to fighting aircraft noise was only possible for someone living under the flight path. The Rudd headline in the local paper was clearly credible - even for those who saw some other opportunities.(The opportunity to work with Wayne Swan on joint noise reduction initiatives - or against him by suggesting flight paths over his electorate - added to the appeal of this campaign.)
In choosing areas of focus, it is extremely important to ensure that the topic is sufficiently broad to be long-term. The significance of focus is only gained in the long term. Rudd was running on these two themes in his unsuccessful 1996 campaign - and they were still key to his 2007 successful campaign leading to his election as Prime Minister.
Staying on focus is the way to success with the media - but only if there is constant media interest. There are several ways of obtaining this - each with advantages and disadvantages. The approach taken for the Rudd headline was to learn all that could be learned about the media and then to use that knowledge to gain the desired outcome. With this in mind, Rudd focused on developing relationships with people in the media and successfully sought a role in the media to learn the business "from the other side". While several politician have a journalist background, there were at the time few with political ambitions who went out and learned journalistic skills to advance their political careers.
With those relationships and that knowledge on board, Rudd was able to hone his message to be more likely to achieve media recognition. In particular, his donations were likely to be recognised with a photo opportunity (how many "community interest" photos, of Rudd, were sent to the local paper by his staff?) and his statements (always mainstream but always a bit controversial) were more likely to be published.
Importantly, and again in line with the high level of commitment, he was often one of the first to be involved in new areas of media interest. The weekly radio spot and then the occasioanl television spot and then the weekly television spot were all ideas that others were reluctant to commit to as opposed to Rudd who sought them out and suggested them to the media management.
There are strong lessons in the Rudd headline approach for any one new to politics. Essentially it is the build a media interest in the candidate - and then the interest is there without need for somethign shocking. It is a much better long term media strategy that the "hurl a brick" approach!
Setting up a media approach is important. These are many challenges, though, for those who are new to politics. Take the opportunity to grab some other ideas as you progress through the
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