For the political advance person it’s not the words that matter but the picture. For every person who actually listens to the news there’s another who only glances at the screen and hears very little. Getting the right background and the right supporting cast is thus of paramount importance.
Team Rudd well understand it — they know that families with young children are a demographic they must capture to win this election.
The hunt is thus always on for schools, pre-schools, day care centres and playgrounds where their man can show his fatherly side. “Goodness knows what that nice Kevin Rudd was talking about but he obviously cares about working families” is the message Labor wants to convey. You will have seen plenty of such photo opportunities in the last few weeks and will see many, many more before polling day.
Such is the power of the baby image that even a visit to a hospital is best accompanied by a happy snap. This week in Tasmania when a children’s ward could not be found to accommodate an announcement of Labor’s hospital assistance plan, the thoughtful advance person did the right thing and arranged for a mum and young child to be at the right place for the cameras when a smiling Kevin was saying goodbye.
The picture came out as ordered but there needs to be a little more care taken with the preparatory work in future. A cruel journalist from The Australian discovered that the photographed pair were friends of a Rudd staffer recruited for the occasion while on a holiday visit rather than fair dinkum Tassie residents.
Not that the words written about the staged event really mattered because the motto of the advance man is that it is all about the picture, stupid.
That’s something I learned back in my Hawke campaign days when the pollsters were reporting that for some reason the normal Bob charm was not working on female swinging voters. But a steady diet of schools, pre-schools, day care centres and playgrounds for a week with the master chatting with mums and bubs and the figures immediately started to improve.
John Howard knows it well enough too. There he was on the television last night showing that grand fathers approaching 70 can cuddle toddlers every bit as well as 50 year old fathers. And to really show that he can enter into the true campaigning spirit he consented to have a Geelong FC cap placed on his head as well.