While trying desperately to paint Crosby/Textor as â€˜just ordinary consultants’ and argue that C/T does nothing that polling and research companies do, National allies like the Herald have also puzzled over why National won’t just admit to being C/T clients. The answer is simple: C/T are not ordinary consultants giving media training or policy advise they specialise in anti-democratic practices and the reduction of democracy to marketing gimmicks. It is because their practices are so anti-democratic that they operate in secret and their clients refuse to publicly acknowledge buying their help.
Here’s the basic formula for a C/T campaign, like the one National is running now.
- – Create a vague â€˜Mr Nice Guy’ image for the leader, keep all attention on the leader but don’t allow coverage that gets deeper than the faÃ§ade – Key has not been in a significant interview all year and turns away journalists daily. Label the leader â€˜positive, ambitious etc’.
- – Do not release any policy (why anyone would think it’s OK to seek to govern but not tell people what you will do in government, I can’t imagine, but the Herald does).
- – Attack the opposing party whenever there is a sniff of an issue lie, use hit and run attacks do the damage but don’t offer a solution
- – Give the leader a very tight script of attack lines, to be repeated whatever questions are asked
- – Any criticism of this marketing product of a leader is to be labelled a â€˜personal attack’
- – Have allied groups carry out media events (truck strike, Asian crime protest) that target traditional voters of your opponents, not to get them to vote for you but to suppress their turnout for your opponents.
- – If a negative comes up (ie a policy leaks or use of C/T becomes public) refuse to engage. Attack the source of the negative, if it’s a journo refuse to talk to them again the attack will be transparently bad but will muddy the waters in people’s minds and the smack-down on the journo will have a chilling effect on others.
Conservative parties hire C/T because this strategy is effective. It deadens political debate so that they don’t have to win on issues and, in the personality contest that replaces real democracy, the vague smiling guy is at an advantage. But it doesn’t work every time, especially once people see C/T is pulling the strings.