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Rowley reloaded and the PR myth

Hands up for all readers who know what village their boss was raised in? Anyone knows how and where whoever writes your cheque met their significant other?

Are there any raised hands yet? Here are some more questions.

Does it matter what your boss is wearing when he or she gives you a raise? Or tells you that you are redundant?

And finally, when the future for yourself and your family boils down to one choice, do you go for style or substance?

Perhaps there might be something in that for Opposition Leader Keith Rowley and his advisors to consider as they set about rebranding the “Pitbull” otherwise known as the “Jammette” and “Raging Bull.”

Photo: Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley
(Courtesy Jyoti Communication)

As the Patrick Manning-led People’s National Movement (PNM) lost touch with its citizens, the then Prime Minister chastised Rowley for his supposed “jammette” behaviour in voicing his objection to Calder Hart’s alleged indiscretions.

Manning meant his reference as an insult but Rowley wore his rebuke as a badge of honour for nearly two years. It is uncertain whether the Opposition MP still feels that way, though.

The former teacup chucker now wants to be viewed as someone who the average Trinidad and Tobago citizen would invite to his dinner table without fear that he might end up prancing on top of it.

At the PNM convention on the weekend, Rowley went through wardrobe changes, had flower girls and was given a charming introduction by his wife, Sharon, as his party attempts to soften his public persona so as to make him more palatable to a national audience.

More than any of her predecessors, present Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar is credited—if that is the right word—for turning the leadership challenge into a popularity contest.

Rowley, it appears, will try to beat Persad-Bissessar at her own game.

What could possibly go wrong?

It would be an exaggeration to say the nation witnessed an Orwellian moment on the weekend. But after decades of being let down by politicians who would be surprised if this story has a similar ending to “Animal Farm?”

There is something the PR specialists will not tell you that the man on the street knows instinctively.

Nobody likes the boss.

Photo: Would your boss be more likeable in a tie?

No employee cares whether his or her boss was raised in a village in Tobago or by a pack of wolves. They do not really want you at their wedding or christening—even if they invite you—and they will only get suspicious if you started dressing sharper.

Sure, an employee might think his boss can be nice and understanding sometimes. And it is not he necessarily dislikes the boss. But he will never say: “Keith is really nice. He is my boss.”

You are, first and foremost, “the boss.” Everything else, including the stuff that the PR firms bill for, is circumstantial.

A good boss is one who ensures good working conditions and a competitive salary for his staff and dividends for shareholders not one who had a pleasant childhood, a loving wife and good fashion sense.

Surely, a Prime Minister should have more in common with a leader of industry rather than the person who won the last “Rising Star” contest.

Great leaders are said to be either hunters or farmers. To use a sporting analogy, it is a choice between Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and Real Madrid coach José Mourinho’s lust for success or Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger and Athletic Bilboa coach Marcelo Bielsa’s aptitude for nurturing talent.

“Being prime minister is a lonely job,” said former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. “You cannot lead from the crowd.”

Thatcher was almost universally despised but her point stands. I do not want or need the type of prime minister that would respond to my Twitter updates and like my Facebook photos. I want someone who would stop the financial wastage and break his or her back to improve living conditions and opportunities for Trinidad and Tobago citizens.

As Wired868 is primarily a sport publication at present, I will use another football analogy.

Manchester City’s Argentinean striker Carlos Tévez will not be mistaken for Brad Pitt in this life or the next. The 28-year-old grew up in a poor crime-ridden neighbourhood in Buenos Aires and, as a three-year-old, received third degree burns on his neck after being accidentally scalded with hot water.

His first professional club, Boca Juniors, offered him cosmetic surgery. Tévez declined. Eleven years later, the millionaire footballer still has not addressed his disfiguration.

Photo: Manchester City star Carlos Tévez is paid to score goals not look good.

“It was a defining experience–it marked me for life,” Tévez once told a reporter. “I won’t have plastic surgery. You either take me as I am or you don’t. The same goes for the teeth.

“I won’t change the way I am.”

Tévez knows his role. It is to help his team win matches.

There are more than a few Parliamentarians who apparently never bothered to check their job descriptions. Sport Minister Anil Roberts and his mini-me Permanent Secretary spring to mind for their antagonistic and arrogant manner of dealing with sporting bodies.

Rowley, for all his flaws and occasional errors, came across as a straightforward, logical fellow who was trying his best. His image was altered on Sunday but not necessarily in the way he intended.

For months, Rowley chastised the People’s Partnership for treating its citizens as fools and warned that an intelligent public would hold the administration accountable at the next general election.

Has Rowley’s opinion regarding the intelligence of Trinidad and Tobago’s citizens changed? Will his showdown with Persad-Bissessar take place on a fashion runway or would it centre on principle and logic?

As United States president Barack Obama once remarked, in a quote believed—probably wrongly—to be aimed at former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin: “You can put lipstick on a pig but it’s still a pig.”

 

Editor’s Note: What are your thoughts on the importance of PR in politics? Let us know if our Comments section.

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the CEO and Editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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4 comments

  1. I don’t think the issue is what he wears and I don’t think most rational Trinis have a problem with Rowley’s persona per se. If anything right thinking people owe him a debt of gratitude for refusing to toe the line on UDECOTT. But in terms of marketing himself as a PM rather than an opposition leader the most problematic issue is his acceptability to the non-Christian Indian voter, quite frankly. The PR problem here has been things coming out of Rowley’s own mouth that suggest a kind of cultural alienation such as his taking Kamla to task for touching the feet of the Indian President. Having said that, that segment of the voting public isn’t in play anyway. The bigger issues is framing this incarnation of the PNM as a government-in-waiting for ALL trinis of ALL races. He also has to be careful about Fitzgerald Hinds and others alleging racial bias by the PP administration. It might be so but they should be careful not to make themselves look like the black people party.

  2. Well said…….we need a whole new breed……the devils always try to look good and say good things,we have seen it throughout our 50 years…..

  3. In the race to win elections, the way you dress is always an issue. What is left now is how they move forward.

  4. While I know the answer to the first two questions and would say a resounding NOOOOOOOOOO to the other three questions….I still wonder what are we looking for as Trinis? In the area of marketing rebranding is a very successful tool in that as time goes by there is this need to change the packaging of a product….or give more information about it….or test it against other similar products….it is found to help the brand tremendously…not forgetting that according to the age of the brand there may be a need to appeal to younger audiences. Well if Dr. Rowely is a PRODUCT of the PNM who has been an entity for 50 years….then in the marketing world there may be a need to rebrand. My concern however is that as the rebranding attempt takes place the product must not lose its flavour, taste or general appeal it must be a more improved product but we always want the memory of the classic taste. So to rebrand or not would be his and/or the party’s call but the admonishion is when changing the package try not to do too much adjustment to the content. Because it is really that that we love about the product.