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Craig Pedersen
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What the DA needs to learn about canvassing

12 May 2014, 13:46
Here's the rub. The ANC will despite it's many misgivings to the educated population leap home at the polls - to my mind, this is predominantly due to a lack of a cohesive strategy by the official opposition. In a simple phrase "too little too late"

As usual, the official opposition has chosen to leave serious canvassing up to the last moment (at least the results seem to support this theory) and as usual, they have campaigned on a negative. Now really, I have about 20 years varied experience, a lot of which has been in a sales environment and any salesman worth his paycheck will tell you never to sell a negative. People won't buy the new Hyundai because the Toyota is ugly, they won't buy it because the BMW is a gas guzzler either. They'll buy it for it's features, for the look and feel and for how it makes them feel about themselves. As for those who buy the ugly gas guzlers -that's their problem!

It's a simple reality that the DA has failed dismally to establish a sense of pride, growth and belonging. During my visits to the various poles yesterday it was glaringly obvious. The ANC stands were full of virbant happy people singing kumbaya ANC style. The DA stands were clean, professional and sedate. Not really inspring stuff. 

I have to say that while I watched the noise and fanfare around the ANC stands it was quite apparent that although the crisp and professional DA stand would win in any beauty contest - the ANC won cheerleading and vibe hands down. 

How is that possible? All these happy smiling people voting for a party that's as morally guided as a cyclist after brewery tour? 

It's called cohesion - a sense of belonging. A feeling that you and those around you share a common bond. 

When William Shakespear wrote "He today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother" what he meant, is that people are bound by life experiences as strongly as by genetics. Perhaps the secret to the happy ANC family no matter what pappa Jacob does (and he is a little like the black sheep of that family now isn't he!) lies in their past in the struggle fought? If so, those bonds I fear will never be severed and no matter what the black sheep of the family may do - he's never going to cause masses of people to turn their backs on the happy party. 

Perhaps it's the pipe dream that the ANC is selling - of houses and happiness for all. A pipe dream they've sold for years that's as promising and stable as the next release of Windows. We know that - but the masses dont' care, just like geeks standing in queues for the next version of Microsoft fraustration, the ANC masses keep voting them back for more. 

The DA colours speak of stability and strength, while the ANC's brash flags and pennants are vibrant and alive - could that be the secret? Does the DA need a colour co-ordinator?

I believe the answer is there in each of the above. For the DA to be a credible opposition and garner sufficient support for a proper campaign, they need to move forward. A brand overhaul is required, something alive and not conservative. Something that speaks to the people of this country and excites them.

The DA needs an infusion of new blood. Eloquent people, people who can go out an talk and carry a message of hope and prosperity - and more than just slagging off the ruling party (which is really quite easy these days anyway). 

The DA needs to ACT, they need to spend the next five years winning one vote at a time. They need to create a culture within the townships and the rural areas that is no longer conservative and reliable. They need to bring these people hope and change - led by actions and not words.

Forget stupid advertising campaigns and talking to the people - get the people involved! Actively sow pockets of future leaders who live and love the brand and the message. Build achievements and not political ammunition. 

Trust me, the academics and educated voter will see the changes without having to read about them in glossy papers. The people will tell of the changes and positivity, the youth will actually become politically inspired and start to understand and cherish what a democracy should be. 

Take the message to the people in deeds and make the message bold and hopeful.

South Africa has what few other countries on our continent have. We have hope. No matter what Jacob does at the helm of the ruling party, we still have hope that it will get better, that the sun will shine this weekend, that the Stormers will win and that the price of petrol will come down - and if it doesn't that's ok, we'll stay home and braai. 

For South Africa to thrive, we need a realistic and credible opposition and unless the DA chooses to caucus quite soon and reinvent their message and strategy it seems we're set to be run by the ANC for quite some time. 

Who knows, maybe one of the smaller minority parties will embrace a new branding strategy and a long term campaign plan and be the one to take our political landscape to a more balanced level. 

We live in the most beautiful country with the most undeniably interesting characters, let's hope for change, for growth for a political party that upholds their peoples expectations of them.
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