Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has been his own worst enemy over the last twelve months. At least. And, a healthy case can be made that his brother Doug is as much Rob’s enabler as his greatest champion. Say what you will about the mayor, his actions, decisions, leadership and his innate talent of saying the most inappropriate things in public, the man has unflappable confidence and resilience.

That’s about as much as we need to consider in background information for the extended communication and leadership train wreck we’ve all been witness to.

Now, let’s get down to business.

Ford Nation on YouTube

140218-FordNation-YouTubeIf you haven’t yet watched the Ford Nation YouTube channel, what are you waiting for?

All judgements which can be passed about the depth and sincerity of their remarks aside, the premise behind the channel is smart. Rob and Doug have the right idea for building a community in the lead up to the fall election. They come across as unscripted, even if a bit formal, and generally accessible and relatable people. The Ford brothers are making sure their ideas and actions are part of the considered opinion. And, launching the channel scored them some more earned and social media attention.

Basically, if you can suspend your disbelief in what has shaken out over the last year, this channel should serve as a reference for any politician and political candidate who wishes to communicate with constituents and work towards a multi-term career.

Be the media

What the Ford brothers are doing is not remarkable, nor unique. Naheed Nenshi published an audio podcast series in the run up to his 2009 election victory. He talked extemporaneously about the campaign and reflected on the outcomes of debates in conversation with a member of his campaign leadership team. Audio is a powerful media and popular among a particular audience. Don’t discount it.

Let’s face it, though. Video is much more popular (and growing in popularity), easier to understand and simpler to share than audio. Particularly when it’s short (five minutes or less) and meets the audience on its terms rather than pandering to viewers while doling out talking points. Mayor Nenshi also uses video effectively to build a rapport with his city. It’s not all about politics. And, by the way, you can rip the audio stream from a video and publish it as a podcast.

Politicians should use this form to keep their constituents and issue stakeholders up to date. Some do. NDP MP Françoise Boivin publishes occasional update videos to her YouTube channel.

Basically, if you’re not taking initiative to communicate and build community online as an augment to your in-person efforts, you’re probably working against people who are. This may not matter too much right now. However, it’s not going to get any easier or any less relevant.

So, start now. Study the Ford Nation YouTube Channel for its productive and unproductive lessons. And start taking risks now. It might make a difference in your next campaign.

Summary of some of the things I believe the Ford brothers are doing well:

  • The videos are short and issue-specific
  • The channel is updated regularly (new videos added today)
  • The channel is well branded, and video intro branding is short
  • They invite and respond to [emailed] questions
  • They include discussions about their non-political interests
  • They seem unscripted and inflect their personal story
  • They speak the language their base eats up
  • They’re getting their message out to the public, unfiltered

Summary of some of the things I believe the Ford brothers are doing poorly:

  • The set and setting is too formal
  • They both face the camera and only side-glance each other
  • Some of the camera cutaways are awkward
  • They respond a bit too curtly to tough questions, “talking at” rather than “responding to”
  • Rob was sweaty in the most recent wave of videos (never let them see you sweat)
  • The description for each video is identical and doesn’t address the subject of the video
  • They’re a bit too partisan (which of course is part of their brand)