The results of our recent election energized interest in Canadian politics on many levels. One important element was the appointment of Harjit Sajjan as Minister of Defence. He became an instant celebrity.
Heritage aside, Sajjan is a respected former community police officer turned accomplished and decorated soldier. He’s invented a gas mask that makes a tight seal over beards. He’s like a Canadian MacGyver, with a big smile and a warm heart. Who wouldn’t want a tough guy who cares in his role?
He’s also on the hot-seat these days. International developments, particularly those involving ISIL and Trudeau’s election promise to pull Canada’s six CF-18 fighter jets out of Syria, will put him centre stage this week as parliamentarians return to the House of Commons today.
The goal of my digital makeover series is altruistic–to help MPs and Parliament do better online. Minister Sajjan helps us understand the importance of personality-driven content that connects, calls to action and being cleverly creative.
Minister Sajjan’s social media dashboard allows you to follow and filter his social streams.
Harjit Sajjan’s website, what should be the centrepiece of his digital ecosystem, suffers greatly from a well-conceived election campaign structure yet horrible governing party structure. This is a problem mostly imposed by the party which still identifies its MPs as candidates IN THE MASTHEAD.
Another party-imposed problem is the absence of links to social media properties — both the party’s and, more curiously, the MPs’.
There are high points in Sajjan’s website. His bio is more visual and spotlights four qualities, a unique approach compared to his caucus-mates.
UPDATE: To avoid duplication, the reference to the Nina Grewal video has been removed from this section. Read more about this video in the “Interruption” section later in this post.
Among the other problems with his site… his “blog”, a collection of media releases and official statements, hasn’t been updated since September.
The real shocker is Sajjan has NO CONTACT INFORMATION posted to his site!!!
Though his website offers no clues, Sajjan has a reasonably well established digital footprint. He has outposts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Google+ and LinkedIn. His branding is pretty good with a single crisp photo of his signature smile serving as the avatar for all but his LinkedIn profile. Oddly, he hasn’t set up a vanity URL or provided a bio on his YouTube channel (which hosts only a single video) or his completely neglected Google+ page.
I like Sajjan’s Facebook About page. Specifically, he’s adopted a first-person communication style and provided links to his full bio and his website.
While his Facebook Page has an events section, Sajjan hasn’t really kept it up. He used it sparsely during the election campaign and hasn’t updated it since the October 19 election results gathering. Recently overlooked is a January 10 open house which he promoted in a Facebook post, but not as an event.
THREE OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
- Post your contact info. This might be the first time I’ve visited a politician’s website and couldn’t find contact info — a phone number, email address or postal address… anything. Constituents and stakeholders shouldn’t have to go hunting for a politician’s contact information. If your site is the first result in a Google search on your name (surprisingly it isn’t, though it should be), everything people need to know should be easily found on your site.
- Create a digest. Use your blog to post weekly digests of your your social media posts and other activities. Not everyone is on social media, or checks it very often. A digest will make it easier for people to keep up on the stuff that matters.
- Update your call to action. Your call to action is brilliant, and outdated. It needs to be about you as MP and Minister. Or, it has to be taken down.
GRADE: C+ (contact info would have boosted you to a B)
Since being elected and sworn in as Minister of Defence, Harjit Sajjan maintained a fairly decent on Twitter. While his activity is low, I believe much of this has to do with the steep learning curve he is on and the high profile issues he’s facing with Canadian and international security.
His Twitter activity still reveals a lot about the person Sajjan is. A Buzzgraph generated from his tweets seems to show a focused interest in three particular areas: his Vancouver South riding, his involvement in the Canadian Armed Forces and Defence, and how important honour is to him. This is unique given most MPs are “pleased”, “proud” and/or “thankful.”
Sajjan is not a heavy hashtag user. That’s generally not a problem. Still, it may him generate a broader appeal (see Community and Participation, below).
The hashtag he used most between October 20 and January 23 was #HISF2015 which is associated with the Halifax International Security Forum. It was the first significant event since being sworn in as Minister of Defence. While he didn’t tweet during the conference, he retweeted others including a photo of him and General Vance, Chief of Defence Staff, working out.
I believe part of Sajjan’s appeal is that he’s seen as equal parts badass and softy. It’s an image that conveys itself nicely when he is in the picture, largely because he seems to legitimately embody both qualities. This makes Sajjan unusual among MPs I’ve written about.
I usually encourage MPs to post pictures from their point of view rather than saturating their feeds with pictures of themselves. I won’t discourage Sajjan from adopting a POV approach. However, I think photos like this one from his Instagram feed need to be part of his online activities.
Sajjan has published only one video to his YouTube page. It’s a great video — energizing in its brief 51 seconds. I feel ripped off there isn’t anything else there to get to know more about Sajjan and follow the work he’s doing.
He also published the video to his Facebook Page.
THREE OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
- Exploit second-person singular. You already have a pretty decent command of tone and use of your personal voice. I suggest a minor tweak, making your posts as though you’re engaged with a single person rather than a large following. So, “To all those celebrating” becomes “If you celebrate.”
- Be in the picture. Continue embodying badass-and-softy, and show it. I believe this is an important image and has broad appeal.
- Involve your audience in your content. Admittedly, this probably belongs in the community and participation category (below). Issue content that activates or inspires your audience to participate. As an example, “Holiday greetings to Canadian Armed Forces members” might become “Please join me in wishing happy holidays to our Canadian Armed Forces members.”
Participation & community
Most MPs attract a concentration of engagement on content they post to a particular channel. Most enjoy heavy activity on their Facebook posts. There are some exceptions which see more interest in their Twitter or YouTube content. Minister Sajjan presents another situation. His three most-popular posts spanning August 2 to January 23 were posted to YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, in that order.
Sajjan issued 155 tweets between October 20 and January 23. He was fairly balanced in the volume of original content and retweets he issued. His reply rate is below average for MPs. In fairness, he is ramping up as Minister of Defence so he doesn’t enjoy as much time as many MPs might to more closely identify and respond to questions and comments.
During that same period, 1,432 unique Twitter users (81% Canadian) issued 2,026 tweets “addressed” to him. Of course there’s no way he can to answer all of them. Still, his nine replies suggest a lot of people aren’t getting answers or insight from him.
The same is true of his Facebook page. He is noticeably absent from the comment threads.
As of this writing (January 23), Sajjan has 30,038 Twitter followers. Not surprisingly, a majority (62%) are from Canada. Also noteworthy is 70% of his following is male and a plurality of his followers (just over 14%) identify themselves as having an interest in Canadian politics. Nearly 7% of his following is media (journalists, columnists, media organizations…).
THREE OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
- Aim for three to five replies a week. It’s a small enough number to be manageable and will help improve your reply rate. More importantly, it will add to the positive narrative you’re enjoying right now, and strengthen your connection with Canadians.
- Try to broaden your appeal. Admittedly, this is not something you can directly control. Still, you’ve become something of a man’s man. Now you need to find a way to, at least in the online sense, speak in a way that appeals more to women.
- Publish more video. Your campaign video struck a chord. You energize people. While we’re now past rallies, and I discourage publishing videos of speeches (at least as a default), there is a great opportunity for you to engage people and deliver a message through video.
Interruption (the bonus category)
Sajjan cleverly played a great political poker hand. He embedded a video published to YouTube by (now former) Conservative MP Nina Grewal, in which Grewal praises Sajjan in the House of Commons in October 2011.
In TOUCH: Five Factors to Growing and Leading a Human Organization, Tod Maffin and I wrote that people often connect with leaders like Peter Aceto and Chris Hadfield because they allow us to see ourselves in them. They inspire us to think differently about who we can be. Harjit Sajjan falls in that category. And, I think he can do a lot to shift Canadian attitudes and help build a strong Canadian identity from digital-up.