Saturday, April 30, 2011

Singapore General Elections 2011: Does the PAP Understand the Electorate?

Early in their careers, PR Professionals are taught that for a Theme to be effective, the Theme must appeal to the “vulnerabilities” of the Target Audience. Derived from the attributes, attitudes or conditions of the Target Audience, these vulnerabilities (while generally consistent) are not static and can change over time.

An analysis of the current Singapore General Elections show that the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) has adopted the Theme of “proven leadership”. This is the same Theme that they have successfully adopted in past elections. Using the “feedback” of netizens responding to the PAP's campaign Messages, it appears that the PAP may have failed to realise that the Vulnerabilities their Theme once effectively appealed to, now no longer exists.

Specifically, the current demographics of voters are generally post-1985. Having been brought up in an environment of peace and stability, and having been exposed to western ideas of democracy, the current electorate desire for more than material comforts. Ideas like freedom of speech, transparency and public accountability of office bearers are important to them. Additionally, the past benefits of having less talented opposition candidates no longer exists. In this Election, the best of the opposition candidates trumps the worst of the PAP's.

The key lesson for PR Professionals is this. Themes and Messages must target the vulnerabilities of the Target Audience to be effective. Based on attributes, attitudes and conditions, these Vulnerabilities are not constant. PR Professionals must therefore constantly study and monitor their Target Audience to ensure that they select the correct Theme.  What may have worked in the past, may not work in the present or the future.

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