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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Friday 31 October 2014

Do Endorsements Matter?

Evil Grey Man retweeted
Our responsibility is to be proper role models for younger males + be part of the solution.
"Evil Grey Man" is Neil Gaiman, an author perhaps best known for his work on Sandman.  He's a massively successful individual with a huge following of diehard fans.
Which, I can only imagine, is why the comment that I made above on twitter keeps being retweeted by a whole host of people I don't know.  I wrote interesting commentary and will occasionally get a few hits, but I've never had one line re-circulated so many times.
The quality of the line isn't the issue here - it's no more or less substantial than anything else I write, and people don't pay near as much attention.  Had I been retweeted by someone else, or by no one else participating in the #BeenRapedNeverReported thread, I don't think I'd have gotten the same response.
What matters is that Neil Himself retweeted me. 
First - this was a generous act of his, whether intentional or not.  Celebrities are like cars compared to the pedestrian population of everyone else; every move they make has more power behind it than those of the majority.  The reverse is true of people like Ghomeshi who clearly seems to have used his power to drive roughshod over whoever was in his way or to his liking.
Second - a guy with as little need to engage has done so anyway.  That means he cares and, when people see that someone they admire cares about something, they're going to be paying closer attention to.  That matters.
I work in politics; on campaigns and when policies are rolled out, a ton of energy gets spent on finding third-party endorsers to add some clout to an issue or a brand.  I've seen great candidates with amazing endorsements go nowhere, and solid candidates with no big names behind them but a great deal of community clout do well.
What's the lesson in all this?
For now, it seems to me less that you've got a big name attached to yours and more that they demonstrably believe in what you do enough to support it.  This means a given audience - theirs, primarily - needs to know that said celebrity is already committed to the cause and sees you as a conduit for their beliefs.
How this applies to politics is an interesting matter; if you're running in a specific Ward or Riding, odds aren't great that a plurality of voters are Neil Gaiman fans.  You need to find endorsements that are relevant to your audience.
Which, ultimately, means that you need to know who your audience is and already be engaged about the issues that matter to them. 
It's not about a short term sales job, then, which politics tends to be - it's about having a clear why and earning support because of it.


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