How to shoot yourself in the foot on the political stage #LabourCamp

A Labour Party scheme to recruit 85 overseas interns his week to campaign for the upcoming election has become a public point of discussion, generating much scrutiny of the party as a whole. What sort of message does this send out?
The students at the heart of the issue have protested their disappointment at what was supposed to be an engaging and highly ranked learning programme, which is now being perceived in some quarters as being not much more than political campaign slave labour.

And to the horror of its members, Labour, traditionally portrayed as the people's party, is being seen by some commentators as deceiving students into becoming their free labour force and political mouthpiece - offering neither a living wage nor even a minimum wage: no wage at all.

There is now even speculation about how the scheme aligns with the rules of Immigration NZ. Based on some media reports, such as stuff.co.nz, the immigrants are being given free accommodation, which sounds like it is a cramped dormitory with broken and unusable showers, bathroom cupboard doors hanging off hinges and unfinished construction work with material piled beside mattresses. Some commentators are having a field day, even suggesting that since they're being given free accommodation in exchange for their work, which could mean that they are in breach of their visitor visa conditions.

It is possible they have other work visas, however it is hard to envisage they could be considered for these visas in the first place as a whole. And if we take that view to the extreme, there is the possibility of Labour being seen to be complicit in a case of some immigration shenanigans.

Either way, it is evident that Labour now has some major issues on its hands including:

  • Reputation damage
  • Potential loss of voters
  • Reduction in brand value.

Since this crisis, Labour has stepped in to try and fix the situation, however it's still not an overall good look for the party. While there's no shortage of evidence to suggest that time spent volunteering internationally is a valuable tradition, the irony is based on Labour's recently announced immigration
policy they could easily be seen to be using foreign student volunteers to campaign against foreign students – particularly having taken a recent anti-immigration stance.

To cut a long story short, Labour have completely messed up something they should have easily got right. Many will be questioning that if they can't organise an election campaign properly, how are they planning to govern an entire country if they win?

What this case shows is you need to have better visibility of the reputational risks across your organisation, even indirectly. When making decisions about actions, way before you might become stuck in a reputation crisis, the first question that needs to be asked is: "What if?" and then make contingency plans on how you would handle the top two or three worst-case scenarios. Here's a suggested process:

  • What the two or three worst things that could happen to negatively impact our business, reputation or operations?
  • What preparation do we need to do to handle each potential crisis situation?
  • What are the first three steps to take in handling - and communicating through - each of these three crisis possibilities?

Just going through the above "what if" exercise can be extremely valuable. Even with a brief checklist, you can quickly identify the resources, key people and first steps needed in advance of a crisis.

For this reason, if you need help answering the above questions, or would like a crisis management plan for your business, please get in touch with us at welcome@theclaritybusiness.co.nz

By Jasmine Kerkmeester


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