Kevin O’Leary, and especially those advising him, deserve a lot of credit. From a public relations perspective he’s handled his entry into politics brilliantly so far. Here are a few things I’ve noticed.
- Flawless execution of the “phony war”: For weeks — months actually — O’Leary got free media coverage as he hummed and hawed about whether he would actually run for Tory leader. Other candidates even fell into his trap, putting out press releases and making public comments about his need to make a decision. All this kept him in the news and relevant. In addition to that, his exploratory committee and website allowed him to identify a ton (probably thousands) of would-be supporters before he even entered the race.
- Upstaging the French-language debate: Rather than attend the French-language debate last night in Quebec City, O’Leary instead leaked to the media yesterday afternoon that he would officially announce his candidacy today. As a result, he got as much or more coverage than the debate itself, overshadowing the other candidates.
- Social media prowess: Everything O’Leary has done so far has been on social media, mostly videos on his Facebook page. He’s taking a page from Donald Trump here, but seems to be favouring Facebook rather than Trump’s preferred outlet, Twitter. He’s speaking directly to party members and Canadians who might vote for him, and not having his message distorted through the media.
- Lowering expectations on French: O’Leary, who was born in Montreal, has portrayed himself as a unilingual anglophone, unable to speak French. However, his French appears to be better than he’s letting on publicly. He blurted out a single French sentence in an interview Sunday, and French-speakers will note right away that while it’s far from perfect, this is someone who knows a bit of French. Once he actually speaks French publicly in a substantive way, he’ll get credit for his hard work learning and improving.
I am looking at this race from a distance, not being involved in any political party or any campaign. And without passing judgement on his or any candidate’s merits and weaknesses, at this point I am confidant in saying this leadership race is Kevin O’Leary’s to lose.