In Canada, the SNC-Lavalin issue threatens to skewer the Liberals’ prospects of re-election this fall. It has also raised serious questions about the independence of Canada’s legal system and how people define “appropriate”.

For marketers, I believe the biggest lesson is focused on a single issue: believability.

The SNC-Lavalin issue is obviously complex and multi-faceted but in my humble opinion, Justin Trudeau’s government has struggled to control the narrative because people have a difficult time believing what they’re saying, even if what they’re saying is accurate.

justin trudeauJustin Trudeau continues to dance around questions and talks a good game but he rarely provides direct answers. Instead, he comes across as wishy-washy and elusive rather than honest and transparent.

Sure, there is political gamesmanship and the need to maintain political power but not being perceived as honest doesn’t work in today’s always-on, social media-driven world.

Increasingly, consumers expand brands to be authentic, honest, transparent, principled and operate with purpose.

When brands don’t tell the truth or appear slippery, it is not long before the dirt or lies are uncovered. There’s no place to hide and no place for not telling the truth.

The word “authenticity” is thrown around a lot, probably too much. But it reflects how consumers want brands to behave. They don’t want bullshit, slick language or political-talk. Instead, they want brands to treat them as people, not a transaction machine.

Justin Trudeau’s biggest mistake was probably trying to sweep the SNC-Lavalin controversy under the table rather than come clean, even if the Liberal government took some flack. He thought the electorate wasn’t terribly interested so the issue would disappear.

What he didn’t count on was Jody Wilson-Raybould’s willingness to tell her version of the “truth” rather than remain quiet.

In the public relations war, she continues to outmaneuver the Liberals every step along the way. She’s aggressively punching while the Liberals furiously back peddle.

This is a fascinating case study for marketers when it comes to PR, messaging, and communications. Who knows which side is telling the “truth” but it’s important to be seen believable.

People want the truth. Sometimes, it hurts but what’s the alternative? Brands need to realize that mistakes, accidents, and miscalculated moves happen.

But trying to brush them over, ignore them or, even worse, assume that people don’t care is a recipe for disaster.

Regardless of your political affiliations, the SNC-Lavalin controversy is fertile ground for marketers to focus on how they communicate and what consumer want and expect to hear.


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