The impossible « normality » of political leaders and its consequences in terms of image and reputation.
Prior to his election as President of the Republic in 2012, François Hollande pledged to remain “ordinary”, including in his travels : ” to take the train is not a duty as a candidate, it’s a normal way to get around. Including for a President. ” After he was elected President, François Hollande tried to uphold his commitment. But security precautions and schedule constraints quickly turned these simple train journeys into expensive headaches and questioned the legitimacy of the initiative, at a time when many began to mock a mere communication effect … A President does not travel like the man on the street! Rail or car travels have gradually been suspended but the negative effects of this failed attempt to “normality” on the image of the new President was undeniable: Les Guignols de l’info (political satire TV programme), to name but a few, have parodied this nearly-ordinary President for months !
More recently, in the middle of Paris Municipal campaign, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet praised ” moments of grace” in the Paris subway … A way of showing that she shares the lives of Parisians? Beyond the awkwardness of such statements that could only annoy the daily users of crowded trains, she has stumbled from one mistake to the other. When she stated, wrongly, that the bus service stops at 9 pm in the capital, and later on when she said to reporters who were following her in the subway ” now, you are p… me off”, she found herself hoisted on her own petard. It showed that her initial comments were made solely for communication purpose and strengthened her image as a member of the elite, remote to “ordinary people” concerns. The mocking reactions on the Internet rather suggest a permanent damage to her image !
At the memorial service to late President Nelson Mandela in South Africa, the President of the United States Barack Obama was present… and caught snapping a ” Selfie ” picture, a self-portrait taken with a smartphone, grinning heads, with the Danish Prime Minister, Helle Thorning- Schmidt, who was taking the picture, and the British Prime Minister David Cameron. In the background, Michelle Obama, a concentrated look on her face, was not posing with the three political leaders. Some made ironic comments on Michelle Obama as she was sulking, suggesting that she was jealous of this moment of complicity, while others were offended by an inappropriate behaviour on such a solemn occasion.
Is the public versatile ? One day fond of these little ordinary moments… the next day almost shocked to see the trivial behaviour of political leaders?
All these contradictory reactions remind us that the exposure of political leaders’« ordinary » everyday life, in terms of image, is a far more serious and tricky topic than it seems, a very sensitive and even dangerous ground in terms of reputation, with a high boomerang effect potential. Thus, to be used with discretion and handled with the utmost care …