Calgary Mayor, Naheed Nenshi is known for his street cred, but today we are recognizing him for something else; having a winning PR strategy. There are many steps Mayor Nenshi took to his road to success.
Whether you are a PR firm, a political buff or just an admirer of great leadership – there is no denying that Naheed Nenshi has strategically built a public image and PR machine unlike anything that has been seen before in Canadian politics.
As a testament to this, Mayor Nenshi was recently announced in a world ranking for being named the winner of the 2014 World Mayor Prize. This is a global nod to his role as an urban visionary and inclusive leader.
Looking back at Mayor Nenshi’s rise from obscurity to what could now be considered international fame, here is an outline of his winning PR and public relations strategy:
Following a failed bid to win a seat on the Calgary City Council in the 2007 election, Naheed Nenshi took a cue from progressive politicians like Barack Obama and focused his energy on Facebook and Twitter. Instead of forcing his platform on an audience through traditional paid advertising campaigns, Nenshi made conscious considerations to create true online conversations with his constituents, posing questions and responding directly to everyone that addressed him. He had amazing social media results, because he participated in social media as it was intended – to connect and share.
Nenshi’s use of social media is a true reflection of his everyday life. He embraces technology and values the connection to people, unlike many politicians who look at social media as just another channel to recycle the same tired campaign message. Following his win in 2010, Nenshi began to set a new precedent for inclusivity through channels like Facebook and Twitter. What this meant for Calgarians was that instead of the disconnect to local politics they suddenly saw an update in their Facebook newsfeed saying “this is what we are doing and here is here is why”- an approach that has served him well throughout his terms as Mayor.
Instead of shying away from his Muslim roots or seemingly unrelatable background as an academic and intellectual, Mayor Nenshi used these to his advantage and cultivated a refreshing personal brand. Applying marketing best practices, he branded his mayoral campaign the ‘Purple Revolution’ as a way to capture the imagination of voters and win support in what was once one of the most staunchly conservatives communities in Canada. Today, the ‘Support Nenshi’ movement is run almost exclusively by an active community of supporters and fans. In the most recent mayoral election Nenshi spent little time on his re-election platform, instead letting the positive messaging of his loyal supporters and followers speak for him – resulting in a landslide win.
While both Naheed Nenshi and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford may make equal amounts of news headlines, there is no doubt it is for two very different reasons. In contrast to Rob Ford’s track record, Naheed Nenshi embraces transparency and welcomes journalists and new media wholeheartedly. He personally authors op-eds for the Calgary Herald, and is known for hosting unforgettable press conferences like those during the Calgary floods of 2013. Even the most inscrutable media can’t help but smile when they are given a sound byte like this famous line from Nenshi:
“I cannot believe I actually have to say this but I am going to say it: the river is CLOSED. You cannot boat on the river. I have a large number of nouns I could use to describe the people I saw in a canoe on the Bow River today… I am not allowed to use any of them. I “can” tell you however that despite the state of local emergency I cannot invoke the “Darwin Law”.”
While his approval rating upon re-election was a staggering 75 percent lead over his fellow candidates, Nenshi has never publicly allowed his popularity to go to his head. In fact, he still talks openly about living with his mother. In a conscious effort to remain inclusive and grounded to his constituents, Nenshi will praise his staff at every chance – from the city workers who worked tirelessly to drain flooded streets, to police and fire officials who keep the city safe. Nenshi has maintained a public image as a gracious and fun loving mayor that makes time to speak with anyone that ?approaches him, even if it’s about a recent Flames defeat. His style of communication lets us see that he is above all a human being who wants to do great things for a city he loves.
At the heart of Naheed Nenshi’s public image and positive PR is his relatability. He is smart, but doesn’t rub it in our faces. He is technologically sophisticated, but uses it as a tool to better communicate. He is a proud Calgarian, but in a way that is inclusive and inspiring. Above all Naheed Nenshi doesn’t speak down to his constituents and followers, but instead treats everyone as peers and friends.
Contact Us for More Information About Different PR Strategies
We can learn a lot about building and executing a PR strategy from Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi. As a leading PR firm, we are familiar with the tactics discussed in this article. If you would like a widely successful PR campaign created for you, please contact us. We can provide you with social media, branding, advertising, media representation, organize events or facilitate just about any other related public relations services you may need. We can be reached by email, or by phone: 1-855-738-2220.