A politician’s image shouldn’t confuse or mislead voters.
Image Consultant Anne Sowden, of Here’s Looking at You, said the goal is to finetune one’s image so that it reveals the genuine person, rather than crafting an entirely false persona.
“People have an image whether they know it or not,” Sowden said. “And what is absolutely important about image is that it’s got to reflect who you really are… It really has to come from within.”
A person’s image includes how one looks and acts, what one wears or says, and of course how you say it, she said.
It’s important that one feels comfortable, doesn’t just wear glasses for instance because some consultant believes it will make you look younger, she said.
“People will pick up on it if your image is not genuine,” Sowden said. “And it’s amazing how astute people are.”
The Toronto Sun asked Sowden for her views on the images of the three main Ontario party leaders who are campaigning ahead of the June 2 vote.
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“Last election it was all about the (Progressive Conservative) party,” Sowden said. “Now they’ve hitched their wagon to Doug Ford.”
Her strongest image of Ford — one that many Ontarians share — is the premier in a formal suit standing at the podium, all serious, reading a teleprompter in a somewhat monotone voice, she said.
When he walks away from the podium, when he interacts directly with people in the audience, another image appears.
“And it was, dare I say, a friendlier, a Doug that connected better with people,” Sowden said. “He came across as a warmer, friendlier Doug Ford. Then he went to the teleprompter and we got the Doug Ford that we know.”
The extremes in his appearance — from formal suit to golf shirt with nothing in between — also sends out a confusing message, she said.
“I’m left thinking who’s the real Doug Ford here?” she said.
Sowden said she thinks he should use his own voice more.
“It’s marketing 101 — what’s your message that you want to get out to people, do you want to get the message out that I’m a really nice guy and I’m warm and I’m engaging or he’s almost like the tough guy when he speaks,” she said.
“Andrea Horwath through all her career has been consistent in her look which is fantastic,” Sowden said. “If you think of what you wear as your packaging, her packaging is consistent.”
Horwath has switched out the harsher dark colours she sometimes wore for softer tones and clothing, she said.
“I think it very much reflected her personality and her image,” Sowden said. “Andrea, it’s a softer image but it doesn’t mean to say that you can’t be premier because you have a softer image. It’s completely opposite to Doug’s image so she’s setting herself apart from him.”
A woman seeking a powerful position no longer needs to dress in a more masculine-style suit if that’s not her style, she said.
“Politics aside, I find Andrea Horwath very engaging and she really connects with people when she’s out there talking to people,” Sowden said. “And part of it is her speaking style, she uses her hands which brings people in.”
STEVEN DEL DUCA
“I was surprised because there was one ad that I saw where he’s talking about (when) his brother was killed in a car accident, they were very close,” Sowden said. “I’m not sure what the ad was trying to do but the message I got from it is that this man is approachable, this man has empathy which is really important.”
Del Duca “has a mountain to climb” because he’s associated with a former losing government and the target of negative ads, she said.
However, when she looked at a campaign event where he was interacting with the crowd he came across well, she said.
“I was surprised again. Once again, he came across as approachable. He was engaging. Now granted they were all Liberal supporters but he was engaging with the people,” she said. “And he even smiled which I never think of him doing. So I think he’s a work in progress, really, and what I found too was what he said sounded compelling and he was very convincing. And it really is a matter of are they going to listen to him or are they going to dismiss him because he’s Steven Del Duca.”