Even before hitting the campaign trail, politicians must be acutely aware of how the public views them. It takes years to build trust, make connections, and establish a vision for a community – and just one negative comment or distrustful action to destroy this foundation. It is very important, then, for politicians to build and uphold a positive image. Under the constant scrutiny of their constituents, politicians must maintain a consistent image yet simultaneously appeal to many diverse voters
Here, we analyze a few key ways that politicians develop and strengthen a positive image to appear trustworthy and confident to cities, regions, and nations.
Convincing Body Language
If a politician does not appear confident in his or her own ideas, then voters won’t trust in them either. Body language plays a significant role in public communication: a politician delivering a speech with great posture, natural and engaging gestures, a winning smile, and a strong yet relaxed stance will project a powerful image. With this image, he or she will demonstrate to voters a level of comfort leading the public and standing behind his or her ideas.
On the other hand, if a politician delivering a speech is slouching, shying away from the camera, resting on the podium, or maintaining a rigid posture, this will make viewers feel uncomfortable and possibly distrustful of the speaker’s abilities and ideas. Even if the words that he or she speaks are thoughtful and convincing, the delivery will hinder their effectiveness.
The body language has to be congruent with the message. We have difficulty to believe the politician who says he is the humble servant of his constituents when projecting an image like the one below:
During speeches, at press conferences, while meeting constituents, at events: these are only a few examples of public places where politicians’ choices of dress will be analyzed as their photos grace the pages of websites and newspapers. Through clothing, politicians want to look professional and in control – but they also need to keep in mind how the public will relate to their clothing choices. For example, a politician might choose to wear a crisp suit but no tie, allowing him to appear both professional and relaxed. Toronto mayoral candidate John Tory is one politician who often takes this approach, as Diane Craig discusses in the recent image analysis of candidates in the upcoming mayoral election.
As Diane addresses in the article, clothing and image can inform the public’s understanding of what a candidate would accomplish as a politician. Is a candidate’s look dishevelled, confident, safe, or polished? Any of these images have implications on how the public will interpret their potential success.
Keeping Cool in High-Pressure Situations
Maintaining grace under fire is an important characteristic of Executive Presence. For politicians, this concept rings especially true, as they make public appearances under intense pressure on a daily basis. Take, for example, debates in advance of an election. If a politician can’t respond to a question in a manner that is prompt and convincing, then he or she might not be able to keep up a strong image. When politicians only have the public’s attention for a few minutes, every word and movement matters.
Of related importance is how articulate a politician is – not only while presenting a prepared speech, but also when responding to spontaneous questions and speaking casually in public. The ability to provide thoughtful, measured responses at a moment’s notice is essential for a politician’s image.
Politicians are constantly in the public eye. This is why image is so important in politics: how they appear and deliver their vision strongly influences how the public interprets their ideas. For more on this topic, see our blog posts “Fashion, Image and Politics: Can Dress Sway Voters?” and “Body Language in the Second Presidential Debate – Who Won?” Also check out Diane’s input in the recent Metro News article, “Analyzing Toronto’s mayoral candidates: Why image matters.”