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Important business lessons from the recent Wayne Swan-Bruce Springsteen media coverage

We can all learn a lot from Treasurer Wayne Swan “declaring” how Bruce Springsteen inspires him.

As a business consultant, I often encourage business leaders and presenters to reveal what they are fans of (eFANgelism) to encourage:

  1. a more passionate and engaging delivery
  2. a more memorable message
  3. a greater connection with their audience.

The latest Swan-Springsteen coverage has made me  modify and “pull back” in my approach – especially in the case of politicians and other “unpopular” people.

Swan’s eFangelism was a bold and calculated that we can all learn from – the benefits and the perils.

To borrow from a sporting analogy – You don’t have to like the player to respect the play

We can learn important business lessons about

1.Coverage (media coverage)


3.Connection with your audience


For international readers not familiar with the issue or Australians who have not consumed any media in the last week:

  1. Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan quoted Springsteen lyrics (from the song Badlands) in his speech
  2. Swan also posted a video on youtube where he talked in greater depth about how Springsteen has inspired him. The video revealed (amongst other things): Swan’s Springsteen LPs, posters, concert tickets and Swan and family singing and playing guitar in their lounge room to “Dancing in the Dark”
  3. This generated a lot of media coverage (and criticism)

In this post Ill cover the first 2 Cs – Coverage and Criticism

 1.    Coverage  (Cover Me!)

When I was a political speechwriter and media adviser, I would encourage politicians to “weave in” pop culture references to bands and song lyrics – and it worked in getting media coverage.

Political issues that may have been ignored – got attention and greater prominence because the media enjoyed having a more fun and interesting angle ‘’to play with” in the story.

For example a politician I was working for was attacking travel expenses of government ministers. In an interview he threw in a line about them being “The Traveling Dill-burys” (The band the Traveling Wilburys were very BIG back then – late 1980s)

  • As a result, an “issue” that may have been ignored got lots of coverage.
  • Even FM news that didn’t cover lots of politics gave this story a run.
  • Television news  even ran montages of government ministers to the  Traveling Wilburys song “End of the Line”.

Certainly if Wayne Swan wanted “coverage” he got plenty of that.  Much of the media attention is on the Olympics at the moment – so his “using” the Springsteen angle   certainly earned him “cut through”.

I only read this next article AFTER I’d written  this post. I strongly recommend you read it too – not just because it supports my argument. but because out goes into more detail of the benefits the Swan tactic – if you want Coverage.

It expands on how the Swan “tactic” scored lots of coverage – at a very difficult time to get any attention.


However, politicians using music lyrics and pop culture references is so common these days that it  now has reduced impact.

If Swan had just quoted Springsteen, I don’t think it would have got such coverage. The youtube video gave the media much more material – angles/photos/video to play with in the stories.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury – Exhibit A – the media loves the wordplay and in this case image creativity. Contrast is a big hook for the media. This image accompanies the article (above) and is from


Swan-steen – don’t worry this is digitally altered image from

2.    Criticism

Be warned though, with coverage will come criticism and Swan got plenty of criticism too.

If you try Swan’s “tactic” to get coverage will need to have a thick skin (you’ll need to be tougher than the rest).

I’m sure he knew  exactly what he was doing when he released the video and quoted Springsteen. I reckon he would have kept repeating to himself some Springsteen lyrics –  No Retreat, No Surrender –  when all the criticism rolled in from politicians and commentators.

But the big question is:

Will this move help Swan connect with voters?

I’ve been gathering real-life feedback and that’ll be the topic of my next post.


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