By: Andrej Žitnik (Nova24tv)
After 100 days of government, we have the people’s trust. Of course, it is because we are capable and hard-working. But I am also convinced that we have it because we have changed the political culture. And because we have shown people that we know how to do things differently. Not just better, but differently. We don’t have to shout people down, we don’t have to create divisions, we don’t have to create crises where there are none. For me, respect is the cornerstone and the key achievement of these 100 days,” is how Prime Minister Robert Golob sang himself praises after three months of his government being in office. Today, he can no longer boast the title of the respectful communicator. We spoke to political commentator and communication expert Edvard Kadič about the respectfulness of his government’s communication, the confusion, and what is replacing the reference to communication. Kadič said that respectful communication should be a matter of course, not a political achievement.
Janez Janša’s reformist government enraged the leftists. Not only because they were caught unaware by it after Šarec’s resignation, but also because the Janša government was extremely successful. The Anti-Corona Legislative Packages, the tax relief that raised everyone’s wages, the successful control of the epidemic, Slovenia at the vanguard of European politics, politicians from the left side of the political spectrum could only watch the successful running of the country. This then led them to focus on the communication of the government team.
First came the media attack, then the response from government circles, which was rigorously checked for any hint of inappropriate communication, followed by a new media attack focusing on just that. However, after a year in power, the Golob government has fallen into its own trap. It was not the media that attacked it, but instead, it attacked itself with its own ignorance, inexperience and clientelism.
We have learned from reliable sources that Golob’s public relations department is in a constant state of crisis, because they do not know what their boss is going to come up with on any given day – they are putting out fires every day. It started before the elections, when he freely admitted that he was going to cut salaries and that he wanted less meat on our plates. After the elections, everything just went further downhill – for example, he did not let Minister of the Economy, Tourism and Sport, Matjaž Han, speak at a press conference. Golob also embarrassed himself internationally by proposing that seawater and sunshine are a cure for Covid-19. He predicted a “happy ending” of 600 euros for the judges, which in the end did not happen. Earlier still, he had promised funds (without any legal basis) to volunteer firefighters – which, of course, were later nowhere to be found. The married Prime Minister started appearing at events with a younger companion, although he was not yet divorced. And in recent days, Golob has upset the domestic and international public by admitting quite freely that he regrets not having directly attacked RTV Slovenia and taken it over with his party.
What is going on in the coalition of the amazing communicator Golob? It seems that even the mainstream media can no longer protect him, as he is shooting himself in the foot with his own speeches, day after day, and journalists – no matter how left-wing they may be – are slowly getting fed up with it, so that even in the “hijacked” media, there is already loud disapproval.
We asked Edvard Kadič, a communication expert, about the communication skills of the Prime Minister and his coalition. You can read his answers below:
- After 100 days in office, last October, Robert Golob cited respectful communication with citizens and within the government team as his greatest achievement. Almost a year later, can he still boast about this achievement? How would you summarise the Prime Minister’s communication from the beginning of his mandate until today?
I find it difficult to agree with Robert Golob that respectful communication with citizens and within the team is exactly an achievement. I would rather say that it is something that should be a given. First of all, it is something that is expected of the Prime Minister and the government in communication with the citizens, as well as within the team. And then there is his approach of acting as if the world did not exist before him. Golob is a good rhetorician, but unfortunately, he is very inconsistent. He says what people want to hear, and then his cabinet is left explaining what he actually meant or, what is more, does not explain it at all, and the interlocutors are left high and dry. Some examples of this type of communication are the promises of compensation for firefighters after the disastrous fire in the Coastal (Primorska) region, or the allowance for judges, which are not being mentioned at all anymore.
- Government communication seems to have three characteristics. Vagueness when communicating government reforms, megalomania when announcing projects (building housing, investing in science, etc.) and extreme harshness towards political opponents. Would you agree with this assessment? Would you add anything to it?
Yes, I mostly agree with the assessment. Today, we hear mainly about the fact that some kind of reforms are supposed to be happening, but in fact, we have gotten nothing other than timetables. The government’s communication is neither substantive nor consistent. It seems that Golob trusts no one, least of all his PR team. He is convinced that he knows best when it comes to communication. It is unbelievable how comfortable he was saying that he would be the one to communicate the health reform and then the tax reform.
- The fact that communication is at a standstill has also been acknowledged by the coalition party, the Social Democrats (Socialni demokrati – SD). Dejan Levanič, for example, has said that public discontent must be addressed through dialogue, conversation and communication (source: the Delo newspaper). What is the SD party actually trying to say to the Prime Minister?
They are saying that they no longer think they can just watch from the sidelines the consequences of the Golob government, in which the SD party is a coalition partner and thus also co-responsible for the state of the country. People are increasingly dissatisfied and, above all, frightened – precisely because of the lack of communication. They do not know what is going to happen tomorrow with the taxation of their property, what is going to happen with inflation and the consequent devaluation of their benefits, and how they are going to get to their doctors. The SD party is a party with a well-developed network, and it is acutely aware of the discontent that is growing louder and louder in society.
- Is this constant reference to communication by the left not a symptom of something else? For example: when they were in opposition, they criticised the previous government’s communication, because its successful governance was extremely difficult to criticise. When they themselves are running a government and are distinctly unsuccessful in doing so, they cite communication as their greatest achievement, because there are no other achievements.
Communication is always a convenient excuse and a good target for both attacks and excuses. When you do not have a problem with the content, the form is the problem. This government must first have the material for communication, i.e., what they are supposed to communicate in the first place, and then they will come to the question of how they are supposed to communicate it to the public. The government has a problem with content at the moment, and form is the next step.
- The Prime Minister has surrounded himself with staff who used to work in the media. The Secretary-General of his party is a former journalist, and the head of the Government Communication Office is the wife of journalist Cirman. Is Golob’s communication poor because of the people he surrounds himself with or in spite of them?
It seems natural to me that as Prime Minister, you surround yourself with people you trust, with your own people. The people he surrounds himself with have a specific problem, but that problem is also being transferred to the Prime Minister. Vuković and Cirman are not journalists but propagandists who work for Golob and have worked for him before. Propagandists work well as long as they swim in the sponsorship circles of their clients. They create stories based on other people’s orders and place them where the client pays for the publications. Running the operational business of a party or the indirect communication of a government are very demanding jobs that do not only have to do with a sympathetic, paid-for environment. At the same time, Golob’s communication is also linked to his distrust of the professionalism of the people around him. A good leader hires people smarter than himself, and a bad one hires people who only carry out his tasks and do not think with their own heads. If you can declare in passing that you will communicate whatever is necessary, which is something Golob does, I can only wish him good luck. It will be difficult.