Eight lessons for communicators from political campaigns




Neil Bayley

On Thursday 10 November, Good Relations hosted a timely discussion about what communicators can learn from political campaigns.

With Lisa Townsend, Head of Public Affairs at Octopus Group, Sam Peacock, Director of External Affairs at SSE plc and Good Relations’ CEO Richard Moss in the hot seats, here are the eight key learning highlighted by the discussion:

1. Simplicity – Conveying complex messages simply and in a memorable way is difficult but essential. Take back control­, the key message of the Brexit campaign conveyed so much more than those three words.

2. Authenticity – False promises out a mile and discredit any politician or business alike. Keep it real with messages and communication based on your essential truths.

3. Consistency – Trust can only be achieved in response to authentic and consistent communications. The political cliché that when you are sick of saying the same thing, people finally start hearing the message, is the same for business.

4. Tone is everything – Clinton’s valedictory speech was pitch-perfect. Perhaps if she had spoken like that throughout her campaign things may have worked out differently?  Business communicators also need to be mindful their message is pitched right to ensure cut through.

5. Move quickly – Political campaigns can’t spend hours finessing a line to take. Neither can businesses.  A strong and robust plan, values and positive agenda can help navigate most fast moving communications landscapes.

6. Be positive – Political campaigns often go negative but the Scottish independence campaign shows that the Yes Campaign’s positive message helped them galvanise support (even though they ultimately lost). For business, consumers are much more likely act on positive messaging.

7. Make the weather – Businesses have to be interesting and shift the debate rather than just following it. Trump took this to an extreme, but business needs to credibly grab consumers’ attention and maintain it.

8. Intervene when appropriate – politicians often have to react to a 24 news agenda. Theresa May has set a different tone compared to her predecessors in being more circumspect about when she intervenes and makes announcements. Business should take a similar approach, contributing to discussions when appropriate to maximise impact.

For more information on Good Relations and corporate and public affairs, please contact Neil Bayley: nbayley@goodrelations.co.uk 

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