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Black Letter Communications Blog

Expert pr advice for the legal sector

Football’s (maybe) coming home, but is politics?

Summer has finally arrived and temperatures outside are soaring. Wimbledon beckons, football’s coming home is playing cyclically on the radio as England somewhat limp through the early stages of the Euros, and Taylor Swift is crippling public transport systems and hotels alike. That should surely be plenty of fodder to keep the great British hobby of grumbling going. But, throw in a potential ‘landslide’ election and you really have got a summer to remember.

While the country’s great and good duke it out on weekly televised debates, for those of us in all types of public relations, including legal PR, the election offers a unique lens through which to examine the evolution of communication strategies. As the campaigning unfolds, various aspects of political messaging, media engagement, and voter interaction reveal the intricate dance between politicians and the public.

At the heart of any successful election campaign is a compelling message. PR professionals understand that a candidate’s ability to articulate a clear, resonant message is crucial. This message needs to be concise, memorable, and relevant to the electorate’s concerns. In recent elections, there has been a noticeable shift towards simplicity and emotional appeal. Snappy slogans such as “Get Brexit Done” by the Conservative Party in the 2019 election are memorable, whether you agree with the stance or not. Nothing particularly snappy has emerged this time round, the themes seem to be ‘Stick to the plan’ (Conservatives), ‘Vote for Change’ (Labour) and ‘Don’t like Tories? Not keen on Labour? Hello!’ (Lib Dems).

However, it doesn’t really matter how compelling your message is if it doesn’t reach the right audience. The rise of digital platforms has revolutionised political campaigning. Social media, in particular, has become a battleground for voter attention. PR professionals recognise the importance of leveraging platforms like X, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok to reach diverse demographics. These platforms allow for targeted messaging, real-time engagement, and the amplification of messages at a relatively low cost, very appealing as the average spend by parties during an election is close to £20m.

Traditional media still remains a powerful tool in shaping public opinion. PR professionals work tirelessly to manage relationships with journalists and media outlets, trying to ensure positive coverage for their candidates. Press releases, interviews, and media events are orchestrated to maximise positive exposure and control the narrative.

This is all against a backdrop of an increasingly fragmented media landscape , with 24-hour news cycles and the proliferation of online news sources. This fragmentation presents both opportunities and challenges. On one hand, there are more avenues to disseminate messages. On the other, it becomes harder to maintain consistency across all platforms. Effective media management now requires a multi-channel approach, ensuring that messages are coherent and synchronised across various outlets.

Any election worth its salt will also deliver some crisis at some point, from scandalous revelations to off-the-cuff remarks, or MPs betting on the election date and wagering the odds on losing their seats. As PR professionals, we are adept at crisis management, preparing in advance for potential issues and responding swiftly when crises arise. The speed at which information spreads necessitates rapid response strategies to mitigate damage and steer the narrative back on track.

Ultimately, the success of a general election campaign hinges on the power of persuasion. Do the electorate believe what you’re telling them, do they believe in you? How effective have your comms teams been? Storytelling has emerged as a powerful tool in this regard, with candidates sharing personal anecdotes and testimonies to build relatability and trust – if we put Rishi Sunak’s lack of Sky TV to one side.

For PR professionals, the general election is a great spectator sport providing lessons in message crafting, media management, crisis response, and voter engagement. As political landscapes continue to evolve, the lessons learned from these campaigns will inform future practices, ensuring that communication remains at the forefront of successful electoral strategies.

For now, three lions remain on shirts up and down the land, but soon the three main political parties will be whittled down to one. Perhaps the biggest job the PR’s working on this year’s election face is getting the great British public to battle through heatwaves and swathes of Swifties to turn up at the polling stations.

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