PM fires starting gun on nationwide PR campaign (sorry, General Election campaign)

Signpost, political parties

The starting gun has officially been fired on the 2015 General Election campaign, though the battle to win the messaging war has been well underway for some time. Anybody who thought this would remain a relentlessly positive and constructive communications campaign should think again.

This weekend David Cameron launched an intensely personal attack on Ed Miliband and his ‘hopeless, sneering socialists’. The Prime Minister referred to Mr Miliband’s background as the ‘same old condescending, bossy, interfering, we-know-best attitude of the Hampstead socialist down the ages’.

And he is far from alone. Former Labour leader Neil Kinnock compared the Prime Minister’s tactics with Hitler’s infamous ‘big lie’ about the Jews. Mr Cameron’s consistent attacks on Labour’s economic record had ‘etched its way into the consciousness of the British people in tribute to the attributes of the great lie almost on a scale practised in Germany before the War’, said Lord Kinnock.

Only time will tell whether such tactics cut much ice with the voters or whether the parties change tack in mid-campaign. One thing is for sure. No British election will have ever been so keenly fought and no British election will have integrated so many marketing communications disciplines as this one. The billboard advertisements may still get the newspaper headlines, but as the campaign develops refining key messages on the issues most likely to play well with the electorate will become increasingly important. If ever you want to see pure marketing communications in action, just watch what happens over the next six weeks and then consider how you can apply the same principles to your organisation.

1. The parties have been defining for some time the messages that are most important in getting across their proposition, as you must do for your products and services.

2. They will be understand what the criticisms of their messages are likely to be from their competitors and will be setting out how they will respond to them.

3. The parties will expend as much energy in defining the weaknesses in their opponents’ positions and how to exploit them, as they will in projecting their own positives. You could do the same exercise on your competition.

4. They will also have considered the disciplines that will best help them integrate your PR and marketing communications activity. Observe how they will exploit social and digital marketing to get their messages across; look at how they use mobile and online to reach potential voters, especially those who don’t consume information through conventional media. Watch how quickly they respond as issues build and recognise how they see a crisis for one competitor as an opportunity for themselves.

5. Political advertising on television and radio is banned in the UK but the parties recognise that video is the richest form of content online. User generated videos on social media, perhaps boosted by an advertising spend, could help attract significant audience.

6. Conventional media remains important. It provides the platform for detailed messages to be conveyed and discussed, with social platforms and digital marketing (as well as online and offline advertising) used to amplify and reinforce those key messages.

7. And don’t forget targeting. Online, mobile and social platforms will enable the parties to target particular geographical or demographic groups in new and engaging ways.

Now imagine how you might apply the same template to your business or campaign.

This election will be won in the 194 marginal seats in Britain. That means the parties, whilst speaking on a national level for brand awareness will target much of their activity on the seats, which will determine the outcome of the election. Consider the same approach for your products and services – go broad with your PR to achieve brand awareness but target the demographic or geographic groups – your own marginal constituencies – that can make the difference to your business campaign.