What the 2017 UK election campaign can teach us about how we communicate

Who knows what the actual outcome of this week’s election will be and that’s not the point of this piece, we’re not pollsters or mind readers. The point is that this election campaign perfectly demonstrates the importance of effective PR and communication if you want to build and maintain support.

We’re not lone animals and (most of us) function in communities that rely on personal contact. Communication is the lifeblood of how we live, function and relate to each other.

Political campaigning over the last few weeks reveals the intricacy of how we communicate in 2017. Policy is vital of course, but (and some say, sadly) elections are won and lost on communication strategy these days so getting the message, tone and delivery right is what will determine the outcome for this country.

Looking back over the past few weeks here’s a few take outs and observations:

We are part of tribes – until we decide we are not

What this means is that unless you are a died in the wool Tory, a life-long paid up member of the Labour party, a militant green, a Euro-hating UKIPer or even a dedicated pot smoking liberal, chances are you may be susceptible to changing your mind and your opinion. That’s fine. You’re a human being, it’s only politicians that get criticised for changing their mind or committing the cardinal sin of the U-turn.

The undecided, floating voters will determine this election. This is where the nuances of communication really make a difference. We are in the age of the sound bite and, with attention levels lower than a goldfish, we are likely to be swayed by a series of clear, defined and brief messages – repeated often and in many places.

Messages must change as people tend not to

Knowing who you are talking to is vital to standing out and making an impact. Being flexible and adaptable to ensure that core messages and content remain relevant and clear should be at the heart of any campaign, political or otherwise.

What looked like an absolute and clear Tory landslide at the beginning of the campaign has looked less certain as the campaigning has progressed. The leaders’ debate which didn’t feature the current leader caused much discussion about the message this conveyed to the electorate thus detracting from the actual discussions relating to party manifestoes and plans.

Fundamentally, many of us will vote less on the actual message and more on the people who are standing and whether we feel we can trust and believe them. Campaigning messages are the delivery mechanism for where we put that final cross in the box on Thursday.

Honesty and authenticity rule

In today’s open world where, thanks to social media, we can now directly communicate with and contact pretty much anyone we want (whether they respond or not is a different issue), truth and transparency should underpin all communication. No one likes being sold to and that rings very true in politics, we like to think we are making our own minds up based on a set of clear facts and genuine messages.

Being honest and open with our audience is prized more than ever. Never underestimate the honest approach, by all means package it, give it context, debate it, but do not ever tell an out-right lie. The truth will out.  No one likes a liar after all.

The good, the bad, the ugly

No, I’m not talking about any one candidate in particular, but suffice to say, image and how we come across and relate to people should never be underplayed.

Being a politician is a tough gig no matter which party you identify with – there are few other walks of life where the country gets to vote on you keeping your job, where personal profile make such a fundamental difference to success.

The political X factor is charisma – of the politicians that I have met of all persuasions the one thing that many share is a great and genuine ability to relate to people. This rings true in business and for brands. Some skills can be learnt – presentations, public speaking. Others need to be nurtured – networking, building relationships.


Getting your marketing and communications right is a bit like running an election campaign. Get in touch if we’ve got your vote.