Monday, 10 May 2010

Election 2010 - Where is the real power?

Guest post by Howard Kosky, markettiers4dc

So, after a weekend of yet more conjecture having woken up on Friday to the news that no single party had won the election and that the exit poles appeared to have got it right, communication experts have begun to dissect the campaigns to look at where it went right or, more worryingly for some, where it went wrong and what lessons there are to be learned.

But what can we in the communications industry learn or, more to the point, be reminded of from this campaign?

As with many brands and organisations, the UK's political parties have tried to engage with an audience, build a community and deliver a call to action to ‘buy’ their brand i.e. to vote for them. One could argue that, collectively, they have done a very good job. Turnout was up and there were queues outside the ‘shops’ / polling stations of people keen to 'buy' one of them.

We’ve seen traditional marketing tactics deployed including above-the-line advertising. There has been print media editorial with some newspapers switching allegiances, point-of-sale with local sampling teams and broadcast, but what happened to Social Media?

It was only a few months ago that we were being told that this was the election where Social Media would take its place in influencing the political shape of the country in the same way perhaps Barack Obama’s campaign did in the US. However for me, with a vested and subjective interest, I will have to stand in the corner and raise my hand for the power of broadcast and how this media has, once again, shown its strength to influence.

For the first time we have had the Leader Debates, if we can describe them as such. I would argue they were more influential in mobilising an audience than the traditional TV ad of the party political broadcast. We can also analyse the debates themselves and the personal performances of the ‘brand spokespersons’ and draw conclusions and analogies to what we deal with day to day. There is no doubt they were effective in engaging an audience with a call to action to register and vote, but how much influence did each spokesperson have on us the electorate to 'buy' their brand? Nick Clegg most certainly used the opportunity to raise awareness for the Lib Dems and looks set to have a big say in the final outcome if the activity of the last few days is anything to go by.

As we all know, when you are dealing with a powerful media, its great when it goes in your favour but tread careful and be respectful to it, otherwise it can also work against you. One only has to observe Gordon Brown’s ‘gaffgate’ episode to see this in practice.

Rule one as anyone will tell you in broadcast is to assume the mic is live at all times until you are certain its been switched off. I watched with intrigue not only that moment unfold 'live' on television, but also as the TV cameras followed Brown into the radio studio to be interviewed by Jeremy Vine. This is a media which can mobilise itself very quickly and whilst being made aware of the recording and realising the severity of his comments, Brown importantly also realised the influence of broadcast media.

So whilst no one party can claim an outright victory, I hereby declare Broadcast the winner and a timely reminder of its power to influence.

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