The dust has just started to settle on the UK general election result. And what an election it was. It was supposed to be an easy win for the Conservatives, a strengthening of their mandate ahead of the Brexit negotiations. Instead, it resulted in a hung parliament in which a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party has only just been finalised. Here's a few lessons communication professionals can learn from the result.
Engaging young people is key
The turnout for registered voters between the ages of 18-24 was at 64 per cent, the highest since 1992, according to Ipsos MORI. This ends two decades of historically low turnout amongst young people. Why did they vote in such high numbers? Many argue it was Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour party, that mobilised them. This is borne out in the results – 35 per cent more people in this age category voted Labour than Conservative.
The Conservatives normally don't try that hard to engage young people – after all, what's the point if 18-24 year olds aren't going to vote? Jeremy Corbyn saw their potential, however, and used the platforms that his target audience were using – social media – to engage them. In the six weeks after the election was called, Labour's following across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram increased by 61 per cent. The Conservatives' rose by just 6 per cent, according to data from We Are Social, as reported by the Telegraph.
Labour also managed to get celebrities to endorse them. People like grime star Stormzy, actor Nick Frost and singer M.I.A. came out to show their support for Corbyn. These are all people that 18-24 year olds would listen to.
The main takeaway here is that it's important not to ignore an audience that you still might have the potential of reaching, a lesson the Tory party will wish they had learnt earlier.
Jeremy Corbyn is truth ! if Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn came into power at the same time it will change this world
— M.I.A (@MIAuniverse) July 11, 2016
Corbyn didn't just use social media to inspire young people. He remembered the importance of experiential PR, and still ensured he met as many supporters as possible on rallies across the country. He also pushed his image as a man of principle. Unlike the huge number of U-turns that Theresa May did in the weeks leading up to the election (the snap-election was itself a surprise, as she had been adamantly against holding one since coming to power), Corbyn has stuck to his guns on many issues. While it didn't win him a huge amount of respect in his party, his election results are what matter – in the days where UK politics is attempting to becoming increasingly polished, Corbyn stands out as someone who's genuinely for the people.
May, on the other hand, came across as insincere and hard to trust. Her "strong and stable government" sound bite became stale extremely quickly, and when it was clear it wasn't working, the Tory party continued to say it. It was almost as if you could see May's PR team behind everything she did and said. While communication is an essential function, in these sorts of situations a politician will only come across as sincere if it looks like they mean what they're saying. Corbyn did, May didn't, and it cost her.
Trust in a brand is just as important as trust in a politician. You need to be authentic, and make sure that key players in your company are coming across well. This involves having personality and strong convictions, so that you avoid doing the U-turns that impacted the Tories so much.
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