Eight communication tips our politicians need

Whether it’s the trauma of Brexit or a failure of consultation between a local authority and its stakeholders, political parties, councillors and MPs often seem to struggle when it comes to effective communication.

Don’t get me wrong. Most politicians I encounter impress with their ability to speak well at almost any occasion and engage with individuals or groups but, if you scan through the media on any given day, it appears that most of us are far from impressed by either their commentary or plans.

Gauging the mood of the citizens they’re supposed to serve or employing empathy is a step too far for many of the political class who all too often fall into a cycle of disconnectedness with their electorate.

One of the big issues for voters is that they often know little about who candidates are and what they stand for. With the case of Brexit many of us cite a lack of clear information and detail.

There are also real challenges for politicians when it comes to capturing people’s social media-length attention spans. Getting a message across can feel next to impossible and apathy has become the norm.

More Fire PR is always willing to offer a helping hand so here’s our eight-point guide for successful political communication:

1. Plan ahead

Like any blossoming relationship it takes time and effort to build an engaged network of supporters. Plan ahead, communicate your position frequently, and keep to the point. Don’t start campaigning two weeks before an election and then act surprised when voters aren’t ‘on message.’

2. Who are you talking to?

Think audience first. There’s no such thing as the ‘general public.’ You might want to speak to people who are elderly, middle-aged, single, married, parents, disabled, or facing a localised problem… the list goes on. Make sure the issues you’re focussed on matter to them. What do they need?

3. Liar, liar

A fundamental rule of effective PR is to get your facts straight and tell the truth. Yes, politicians often have a bad reputation on this front, so strive to change that impression. Being well informed and accurate will make a marked difference to voters.

4. What are you saying?

Your message is all important and you have to address two key issues that matter to your audiences – ‘So what?’ and ‘What’s in it for me?’ If you can’t capture their attention in the first few moments by highlighting why your point matters, you’ve lost them.

5. Don’t overcomplicate

Be clear, concise, to the point. Former BBC director General Greg Dyke famously cut through bureaucratic meetings by holding up a sign reading ‘Cut the crap!’ to give all present a sharp reminder if they drifted off topic.

6. Are you not entertained?

If you agree with your fellow candidates on all of the central issues why should anyone vote for you? Find your points of difference, stand out from the crowd, connect and stick to your guns.

7. Listen

If voters don’t have a chance to get their point across they sink into apathy. Here’s the thing with ‘consultations’ - people need to feel they’re being listened to, valued and have a real chance of implementing change.
Otherwise it’s just a presentation. Create regular opportunities for others to have their say and act on outcomes appropriately.

8. Mix and match your media

Politicians constantly argue that they want younger people to participate in the political process, and then refuse to use Twitter, Facebook or Youtube. Understand how your audiences receive their information and match your message to appropriate media, whether it’s through local press, posters, leaflets, radio, the web, volunteers, or events.