The British electorate is not ‘engaged’!


Girl with head on desk

Did anybody else see the photo of the little girl sitting next to David Cameron with her head on the desk and think, “I know how you feel.”

Like the little girl, I suspect most of the electorate are sick of being talked at. You see there is a huge difference between talking at people and talking to them.

Since the start of the election campaign the leaders of all parties have talked at people via a series of soundbites or bribes depending on your level of cynicism.

The first week of the campaign will be remembered for a soundbite, namely “long term economic plan”. Now, I’m all for applying key messages, but there is a difference between focused messaging and repeating the exact same statement over and over again. One offers definition and clarity, the other is just irritating.

This was followed by a series of promises. “Guaranteed one-to-one care from a midwife”; the “Right to buy housing association properties at discounted prices”; “Guaranteed thirty hours of free nursery care for families”. To me these just sounded like bribes flung out to grab a headline, not thought-through policies designed to be questioned or substantiated.

And that is what is wrong with this campaign so far, there is no questioning as the electorate is not engaged, because it is being talked at, not encouraged to take part.

It should go like this:

Politician: “We will guarantee thirty hours of free nursery care for working families.”

Voter: “Really? How will that work exactly? Will it be for all families or will it be means-tested?”

Which, of course, is the crux of the matter, because despite what The Sun ran on its front page yesterday, I personally don’t believe for a moment that all working families are going to get thirty hours of free childcare. The problem is that this election has become so sanitised that we aren’t able to ask the clarifying questions.

Communication is two-way, but our politicians seem to have forgotten this. We spend a lot of time at WPR telling clients not to just issue releases, post Tweets, put content on Facebook or LinkedIn, without trying to engage your audience. Because if you do just chuck out content, there is every chance that nobody will be listening, which is where I suspect most of the British electorate is currently at.

Only another three weeks to go though!

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