It’s true that not many of us will ever find ourselves in the position of running a big budget, high-stakes political campaign.
However, there are some lessons to be learned for us communicators from the Brexit fiasco that has played out over the last few extraordinary weeks in this country. Namely in how NOT to do things.
So if you are in the business of communicating, here are my 3 pieces of advice for avoiding a Brexit-style comms disaster…
1. Always tell the truth – you will eventually come unstuck. Some would say that repeating the now infamous ‘lets put £350 million a week back into the NHS’ claim, even though it was widely recognised that it wasn’t true, worked. Indeed repetition is a popular tactic – if you repeat something often enough then it sticks.
But equally if you are going to make bold claims, you have to be able to back them up. The leave campaign didn’t, couldn’t and the leaders paid the price with their reputations.
2. Pictures travel faster than words. There won’t be many people who haven’t seen this picture of Boris – shared, tweeted, and published all over the media within hours of his colleagues admitting the statement he was pictured next to wasn’t actually true.
At least his advisers were savvy enough to cover up the emergency exit sign spotted by Katherine Haddon on twitter over the entrance to his ‘I’m not running for PM’ press conference… scuppering the inevitable ‘Boris heads for the exit’ snap…
… Nigel Farage was not so lucky, but really his advisors should have spotted this one, as it has been rehashed in the media 3 years on!
3. Engage your audience. The success of the leave campaign and the failure of remainers boiled down to the same thing – audience engagement. Remainers failed to recognise the deep dissatisfaction with the status quo in some parts of the country, which the leavers had managed to link to EU membership.
Make sure you find out what your audience is bothered about, work out how to meet their needs and tell them.