There is a lesson for business from last week’s General Election: focus on substance and engagement.
It’s been nearly a decade since I wrote a post for PR Week when I advocated that companies ditch corporate speak and started talking plain English like their audience. It’s basic communication. The same relates to politics.
Take the General Election as an example. While the Conservatives rested on repetitive soundbites and its leader failed to engage directly with the public, Jeremy Corbyn was busy out in the field, meeting people, shaking hands and constructing full sentences. We all know the result.
I understand the theory: Repeat something enough and people will get the message. The problem is that the slogans “strong and stable” and “coalition of chaos” were overused and provided easy fodder for satire.
Corbyn isn’t the most motivational of orators, but he managed to connect with people via Aristotle’s basic three tenets of rhetoric:
Ethos: He established his credibility and appealed to the audience as “one of them”. He was on their side, talking about the things that matter to them – the NHS, jobs, education and tax.
Pathos: Corbyn managed to generate an emotional response when he went to meet people. He mingled with the public while Theresa May did not even deign to do TV debates. The right-wing press’s character assassinations of Corbyn only helped him to appear as the underdog. Brits love an underdog.
Logos: While Corbyn and his team were famously unclear on their numbers on occasions, the basis of Labour policies stuck a chord.
The lessons for business are clear: Engage with us, be personable, have an ethical stance. Ditch meaningless fluff, if you still include it in your marketing; just tell us what your company and your product do in plain English.
Media-wise, it was fascinating that The Sun and Daily Mail’s traditional influence over the electorate appears to have evaporated as younger people turn out to vote. They simply don’t read those papers.
The irony now is that the Conservatives find themselves in a coalition that may prove chaotic, with a government that is neither strong nor stable.
Disclaimer: the writer voted neither Labour nor Conservative, so is a neutral observer.