What Politicians Could Learn from Brand Communication

Peter Purcell works in Marketing and writes a platform for us on how politicians can use online media better for the General Election.

As we build up to another election I look through the various social platforms hoping to find a politician that gets it, someone that understands what they are doing, someone with a clear plan. I am disappointed with what I find. Yes there are those doing a decent job, but 49% of adults in NI use a social networking site (and that was back in 2013), surely if you are running for election you would consider that this is one area of communication that I need to excel in and after that light bulb moment you would ask who does it well, who can I learn from? Well let’s consider a few points that may help politicians succeed on social.

1. Being Present Isn’t Enough

Step one, get Twitter, Facebook, maybe YouTube, step two, start posting stuff I’m doing.

Do you understand how incredibly boring that is? Yes, as a voter I want to see what work you are doing in my local community, I want to understand what you are passionate about and what policies you stand for, but I also want to know you are a human, I want to know you can laugh (mostly at yourself) and I want to know we share commonalities. So start planning what you are going to post, think about the way you can tell us about your passions; take policies and project them through stories. Politics isn’t boring so how can so many people make it that dull? Lego sell plastic bricks…plastic bricks! They do this by making people feel something, that’s what people want, that’s what the best brands do, they play on our emotions.

2. Make time for it

I have seen behind the scenes, I know you work hard, despite what some say. However, this is not an excuse for not using social platforms properly. You need to invest time and as we have established, it is far from wasted time, this is a direct line to the people that vote for you, this is an open platform for debate, this is an opportunity to direct your own messages, why wouldn’t you spend time on that?

Get into a routine of planning posts based on your schedule and then post whenever else you can, it has to be everyday. Blog three times a week at least and use a tone of voice that makes me think you aren’t just writing a press release for the Belfast Telegraph.

Please, someone start using video! You don’t have to be a filmmaker and if you don’t know where to start, find someone that does; a family member, a friend, a friend of a friend, someone will know how to point an iPhone and then put it together in a 2 minute video. Want inspiration? There are hundreds of self-made vloggers and film makers on YouTube, adapt what they are doing and show me a bit of personality.

3. It is not a one way conversation, accept a lack of control

You can’t completely control your message anymore, no one can, top brands understand this, but most politicians seem to post something and then stick their head in the sand. Embrace the two-way conversation! Engage with people and not just those that like you. Respond to legitimate criticism, you never know, you might actually gain some respect.

4. Be Smart

Social media should be used as a research tool. Monitor what people are saying about you, monitor the issues that are important to people in your area and get involved in those conversations.

Follow influencers in the local area and see what they are talking about, once again start to get involved in those conversations.

Learn what is working, have a rough idea of what posts gained the most interaction and ask yourself why that is; what was the topic? What time did you post at? Was there a photo, a video, a quote? (as a general rule of thumb posts with photos, stats and quotes will do better). Be sure to try new things, invite those around you to have an opinion on what you post and once again don’t just tell your own story, give others a chance to get to your followers through guest posts.

Some may say this isn’t important; this isn’t actual work on the ground. Ok I take your point, but handing me a flyer at the door isn’t helping me, seeing your face on endless posters doesn’t convince me to vote for you. Get my attention in a space where I spend my time. Online is where I seek information, so be present and excel in that space. No more excuses!

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  • Zig70

    You see some nods to data on slugger but this is the real political data that is just being missed by local parties. Are they not sophisticated enough to grasp it? I listened to one disillusioned SDLP hopeful talking about the amount of effort and time required to run a campaign. There is a huge amount of data out there and I just can’t imagine it is beneficial to knock random doors than a targeted social media campaign. A flyer is going to go straight from my letterbox to the bin. Do parties not have access to information that would identify me as a potential voter? Like an electoral register, start with all the Mc’s the the O’s. Never a better place for it.

  • Zeno

    It’s not that complicated…….


    Just do 58,000 tweets and 5000 odd selfies.
    At least it lets us know how desperate you are for some power.

  • Granni Trixie

    I think that the assertions in the post make good sense – that social media is an opportunity for displaying that a candidate has ‘personality’. It is a skill they have to learn if they wish to maximise support given that being known to the voter is a key factor in why people vote for someone. Sadly, this all sounds as if impressions of a candidate are more important than Intellectually weighing up facts regarding performance in delivery etc.

    Social media however is only one of a range of ways for building an individual’s or party’s public profile – personal interaction in canvassing, posters, leaflets and other literature all contribut ie not just one thing. If I had to pick one means of reaching out to voters however it is accessing opportunities in TV or radio as these can form lasting Impressions for good or bad.

  • Granni Trixie

    Stop the Press! Just listening to Mike Nesbitt on Talkback confirms what I have just posted – few listening will forget his responses and statements, most notable being that he (leader of UUP) will be voting DUP (on this one why not be a traditional political voice and just waffle?)

    He’s the gift that keeps on giving.