So the #GE17 campaign continues and I’ve a note in my diary to vote on 8 June. I’ve got a dose of electionitis – it’s all a bit dull to be honest. However, I have noticed some Parties and people having a some communications issues.
There has been more than one amateurish error made.
Political PR is one of those seemingly dark areas. It’s easy to label Party comms people as spin doctors, with the implication that it’s all misinformation and untruths.
I can’t speak for others, but, speaking as a professional, this description of PR couldn’t be farther from the truth.
There are a few basics that any organisation should have in place – here are some of my top tips.
Know your audience
Identify who you want to speak to. This will help you focus your message. Of course it explains why I turn the radio off when particular political reps start talking. What they are saying doesn’t appeal to my values, but then, I’m not their target voter.
Understand the media
In the words of George Orwell “journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed. Everything else is just public relations. ”
Don’t blame the media for reporting your gaffes or cover ups or something you don’t want reported. It’s not fake news if it’s actually true.
Have an approval process in place
A sign-off process for press statements is fundamental. A professional comms person would never issue a spokesperson quote on behalf of a Party without approval from, say, the Party leader. The same applies to social media posts on your behalf.
If someone does issue something without approval, it’s time to let them go.
Do your homework
Before every media interview practice, practice, practice. Your professional comms person should have done their homework and come up with a list of potential questions.
Of course there are the obvious questions such as ‘how much is it all going to cost’. No one should claim that is unexplainable when you go on the biggest show in the country. A good PR will know you should know ‘how much is a pint of milk?’. Likewise, they will likely discuss with you potential word association games and how not to fall foul of ‘one final question.’
Most importantly, a professional communications / media officer / PR / whatever officer in any organisation, political or otherwise, should urge you to be open and transparent.
There is no excuse for spin, lies and mistruths.
Sara McCracken works in communications for an educational body. She previously worked for the Green Party for #AE16 and in the health sector.