What public relations lessons can we learn from those in the business of persuading millions of people to vote for them?
For such lessons, look no further than the selling of the “Northern Powerhouse” economic plan to Greater Manchester businesses by Prime Minister, David Cameron, and Chancellor, George Osborne.
Presenting the “Long Term Economic Plan” for the North West at the former Granada Studios in Manchester today (8th January 2015), the two – arguably – most influential members of the coalition government and their own political party gave a masterclass in public relations. This blog, apolitical as it is, isn’t concerned with the politics of whether Messrs Cameron and Osborne are ideologically right or wrong; what’s interesting to us (and, I hope, to you) is the way carefully-crafted language and a consistent refrain has the potential to capture hearts and change minds.
For the team that made something of a hash of presenting the original and somewhat nebulous “Big Society” theme ahead of the last election, in the case of the Northern Powerhouse the themes and messages appear much more grounded, tangible and digestible. And well-rehearsed for maximum impact.
So what sound public relations techniques were deployed?
simplicity and reptition
- Cameron offered “two words” – “long term”. (i.e. we’re the only ones capable of thinking beyond the next election).
- “Long term” was repeated no less than five times in as many sentences.
- The recognisable term “Northern Powerhouse” – though not new – was introduced early and peppered throughout the presentation.
- The Prime Minister made “six pledges” for economic growth; even if you don’t remember the detail, you remember that a bunch of firm promises were made on the economy.
- “Here in the North West…” (i.e., it’ll happen here for you).
know and play to your audience
- The room was full of business people, primarily members of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce: interested in economic growth, stability and investment in making doing business easier. Hence, there was plenty of substance for them.
- But business people are also employers of people living in communities and have families themselves: so the Cameron/Osborne double act ensured it wasn’t just about business, but also about initiatives to raise the quality of life in the region. (i.e. it’s business, but it’s personal too).
use emotive terms of vision and action
- Such as “the future”, “the next generation”, “rolling up our sleeves” and “reinvigoration”.
appeal to local pride (with superlatives)
- Devolution, giving Greater Manchester the first metropolitan Mayor outside London.
- The largest-ever investment in regional transport and infrastructure.
Putting numbers to your story (preferably big ones)
- Creating 100,000 regional jobs within the next Parliament.
- A £4.5bn investment in transport.
- Increasing average incomes by £2,000 by 2030.
- Cameron: “I met the two-millionth apprentice…” (i.e. we met our target and there’s loads of them as a result…)
we mean what we say and will do what we say
- “I commit…”
- “To honour that deal…”
- “To deliver…”
- “In partnership with you.”
- “Let’s not put the plan at risk…”(i.e., it’s going to be great, as long as you don’t vote Labour).
Like them or loathe them; trust them or not, the ilk of Cameron and Osborne are accomplished in delivering planned and sustained communication to begin the protracted process of bringing a sceptical public to the ballot box. You could contend that talking “Northern Powerhouse” economy to a room of “suits” is preaching to the converted; but the people in the room have to believe, trust and remember what they’ve been told and by whom.
Get the public relations and the presentation right, and any company or organisation needing to persuade someone of something is in a very strong position.
And, as suggested by the response from a senior Manchester business representative – the chief executive of Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, Clive Memmott – the Prime Minister and Chancellor have been broadly persuasive.
Now, what was it you were asking about does “public relations work?”