Another election is upon us... The 3rd time in the last 2 years the UK's inhabitants will be called upon to vote for one thing or another - general election, the Brexit referendum and another snap general election. *Sigh*
Over the past couple of weeks, the Prime Minister and leaders of the opposition gave their first extended TV interviews giving the slimmest of insights as to what they will and won't do if elected.
I thought it would be interesting to examine the different ways these parties will try to influence and engage voters over the coming weeks so as to garner more and more support. I warn you, this is a bit of long one...
Television interviews and rallies are great examples of Hero content. Hero content is unique in its high impact/short burst characteristics, typically reaching a large number of people within a short space of time. Other examples might be the release of the manifestos or any big reports, speeches, conferences etc. These forms of content tend to be rather costly in terms of time & money but will reach the greatest number of people in the shortest space of time and are great brand-building exercises.
Leading up to the June election, the respective parties and leaders will be aiming to seize the interest and support of their key targets in this limited time period. This is why these Hero brand building exercises will go into overdrive over the next 3 weeks.
However, the problem with Hero content is that it is pretty difficult to sustain the impact over the long-term (even over a few weeks!) without draining a huge amount of time and resources. Hence why these parties will spend the bulk of their income over these coming days and will supplement the Hero content, by turning up their usage of Hub content.
Hub content is different because it is the dynamic part of the campaign which provides insight into the politician, what they stand for and a bit more depth around their policies and what they want to achieve. The Hub content will likely take the form of local volunteers canvassing neighbourhoods with flyers, regular TV, radio and paper adverts and local MPs utilising billboards & lampposts, as well as reaching out to voters via digital channels - email marketing & social media. Whereas much of the Hero content will be spearheaded by the respective leaders and their cabinets/shadow-cabinets, the Hub content will strive to adopt a more localised and relevant tone to show that each MP will be fighting to improve their own constituency, not just to elect a new Westminster government.
What is particularly interesting about this election (& all elections in the last 5-10 years) is the increasing importance of Hub content to get in touch with previously hard to reach, disparate groups of voters through digital channels, namely social media. Digital channels also now allow the parties to better target different demographics with relevant content - for example, focusing on 16-28 year olds for everything student related, the 35-65 age range for all things tax/business related and maybe prioritising NHS chat for the 65+ range.
However, there are two elements to consider:
#1. How effective is it for really getting in touch with people? Do people actually engage with the party after having viewed a post or does it just fade from their consciousness as the next Buzzfeed article scrolls into view? Moreover, how do you measure engagement on this rather expensive medium?
The likelihood is that a timely tweet or post will probably not be the sole swaying factor BUT it can only add fuel to the fire and ensure a politician's personality shines through for all the right reasons, staying forefront of mind. The main examples to look out for will be Facebook Live broadcasts, regular Tweets to provide instantaneous insights whilst on the move, using Snapchat to show snippets of the campaign trail and Instagram to portray the stories of ordinary voters, all in the hope of providing regular, engaging content to influence voters.
All of this is the political party building an aura around their brand, building a community. To show your support and help your community win, you can merely share some relevant and targeted content and help influence your own community/local voters.
What is particularly clever, is that you can now become a part of this community with a simple hashtag or retweet. Whereas in years gone by, the voter showed their support at the ballot box, maybe a little flag or pamphlet in the front window or canvassing a couple of nights per month for the politician, with just one click you can become an active brand advocate and help influence those individuals in your own network who know and trust you! By using a hashtag, for example, voters can actually tap into a virtual community, showing their solidarity and support for their politician & party of choice.
Whilst not neglecting the traditional channels (TV/Radio/organising a rally etc.), we now see an integrated approach - keep an eye out for all of the hashtags on political posters and the regular content we see on all fronts.
#2. 'Fake news' - The validity of the different sources of information (both official and unofficial) which seek to portray each party and their representatives in a particular light is always questionable. As with all political information and communications, handfuls of salt should be kept handy, but in the 21st century, the ability for a bad story to go viral in minutes with devastating effects should not be underestimated! Thus, politicians now need to be more ready than ever to respond to an unforeseen 'attack' on their campaign AND utilise the different channels to spread a positive message. So, whilst digital represents a new way for the politicians to interact with the electorate on a 1-2-1 basis, it also poses a great risk.
The third type of content which will be present during this election is Hygiene content. This content is different again because it tends to be rather static - think a website or a manifesto. Here the reader can find out the who/what/when/where/why of that politician or party, and this provides the foundation for the electoral campaign. The Hygiene content will not change much as the election goes on, as the parties want to be seen as consistent and broadcast the same, unified message throughout the election. The Hero & Hub content will be trying to drive the voter to find out more about the party and hopefully, bring them to their Hygiene content.
It will be interesting to see how each party utilises the different types of content to influence and engage the electorate over the coming weeks and what will/won't be the most successful. The Hero content tends to be high risk / high reward - the National interview can go one of two ways - whereas the Hygiene and Hub content tends to be much more regulated and controlled. Whoever can get the balance right and get in touch with the electorate in the appropriate manner will have the best chance of winning.
p.s find out more about what the Hero Hub Hygiene content framework is about here.