06 May Election 2015 – A PR Story
As May 7th draws closer, the election is forefront in most minds. With Russell Brand encouraging people not to vote at all, and more parties than ever vying for the vote, Election 2015 is shaping up to be one of the most unpredictable races yet. And for a PR professional, this year’s election is even more exciting. Why? Because most of the parties (if they know what’s good for them) are targeting the disenfranchised youth vote. That means entering the unpredictable waters of modern public relations, from Twitter to Buzzfeed and everything in between.
When it comes to UK politics, it’s impossible not to mention the British press; but as per usual, the main broadsheets and tabloids have picked their alliances and published stories that reflect them. So far, so traditional; in the PR story of the election, newspapers have been the least interesting chapter.
But the infamous pre-election debate was switched up this year into a four part series, spanning a month, involving one-on-one grillings with Jeremy Paxman for Ed Miliband and David Cameron, a seven party debate, a debate just for the “challenger” parties and finally a Question Time appearance with questions from the public fired at the leaders of the main three parties (Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem).
The pre-election debate may not have differed in content from what we’re used to seeing – a lot of deflection, derailing and squabbling – but the shift in format certainly indicated that this election will not go down quite as we expect.
With more and more people of all ages getting their daily news update from blogs and digital media, political lobbying has changed, too. It’s something that’s been discussed a lot: “Young people are not engaged with politics. Young people feel under represented.” Millenial-aimed comedy channel, E4, is even going to suspend the schedule from 7am to 7pm on May 7th to encourage people to get out there and down to the polling station in a bold, fully on-brand move. Have political parties wised up, and tapped into an engaged, passionate and angry electorate?
Well, some have tried. The Green Party, who appeal to 20 something’s who were burned by the Lib Dems last time around, released a boy band video as a political broadcast to encourage voters to “change the tune”. It may not have been entirely successful, but it certainly made people sit up and listen, and it’s had 810,318 views on YouTube at the time of writing.
Speaking of the Lib Dems, Nick Clegg has been working hard to remind young people that the yellows were the party of choice in 2010. He even appeared on Channel 4 comedy show The Last Leg. How did it go? Well, we’ll let you decide: watch it here.
Enter Buzzfeed – everyone’s favourite place to take a quiz about Which Harry Potter Character You Should Marry and now, a hotspot for political articles, both funny and serious. The surprise winner? Ed Milliband, or Millibae as the teens are calling him on Twitter and Tumblr. The internet has given birth to a community of very creative people, and newcomer Ed has inspired hundreds of blogs – though some are perhaps not so flattering.
There’s also an entire blog dedicated to puns featuring David Cameron’s name.
And UKIP have captured the imagination of a large section of the populace – the party is particularly popular on Facebook.
Social media has also completely transformed the way we interact with political parties. Twitter introduced official hashtags to streamline political chatter: tweets containing #Conservative; #Labour; #LibDems; #UKIP; #Greens; #snp; #Plaid15; #DUP; #SDLP or #RespectParty all feature party badges now. Politicians are snapping and filtering away on Instagram. The fourth annual Ed Balls day (commemorating that infamous first tweet) was celebrated on) 28th of April.
And a huge amount of people are taking the opportunity to connect with politics via Twitter. Let’s take a peek at how the five main parties, and their leaders, are doing for Twitter followers:
The Labour Party (@UKLabour): 208k
Ed Miliband (@Ed_Miliband): 460k
The Liberal Democrats (@LibDems): 93.8k
Nick Clegg (@nick_clegg): 238k
The Conservatives (@Conservatives): 154k
David Cameron (@David_Cameron): 990k
UK Independence Party (@UKIP): 101k
Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage): 222k
The Green Party (@TheGreenParty): 133k
Natalie Bennett (@natalieben): 78.1k
(We’ve spotted a slight trend in the Twitter names of the leaders – there’s a lot of love for the underscore!)
Of course, riffling through newspaper spreads, op-eds, Tweets and online quizzes has resulted in even more information to rifle through – but it’s opened up a whole new world of political PR, and has even, arguably, inspired a large amount of the electorate to get engaged, and get educated.
What do you think? Will you be voting on Thursday?