Know thy audience: BREXIT PR lessons, the importance of great communication and the good old days.
Many years ago, and I mean many years ago, as a young man in advertising, I used to write copy for off-the-page sales ads. Some of you might remember them in the Sunday supplements. “You too can be the owner of these exquisite…” or, “Due to overwhelming public demand we are able to offer these exclusive …”. That sort of thing.
The king of copywriting at this time was a guy called Drayton Bird. Drayton had the ability to sell anything off the page, thanks to his ability to make us all feel that we were, in some way, sad and inferior beings for not owning of a porcelain figurine of Churchill, particularly as it was a limited edition!
Each year he would speak at a seminar, where he would impart his secret of success to people who, like me wanted their share of this highly successful market. He would start by giving some statistics which would ‘blow the minds of the largely successful London audience of media urbanites”. “Only 23% of the UK population own a washing machine”, or “34% of the population have no more than £50 disposable income at the end of the month”. The list went on. But I can still remember the shock waves that would reverberate around the audience.
His point of course was, that in order to be a successful copywriter you need to know your audience. This is the only way your copy is going to relieve a consumer of his or her hard earned cash. “Remember”, he would say, “Not everyone is as well off as you”. Prior to going to the seminar, I used to think that I was a poor struggling copywriter just starting out on my career but on leaving I realised just how privileged I was.
No doubt many of the UK MP’s thought they knew their audience prior to the BREXIT vote. The city financiers certainly thought they did. But did they really? Perhaps they didn’t consider those outside of London who felt, rightly or wrongly, that their livelihoods were threatened by uncapped immigration or the unelected power held by Brussels. Did they explain the importance of the contribution that services make to the UK economy? Especially the financial industry, and the impact leaving the EU would have in the UK?
Did they know their audience and if they did, why did they fail to communicate the issues around BREXIT clearly?
In an information vacuum or worst, one that relies on hyperbole, painting an end of world zombie invasion scenario will not work. In that situation, people will remember the good old days. As Gladys Knight said:
Oh, why does it seem the past is always better
We look back and think
The winters were warmer
The grass was greener
The skies were bluer
And smiles were bright
The older generation of voters in the UK didn’t trust the politicians and they didn’t vote for the status quo, they voted for the good old days.
Let us hope this is a wake-up call to all politicians to truly re-engage with those that elected them. Not just in the UK but across the EU and the rest of the world. Politicians need to ensure that they communicate clearly, addressing the issues of concern to those that elected them in a language which they understand.