Slogans are not enough

Ian Katz, editor of gladiatorial Newsnight, wrote recently about an impasse in journalism suggesting a deal to allow politicians to get their point across in traditional media and to be less defensive.
As the general election approaches I think that politicians should focus on their direct channel to the public – social media.


Presenter Rick Edwards and former spin doctor Alastair Campbell explained, at Bruce Daisley’s new HQ,  how Twitter can enthuse people about politics.


They agreed that no British party leader is doing Twitter particularly well, and everyone is amateur compared to the Obama effort.  Campbell reminded us of the effective use the 2008 election campaign made of social media in the US (explained in To Be President).  Will the 2015 election be the UK politics year of social media ?


Edwards said that the PM’s tweets are just “tell” at the moment and need added interaction with followers.  Twitter is for conversations, and expressions of humanity, it is not a loud hailer (the same, obviously, is true for a brand’s use of social as it is for a PM.)


Campbell said that the key is authenticity (as for all modern marketing – see Tell the Truth), and explained that in his day in Downing Street it was still possible to have a command and control attitude to the news agenda.  Not anymore.  Politicians need to catch up with the fact that social can be a better gauge of the public’s views than a newspaper columnist.


In 1960 Kennedy and Nixon squared off in the first ever TV debate between candidates for president.  It is widely believed that this changed the course of politics.  Kennedy’s greater visual appeal won voters over and it was much harder after 1960 to win if you were not at least remotely photogenic.


Could the 2015 election change politics again?  This time instead of how good you look on TV it is how well you come across in social media ?


I asked Edwards and Campbell, and they weren’t entirely convinced that this is the breakthrough year but social media is changing things fast.  In the town of Jun in Spain the mayor made all public services accountable via Twitter.  Social media was crucial in India’s 2014 election.  Politician Rajeev Chandrasekhar commented: “On social networks, politicians cannot hide from scrutiny and interactivity.”


Exactly.  140 characters.  Tells you a good deal about someone’s character.




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