MEDIA OPPORTUNITIES CREATED BY A GENERAL ELECTION

Posted on May 28, 2024 by Categories: Uncategorized

Often when it comes to PR there’s a mantra that  you should avoid religion and politics – and for the most part I do agree with that. 

However that’s not always possible – what if you are a local councillor representing your community? You have to own it then, it cannot be hidden. When it cannot be hidden, embrace it. 

It’s the same with religion. If a certain faith is very important to you in your life then you have to embrace it.

Both of these topics create high emotion and polarised views so there’s no doubt you could put some people off – however the reality is that those people are unlikely to be your client in any case. Also a key PR strategy for this is to never preach at people, it’s best to lead by example and let people decide how they feel. Just ensure what you say is legal, tasteful and decent and your opinion is genuinely held. 

I say legal, tasteful and decent for a very good reason. We can have strong views on issues that could actually be seen as illegal and not decent. It’s more common than people think and I’ve had numerous conversations with clients and contacts about this over the years. 

Two very obvious areas for this right now are around immigration and how we frame our response to that – and also around trans rights for trans people – and how we frame that. In these two cases, opinions can be based on very little fact at all, no education on the subject, simply a feeling or emotion or even a declaration of fact which has no basis in reality.  

I have my own very strong views on these things which I’ve shared openly before however your own personal views may not be what I would class as legal or decent. Some issues are open to interpretation by us all. 

These types of things will, I predict, cause much heated debate over the coming weeks and if you are in doubt then don’t talk about these things.  You need to think ‘am I reading the room?’ or ‘am I going to be on the wrong side of history ultimately by talking about this subject?’. 

One example I can give was that some years ago, one of my clients had very strong views around someone standing for election in a big election which took place in the past. I’m not sharing any detail for obvious reasons. This client’s views, shared with me, were strongly held however I candidly said they were racist and I couldn’t be party to that and also I didn’t think it would be any good for their reputation. That client took my advice and didn’t engage in that particular subject. 

A General Election is not something any of us can avoid. The media frenzy over the coming weeks will be exhausting and it will be relentless – and many voices will be needed to feed that frenzy. 

For some of you it will be a no-go area – and that’s fine. 

For some of you it will be something you may want to talk about and here are some tips around this: 

*Decide what topics do you want to talk about and stick to them. For me I’m happy to talk about my political views if asked but I’m more interested in talking about the impact of a change of Government on the small business sector. Also I have very strong views around a mantra the Conservatives keep spouting – all of the business support they gave during lockdown. My view is that there was support, for some – millions were left out of support. I was an ambassador during that time for Forgotten Ltd. There was no support for owner-managed businesses who were paid via dividends. We now believe just under 40 people in that excluded group took their own lives. That’s not okay, in my view. Therefore I’ll talk about that until the cows come home and I really don’t care if others don’t like it because I lived that experience and it was not okay. What would you want to talk about or comment upon? 

*Don’t force your views on others. In my world, it’s not unusual that I’ll work with people who have different views than me. That’s okay. As long as their views are legal, tasteful and decent and authentically held then it works. I have, at the time of Brexit, been on a panel on the radio which involved two clients of mine and me – and we had different views, and we’re still working together! So the key is to be an adult about it.

*You don’t have to be personal or even particularly political. Commenting does not always mean you have to state who you would vote for. It may be that you can talk about what you would like to see in your sector or for small businesses. It may be that you can talk passionately about what is absolutely necessary without even referring to any political party. However if a party manifesto overtly mentions that ‘thing’ then the journalist will make that connection – and that’s up to them. 

*You can be political if you really want to and you are known for your political views. It’s already something you’ve talked about. Do this mindfully and try to avoid making horrible remarks or casting negativity around individuals who are standing for election. The rules of defamation and libel still apply. Try to stick to more general comments. 

*When Parliament dissolves a rule of ‘purdah’ will come into force and some of you may experience that and be subject to it. Often organisations will use this is as an excuse not to engage with any conversation with the media or other third parties about anything when it makes absolutely no sense at all. Purdah relates to civil servants and others employed in the public sector not talking about who they would vote for – or taking any action which seems to be biased towards any particular candidate. It also means that the media has to obey certain rules around fairness. Technically from May 31 there are no MPs there are only candidates and they all have to have a fair hearing. For the media that relates to the amount of column inches or airtime they get – related to their votes accrued at the last relevant election. It doesn’t mean everyone gets the same. 

These are just some of the things to consider when a General Election is on the horizon. It can be a time for an opportunity to be visible however being visible in the right way matters. I don’t believe that all publicity is good publicity. 

If this worries you in any way and you feel you need a little advice in a safe space please email  

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