Working with politicians

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This could be the most unpopular blog post I ever write.  It’s about how to work effectively with your local MP.

Whatever we think of current politics and parliament, a good public relations professional should have a clear understanding of the role of their local MP and how important they can be to their clients.

Let’s think positively, and assume there isn’t another gunpowder plot in the making and normal service will resume soon.

It is normal to call on your MP for help on local matters –  or for help or advice on wider national or international business matters – if the business in question is in their constituency or will impact its residents.

Many PRs are nervous or unsure of how to approach and involve an MP in support of their legitimate business objectives.

This is why we were lucky to have a great panel of speakers lined up for us by the Oxford PUBLic Relations Group in June this year: Ed Vaizey, Susan Brown and Frank Nigriello.

Between them they cover the political spectrum from left to right, with business in the middle.  Ed Vaizey is Conservative MP for Wantage and served as Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries from 2010 to 2016 before Theresa May sacked him. Susan Brown is Labour leader of Oxford City Council and Head of Communications at the Oxford University Hospital Health Trust, and Frank Nigriello is director of Corporate Affairs at Unipart.

Each of them plays an important part in helping to shape where we live and work, but only Ed Viazey is a full time MP. This is why it is especially important to understand and use your MP effectively; because as Ed pointed out, that’s exactly what they’re paid to do – represent you.

They may not reflect the political values of your client or you, but they are still paid to work for the good of their constituents.  That work may mean securing or safeguarding better employment prospects, new homes, access to health care, better road or transport links, or a host of other things. The important thing is that if you don’t make them aware of your needs (or your clients’) then they can’t help.

Here are Ed’s top tips for working with your MP:

  1. The way to an MP’s heart is through his constituency. They will be available every Friday looking for constructive things to do. Do stuff on Fridays
  2. Come with something specific to do – not just an event or opening to attend, but a meaningful action they can do for you.
  3. Give them a photo opportunity.
  4. Do your research and identify their areas of interest and committee membership.
  5. Develop a proper relationship from the start, with a formal, personal letter or email from the MD, rather than their PR, and build a meaningful dialogue between MP and brand.
  6. Ensure you spell out the connection with their constituency, which may require using a home rather than business address.
  7. Support any communication with information and statistics which present your case and highlight the local or specialist subject context, information the MP can then use.
  8. Bring in another business. Look for synergy across your market or subject, and how it dovetails with your MP’s interests and committee work, allowing them to justify working with you.
  9. Don’t neglect the opposition. As well as your current elected MP, involve other parties. They could be in power next, and will appreciate being informed. They may also be able to help right now.
  10. Identify the advisors who work with your MP and facilitate direct communication with them too.

Look out for the next event organised by the Oxford PUBlic Relations Group. They offer great networking and learning opportunities.

“How does PR secure a seat at the Board” Tues 17 Sept 2019, Jericho Tavern 6 – 9 pm

Nicola Green, Corporate Affairs Director, O2 (Telefonica UK)

Fathima Dada, Managing Director Oxford Education, Oxford University Press

Mish Tullar, Head of Communications, Partnerships and Policy, Oxford City Council

Photo credit: Aswin Mahesh, Unsplash

 

 

Suffering from Environmental Empathy Exhaustion?

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It’s great to see honey bees making headlines  for two reasons.  One, because they matter so much, our insects, and two because I wrote the headline.

Little things make such a difference.  How will the swallows have the strength to fly back next summer if there aren’t enough insects for them to eat? How would we feel if we never heard another bird sing?

Scientists have been warning us for a long time that we must take care of every aspect of our environment. ‘The Silent Spring’ was first published by Rachel Carson in 1962, ‘The Little Things That Run the World’ in 1987 by Edward O Wilson, and ‘Buzz in the Meadow’ in 2014 by Dave Goulson.  Last year we had Blue Planet.  Each time the message gets louder and finally people seem to be hearing it and responding.

But at the same time, I think there’s a phenomenon happening like compassion fatigue, let’s call it Environmental Empathy Exhaustion.

It’s where we’re so tired of bad news, dire warnings and problems so big we can’t do anything about them, that we zone it all out and just carry on as normal.

That’s why I wanted to make this year’s headline about the Honey Survey a positive one.  The actual honey crop in 2018 at 30lbs per hive isn’t great. It’s a rubbish amount compared to “the old days”.  But I came across a little chink of hope. A farmer in Northumberland planted a crop called phacelia, or purple tansy, in an old-fashioned crop rotation kind of way. The nearby beekeeper, one of our Adopt a Beehive representatives, told me the effect on his honey bees was ‘astounding’. And this was from someone who’s been keeping bees for more than sixty years. The phacelia also seemed to be good for the farmers next crop, oil seed rape.

This chink of hope is what we built the story around about this year’s honey crop. There is still plenty to worry about for honey bees, for all insects, for all of nature.  But I think people want good news and positive examples to engage them in environmental issues.

Each one of us, in the grand scheme of things, is a little thing. Just one of 7.7 billion people on the earth.  But this story shows we can make a difference by what we do, that individual little actions will make a difference, and that good, positive PR can play its part too.

To Adopt a Beehive with the BBKA please go to www.adoptabeehive.com

 

 

Brand Love: how does it translate to business marketing and PR?

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Measuring brand love in consumer marketing is big business.

It probably won’t surprise you to know that Nike for example is loved by 27.5 per cent of all 16 – 24 year olds. Slightly more surprising to learn that 32 per cent of young adults have boycotted a brand in the past year.  The main reasons were due to unethical practices, animal cruelty and poor quality products.

YouthSight, part of YouGov scores a host of brands, with consumer emotions towards them tracked on a scale of 1 to 5,  from love to hate.

Love and hate is important for business PR and marketing too. Almost every business transaction, no matter how “business-like” we try to be, will have an emotional element to it.

Top five levers of brand love for your business brand

 

1. The right endorsement or ambassador

We all look for validation from ‘people like us.’  In the business market, a brand ambassador is a customer.  Other people’s experience of your brand or service is crucial to the decision-making process. Look for case studies and customer recommendations from people or companies whose values are well known or obvious. Their experience should resonate or strike a chord with your target audience

2.  Use the right language

‘Mirroring’ is a classic sign of empathy and love in a human relationship. In consumer marketing it translates into ‘using the right language’.  KFC knew its market well enough to use the right language with its customers during its recent delivery crisis.  Their ad campaign and copy showed humour and personality.  It was right for KFC but it wouldn’t have been right for John Lewis. The right language and tone makes a huge difference.

KFC ad campaign using the right language for its customers

3. Hang out with their friends

Discovery and delight are part of the journey of love.  Your brand or service needs to be found by the right people. Being in the right communication channels – that might mean trade publications; websites; blogs; Instagram feeds; LinkedIn groups;  events; discussion forums and so on – all help you to be found.  Make sure your brand or service can be found in the places where your target audience is looking.

4. Show some love and understanding

As old as time itself, at least in terms of love and marketing.  People buy a solution for their needs, so describe all the benefits you can deliver. Show you understand and appreciate your prospects’ needs and challenges; make sure you don’t list product qualities but instead tell your target audience about the values, feelings or advantages it can give.

5. Make a commitment

“People had fallen a bit out of love with it…” How were people helped to fall in love with Tesco again? With the help of a huge increase in advertising budget.  Tesco increased its ad spend by more than any other food and drink advertiser last year to £73.9m.  (The Grocer “Tesco drives massive comeback”)

You don’t have to spend millions, but you do have to make an effort.  It takes time and effort to get the message and the medium right.  If your brand or service is valuable to you, it’s worth spending money to help others fall in love with it too.