Corporate response in good taste

Being prepared for the unexpected is an asset within every marketing team, but being prepared to have your brand (or your client’s brand) used to express a political position is not something you would expect.

Last week however, that is precisely the challenge presented to Wrigley’s America when Donald Trump Jr. chose to use Skittles to visually demonstrate an analogy about the Syrian refugee crisis.

picture2The tweet and its associated image (which has since been removed) stated bluntly: “If I offered you a bowl of Skittles and told you three were poisoned, would you take a handful?”, garnered nearly 30’000 mentions by that evening. The majority of responses, however, were (thankfully) disgusted by the comparison and poked fun at Trump’s campaign.

In contrast, Denise Young‘s response as Wrigley America’s VP of Corporate Affairs showed the company took the matter seriously, issuing the following statement.

“Skittles are candy. Refugees are people. We don’t feel it’s an appropriate analogy. We will respectfully refrain from further commentary as anything we say could be misinterpreted as marketing.”

– Denise Young, VP of Corporate Affairs, Wrigley’s America.

Not only was this thoughtful statement quickly shared by Wrigley’s team, but its humble avoidance of getting caught up in any kind of political drama is a credit to how occasions like these should be handled, and likely increased the public’s trust and respect of the brand.

Props to you Wrigleys. Excuse me whilst I go buy some Skittles.

EDIT:

To reflect the fact that ‘The Donald’ still hasn’t quite learnt his lesson regarding including brand references in his comments, we’ve been graced with this gem from TicTacUSA.

picture1 For all those who haven’t seen the latest video release showing Trump claiming in 2005 that he’s “got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case [I] start kissing her,” (referencing Days of Our Lives actress, Arienne Zucker), continuing to say, “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet.”

Gross.

 

 

Tweeting the referendum. Who shouts loudest?

As #Brexit and #Bremain gather momentum ahead of next week’s vote, it goes without saying that the EU referendum is the hottest topic in UK politics right now; one which – unless you’ve been living in a cave in the Outer Hebrides – has been impossible to ignore.

Whether it’s opening a newspaper, switching on your TV or listening to the radio, it seems like everyone has jumped on board to share their viewpoint(s), whether they are a politician, business leader, a famous musician or even (apparently) a fictional character.

The conversation online is no different and is (in many respects) even more intense. As covered in my Masters thesis (where I analysed the Conservative’s use of Twitter in the 2015 election), the rise of the digital world is keenly changing how people participate in political discourse and activism.

What could all this data teach us about how politics works?

Well the area  I’m personally super psyched about, is that it teaches us about the tactics political parties and politicians use to fight elections online, both in terms of their individual objectives and the way in which they approach each platform (not to mention how effective they are compared to their peers/rivals), but also how they perceive the platform itself (as just another soapbox or an opportunity to open a dialogue with their audiences).

ANYWAY, every hour of the referendum campaign, thousands and thousands and THOUSANDS of messages flood Twitter, either as short statements arguing one side or the other, or sharing the latest campaign image or publicity stunt. Although this shows that social media is drawing people closer to politics (allowing new opportunities for politicians, journalists to engage with their publics), its simultaneously increasing the number of distinct influence/ego networks around key media outlets, campaign groups/members, or commentators such as those referenced by leading cross-party think-tank, Demos.

Alongside ITV’s Peston on Sunday program, Demos has also conducted a fair bit of research over the last few months at how UK politics is being discussed on Twitter, analysing approximately 100,000 tweets sent to or from UK MPs containing EU referendum hashtags.

They not only found 10,000 more tweets sent between the 4th and 10th of June compared those sent the previous week but that the result is largely down to the shocking rate of tweets sent by those supporting #Brexit (three times the number compared to those in favour of #Bremain).

By excluding all ‘Other’ chatter (approximately 50% of tweets), their research also showed the different focuses of each movement, with Remainers emphasising the economic benefits of staying in the EU compared to our position outside it, and Brexiteers more keenly stressing the issues of immigration and sovereignty – which, when you think about it, isn’t all that surprising.

Still though… I have a fascinating new resource to follow and wanted to share it all with you because let’s face it, nerding out needs to be shared 🙂

 

A summary of an election which could change the face of politics

So after yesterday’s #behindthenews panel discussion with Johnathan Lampon on ‘The youth vote’ (covered in an earlier post), I received an unexpected phone call requesting that I meet with Christian Hill (another BBC journo) to give a quick summary of my thoughts on this year’s election campaign run up and my election result predictions for #GE2015.

Because my section will have been a teeny part of this morning’s breakfast show with Jim Davis and Jo Hayward (7am if anyone’s interested), I thought it might be best to just type up my quick summary here to expand on my verbal analysis of all but a minute.

Basically, I think that despite the election itself being pretty exciting (I’m pretty certain that it’s close enough that there will be a minority government and another election within a year), the campaign period in the run-up has been…dull, if I’m honest.

True, there have been some highlights – Ed Miliband’s interview with Russell Brand for one, not to mention the Green Party’s spoof ‘Boyband’ video (below) which quite frankly is an unparalled election broadcast.

But generally speaking, it’s all come across as a bit too tightly controlled and, because of that, a bit too staged and boring. Election campaigns should be about speaking to the people and having heartfelt, genuine conversations, not delivering pre-planned speeches against a backdrop of party member’s with placards.

Of course, there is always a risk involved with talking to the public, especially when its election-time. After all, nobody enjoys having egg on their face be it proverbially or otherwise. The problem is though that it is precisely the way parliamentary candidates handle these situations (where they are around and engaging with real people) that is what can win them the hearts, minds and (most importantly perhaps) votes of the electorate. Shutting down opportunities for dialogue before they’ve even begun only further alienates MP’s from ‘normal people’.

This is an election which I believe will prove to be a defining point our country’s future, determining not only the way our country is run, but our values as a society.

What this election has show most of all, I think, is that politics isn’t something we should just get involved in once every five years where we moan about whoever was last in power and all the things they didn’t do/did wrong, and automatically vote for their opponent.

People (and especially young people) are realising that democracy isn’t just about elections, it is something about everyday LIFE; something so ingrained in every aspect of our society that we don’t even see it unless we look. They’re realising (slowly) that politics MATTERS and is something they CAN have a voice in so long as they stay actively involved.

I might be idealistic in saying so but hopefully this increased awareness and self-belief is something that will not only spur people to head to the polls this Thursday to make their mark for whichever candidate they choose, but will also inspire them to get actively involved in causes they believe in and raise their voices loud enough that the people of this country can be heard.

Breaking stereotypes and discussing the ‘Youth’ vote

With two day’s left until the election polls open, this morning I once again dove into a radio broadcasting and rejoined BBC Leicester’s Johnathan Lampon and BBC Local Apprentice Khadija Osman for Behind the News’ panel discussion.

Today we looked at ‘The Youth Vote’ and why young people may or may not be turned off from politics.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02pn8h1 (10:50mins – 36:25mins)voters

Since the 1970’s, the 18-24 age demographic have had the lowest voter turnout of any age group, but this year they could very well be the game-changers holding the power to influence who ends up in No. 10.

Young people need to feel engaged by the political process so its no surprise that jargon is a complete turn off. I believe young people are more discerning than we’re given credit for and although many of us are interested in politics, we are also very cynical of politicians. Who wants to be preached at when half of what is said goes over your head anyway?

When MP’s target and start listening and moreover including young people in the political process, finding out what issues we feel are important (because despite some snarky feeling that all we care about is student fees, that’s most definitely not the case) and hearing our views on public policy.

The issue that got under my skin in particular was the suggestion by one commenter that young people under the age of 24 are “idiotic beyond belief and will most likely be voting for disaster/Labour #Morons”… Gee… thanks.

Despite the (completely false) idea that young people somehow automatically vote Labour, this stereotype of the ignorant, politically-uneducated-therefore-clearly-left-wing, hippy ‘yoof of today’ is totally unfair and (as a young person myself) pretty darn offensive if I’m honest.

The main challenge for politicians today in engaging young people is pretty much the same challenge they face to the rest of the electorate (but perhaps to a stronger degree). Average Joe Bloggs (both senior and junior) no longer trust politicians to be honest in either their policies or their values, and it is THIS failure to engage in a trustworthy and believable way that political parties need to work on.

BBC Radio Leicester Take Two!

deerLast Friday, I made my second foray into the now-less-daunting world of Radio broadcast, which, although I feel I spoke less than during my first panel as there were more participants during the discussion than before, I believe I came across a lot more naturally due to being less like a deer in headlights.

I’m genuinely growing to love these panel discussions; not just because they provide the opportunity for a strong debate on something I am passionate about, but also because they are allowing me to improve my public speaking skills and presentation ability (which despite being areas I am pretty confident in, are always good to practice and keep honed).

If you’re interested in listening to our panel (consisting of myself; Political Lecturer, Alastair Jones; BBC Political Correspondent, Tim Parker; and, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, Katie Ghose) please follow the link (9.40 – 34.22) as we discuss whether there is ever such a thing as a wasted vote?

Dipping my toes into local radio

Who’d have thunk it, David Blunkett?! Yesterday, I made my radio debut!

AND I DIDN’T MESS IT UP!!!WOO

After being tweeted by local BBC Broadcast Assistant, Rob Watson (@Rob_Watson87) last Thursday, we had a quick phonecall where he mentioned that he was aware of my blogging and wanted me to take part in an interview panel with BBC presenter, Ben Jackson (standing in for the usual host, Jonathan Lampon, BBC Leicester’s Political Correspondent, Tim Parker, and De Montfort University Lecturer, Alastair Jones, regarding the General Election and, more specifically, the role social media will play in it.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that I was nervous. Although I’ve trained as a journalist myself, speaking at a live event where people would actually be listening to what I had to say was….daunting to say the least.

What I found (to my surprise) was that, as well as my five year participation in De Montfort’s Politics Society meaning I actually had a pretty substantiated opinion and had learnt the skills to be able to articulate it well, I was also completely at ease in-studio (due in part to having been taught by several of Alastair’s colleagues during my degree which meant that I was blessed with someone in studio who anchormanat least I partially knew).

Therefore something which I had honestly been in two minds about over the weekend, turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding experience which if again offered (and I hope it might) I will no doubt jump at.

If you’d like to hear what I have to say, please click HERE and have a listen (from 9 mins – 35 mins).

*Forgive the pauses for thought. I’m working on that for next time.

#GE2015. Britain’s ‘Social Media Election’

Sixty years since the 1955 ‘Television election’, 2015 is looking to be the year in which social media platforms will play a decisive role in reaching Britain’s electorate.

Although Marketing Magazine reports that the Conservatives are expected to “outspend Labour 3:1, opting for traditional media”, Labour is putting more emphasis on door-to-door canvassing due to Miliband’s desire to have “4 million face-to-face conversations”. This means that despite less financial spend, Labour is equally more likely to be harnessing the influence and engagement potential of digital and social platforms.

This I think has been perfectly demonstrated during tonight’s Sky/Channel 4 Leader debate between PM David Cameron and Labour leader, Ed Miliband, which generated a considerable amount of simultaneous discussion across Twitter via the amazing – if a tad long – hashtag #Battlefornumber10.

Tweets ranged from the tongue-in-cheek:

To the thoughtfully considered:

To the frustrated outrage in response to the behaviour of Kay Burnley and Jeremy Paxman:

The vital role of social media within politics is becoming ever more widely accepted, and now it is becoming increasingly obvious that whichever party is first to develop and implement a convincing social media strategy will have a distinct advantage this upcoming May. Sites such as Facebook have already been used successfully in the US as a way to engage with – and gather information from – potential voters, and in the UK, 24million people have signed up to the service. This of course gives political parties a pool of voters from which to fish (or more accurately target and engage) on a more personal and responsive level than anything offered via traditional forms.

According to some however, social media is “massively overrated”. Richard Huntington, group chief strategy officer at Saatchi & Saatchi, argues that “It’s great at preaching to the converted and distributing leaders’ speeches or policy points, but political messaging rarely escapes its bubble, unless it’s very amusing.” Personally I think I’d disagree with this.

Although ‘amusing’ posts and tweets (particularly tongue-in-cheek satire) create increased ‘talkability’ online (thus enhancing a post (and brand’s) potential reach), I think this view doesn’t take into consideration the age old adage that ‘necessity is the mother of invention’.

I mean, it’s no real coincidence that only 55% of MPs in the safest seats use Twitter compared to nearly 90% of MPs in the most marginal seats. Being in a ‘safe’ seat erases the need for an MP to engage in a two-way conversation with their electorate – which I honestly think is to the detriment of the political sphere as I’m wholeheartedly a supporter of the ways that engagement and communication builds trust and brand loyalty.

Personally, I think a multi-pronged/integrated campaign approach will work best. Combine the power of Ad agencies which deliver strong, strategic messages, with the considerable influence and attention generated by public relations, as well as the personalisation and responsiveness allowed by digital and social platforms, and I think you’re/your brand is in with a winning recipe for increased engagement, trust and loyalty from your audiences.

Overall I think tonight has given me a lot to think about…

I was planning on dedicating a considerable part of my dissertation this year to analysing @Nick_Clegg’s Twitter use in the month prior to the election using a range of frameworks, but I have to say that tonight’s debate raises a new potential focus…

Do I continue looking at the influence of (and need for) trust within political (ie. the Liberal Democrats) brands, or….

do I look at the role of and way that social media is being used in the run up to the election….