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Lies, Damn Lies and Feelings

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A version of this post initially appeared on SixtySecondView.

Political campaigns have a habit of hot-housing communication techniques that are then adopted by the wider communications industry. Pick your election and there is sure to have been a new technique that won it or swung it:

  • Our own late and great Mike Deaver honed a folksy TV personality for Ronald Reagan and supplemented it with an emphasis on photographic image over press interviews
  • Margaret Thatcher’s Conservatives enlisted the Saatchi brothers and Tim Bell, and we got the single issue poster as art and modulated voice training
  • The Clintons introduced us to Mark Penn-style micro-targeting research and dial testing
  • Candidate and then President Obama brought us online grassroots canvassing, and pretty much invented social media campaigning if you were to believe the hype from the thousands of doyens who claimed credit on their CVs and LinkedIn profiles

All of these techniques were picked up and adapted by the wider communications industry.

So what will the industry learn from the latest, most high-profile political campaigns? The UK vote on EU membership was characterized by blatant distortion, lying and fear-mongering on both sides, but most effectively by the victors. The U.S. primaries, and especially Donald Trump, have added to this bullying, sexism, violence and racism, apparently all to good effect.

What is to learn from this?

“Eat my [insert product] it wasn’t made by Mexicans?”

“Buy my [insert product] and get £350 a week back for life?”

Will media training include a section on how to mimic the physical disabilities of journalists?

Will we never again have to find third-party experts to support a case because no one cares about experts now, just opinions and feelings?

Why not just get our brand’s Facebook fans to beat up customers who complain?

Caution: Modern political campaigning should not be tried at home or in the board room.

David Brain is president and CEO of Edelman Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa.


      
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