Danny Rogers: Parties need to convey coherent messages

As the political party conference season draws to a close, what have we learned?

Danny Rogers
Danny Rogers

As communications professionals, we should look beyond the gaffes, the bluster over policy and the headlines so often generated by self-serving media barons.

We saw, once again, the importance of communicating simple, coherent messages to important audiences.

Two weeks ago, the Liberal Democrats started well, with Nick Clegg bravely defining Liberalism to a vaguely interested media, but then the conference unravelled into a hotchpotch of policies with no cohesive theme. The lack of comms resource and senior-level discipline became painfully apparent.

Last week, Labour's conference also failed spectacularly to deliver a single argument for voting for the party.

A huge amount of time and effort clearly went into Gordon Brown's speech. He had contributions from his core team, senior confidantes such as Lord Mandelson and Alastair Campbell, and a plethora of speech writers. But that was the problem. Thanks to the multitude of cooks, it ended up an over-stewed broth.

The strongest message that could have emerged from the conference - that Brown had made the right call on the credit crunch - failed to strike home. As one source close to Downing Street confided: ‘It was a typical Gordon speech: lacking a single compelling argument.'

There were also some pointers to how the campaign battleground is switching towards social media. Sarah Brown's growing popularity - particularly the news that she has overtaken Stephen Fry as the most popular person on Twitter - was one of the few bright spots for Labour, as it seeks to address a wider audience.

To which end, the launch this week of MyConservatives is a significant move. It was too early as PRWeek went to press to judge the Tory conference in general, but the launch of this political campaigning network looks like a smart move.

There is some scepticism about whether the Obama-style approach to support and fundraising will work over here, but it shows the Conservatives are at least in line with the current media narrative.

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