Public Affairs: Soap Box - Hugh Milward, deputy MD, TLG

The first party conference after a change of government is always going to be one that generates more interest for comms practitioners.

This year is exceptional, in that with two parties in government, there is twice as much running around to be done.

Businesses and organisations need to think hard about the objectives they are seeking to fulfil during the conference season.

Politicians and their staff think very hard about the message they are communicating to voters and how the message will be received.

Businesses need to think in the same way about the take-outs politicians and other businesses have from their engagement at the conferences.

While running after politicians can make conference busy, the brands that are successfully driving attitudinal and behavioural change - acting and being seen to act as thought leaders - become more sought than seeker.

Being ambitious, challenging the status quo and innovating - not replicating - will make politicians sit up and take notice.

Thought leadership acts as a differentiator, allowing a company to cut through much of the noise around party conference, so that half the job of communicating is already done.

In terms of outcome, not only will politicians take notice, but they will increasingly seek advice, offer platforms and possibly even seek endorsement.

As practitioners go into the next three weeks, they will benefit from being very clear about what they want to get out of the conferences and how to make them work at a personal and corporate level.

Those that do so - and make core connections at the same time - will be those that stand to gain the most from these conferences.

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