Theresa May has six comms priorities, half-way through her first 100 days

Theresa May is back from China, half-way through her first 100 days as Prime Minister and this is the period in which leaders establish - by default or by design - their governing style, narrative and priorities.

Theresa's May's first speech as Prime Minister (© Hannah McKay/PA Wire)
Theresa's May's first speech as Prime Minister (© Hannah McKay/PA Wire)
Mrs May has hit the ground running. The time is now to consolidate the positive national consensus.

First. Vision.
The vision needs to be integrated and iterated in everything the Government does. It should be positive, defining the government by what it is for, not just what it is against. It needs to confirm for voters (and commentators) where the country is heading, in the short and longer term. It is important that the political journey not become an end in itself, (as 'austerity' became), but a means to an end. Clarity about that destination is probably the most critical communication challenge.

Second. Expectations.
An important part of articulating the vision involves setting expectations. Any unexpected announcements need context. For instance, pressing 'pause' on Hinkley before establishing the political context served to heighten, not lessen the impact of the story. If sensitive policies are to be introduced and implemented it is critical that the Government frames questions and provides answers. It is what Robert Cialdini calls 'Pre-suasion' (his book should be required reading at No.10). 

Third. Values.
It is vital for May to establish the core values, or moral compass, of her Government. The PM can use policy and the power of the office to do so. Her narrative needs to appeal to 'the heart and head' of the voter and shape national conversations. Voters have a limited capacity to absorb policy matters. So Downing Street needs to communicate and engage with them in ways and on issues that they are passionate about. Which means thinking - and communicating - in thematic, not technocractic, terms.
Fourth. Governance. 
Strong leaders are not only good at sacking people, but empowering them. So devolving authority, building capability and instilling accountability will be key to determining the success of ministers and their departments. This ethos should stretch beyond Cabinet colleagues to advisors and civil servants. Their levels of success will in part depend upon their leadership skills, but also the strategic clarity of HMG from No.10. 

Fifth. Advocates.
Every successful movement, or organisation, needs advocates and outriders. Government is no different. They can be deployed to promote policy agendas, e.g. encouraging grammar schools. Such a policy makes a lot of sense to many voters, so need not be grouped with controversial issues. Governing will be smoother, if outriders are in place, before the team hit their first headwinds, especially in a parliament with a small majority. 

Sixth. Brexit.
May's premiership - and legacy - need not be defined by the 'success', or otherwise, of the dry and bureaucratic exit talks. HMG cannot disclose their plan and negotiating position, but they need to provide smart and strategic briefing. Equally, they'll want to identify the indicators that can show positive economic momentum. This story - both in terms of national and personal fortunes - needs to envelope Brexit, not the other way around.

In summary, the questions posed and social tensions revealed by our voting to leave the EU present a unique inheritance and opportunity for Theresa May to lead one of the administrations of the modern era.

These early days will prove to be vital to ensure that her legacy is a positive one.

Malcolm Gooderham is a co-founder of Montfort Communications

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