Comms stuck in 'soundbite era' and should learn lessons from Vote Leave, says Stronger In PR chief

Corporate comms remains stuck in the Blair/Campbell era of soundbites and media training - and can learn a lot from Vote Leave, according to a senior pro-'remain' PR figure.

Winn: Vote Leave's campaign effectively tapped into human emotion
Winn: Vote Leave's campaign effectively tapped into human emotion

Gabe Winn (above), formerly director of external relations and senior business advisor for the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign, made the remarks during the PRWeek Strategic Internal Communications seminar in London yesterday (22 November).

He said that more often than not, the world of corporate comms failed to adequately connect with the people it was trying to reach, in part because it still played by the rules of the "soundbite era".

"Communication is not all about the broadcast of facts and data; it's about getting a response from people... and getting a response from people means figuring out what stimulus you need to provide to illicit that response," he said.

Winn pointed out the Vote Leave campaign as a great example of communication strategy effectively tapping into human emotion.

He said the Vote Leave slogan 'Take Back Control' was far more emotive than Remain's tagline, which he summed up as: "Britain is stronger, safer and better off inside the EU than it is outside."

Winn also said Vote Leave's branding was "visually beautiful", but his own group's was "less so". He went on to comment: "As much as I disagree with a lot of what Vote Leave said, their brand was highly emotive and very cleverly designed."

Winn argued that the corporate comms professionals should study Vote Leave's campaign closely in order to learn lessons. "Grasp that opportunity," he urged.

Winn was speaking as part of a wider discussion on communicating about Brexit with staff, and the best ways to achieve it.

He was joined by Sarah Burke, internal communications manger for the House of Lords, who said the worst thing a business could do was sit around and wait for answers.

"Engage with all your employees, particularly any EU workers who are UK residents," Burke advised.

WPP's 2,500 EU nationals working in the UK are "extremely worried" about Brexit – Sir Martin Sorrell

Winn added: "If you involve employees in the comms process, they feel significant - even if they do not agree with what you are saying."

The panel also urged companies not to generalise, though said the means of communicating about Brexit depended largely on company culture.

"How you engage with staff should always fit in with your usual flow of communications," Winn said.

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