BritainThinks Brexit Diaries, Week 2: Communicating effectively with leave and remain voters

PRWeek has partnered with insight and strategy consultancy BritainThinks in a unique project to take the temperature of both leave and remain voters in the run-up to triggering Article 50 and beginning the UK's exit from the EU.

The legacy of the Leave campaign's message discipline is clear, writes Spencer Livermore
The legacy of the Leave campaign's message discipline is clear, writes Spencer Livermore
"I try to avoid the news, it’s too sad and depressing." All communicators have to work hard to connect with often disengaged audiences, but nowhere is this more the case than when talking about political events or public policy. 

"I’ve got more interesting things to think about," is a typical reaction when speaking to voters about these issues.

And yet the issue of Brexit will likely dominate the national conversation for the next two years. 

Many organisations will be affected by the decisions the Government takes, and will need to reach out to their customers and consumers to explain their impact.

What light can the Brexit Diaries – the views of 100 ordinary British men and women, 48 who voted Remain and 52 who voted Leave – shed on how best to connect with these two diverse groups of citizens?

It’s clear that neither leavers or remainers have adopted predictable views about Brexit.

Spencer Livermore, partner at BritainThinks

It’s clear from this week’s diaries that neither leavers or remainers have adopted predictable views about Brexit. 
We might expect leave voters to be feeling optimistic about their personal situation, and assume we should communicate accordingly, but the reverse is often the case. 

Leavers were far more likely to be pessimistic about their own circumstances before the referendum – one of the key reasons they voted to leave – and they continue to be cynical about seeing any improvement. 

"Things couldn’t get any worse" sums up how many approached the issues, and even now their expectations are that "the local area will become more defeated".

Equally, we might expect remainers to be open to more hostile messaging about Brexit. 

While some certainly continue to hope that Brexit won’t happen, others are increasingly searching for the best possible outcome, and "that we manage somehow to get the best possible deal for Britain".

The specific words we use always make a huge difference to the effectiveness of communications and here, too, this week’s diaries are instructive, displaying a marked difference in the language used by leavers and remainers.

Amongst leave voters, you can still detect the effectiveness of the leave campaign. 

Throughout their diary entries we see time and again "regaining control" and "we will get our country back". 

The frequency with which words such as "control", "freedom", and "independence" appear reflect the tremendous message discipline shown by the leave campaign. 

The legacy of the referendum campaign can also be seen in the vocabulary of remain voters. 

If there is any trend, it is towards words about the economy. But, tellingly, there is very little pattern, reflecting the remain campaign’s failure to land clear and consistent messaging. 

Instead, remainers’ language highlights their pessimism about the future: "alone", "fear", "scared", and "loss" dominate.

Finally, the scepticism with which voters treat the media’s reporting of the issues is greatly in evidence. 
"All the stories I read are so biased. I watch the news but that doesn’t clear up what’s happening." 

The media will scrutinise every nuance, but voters will judge the Government on outcomes. 

One diarist this week summed up the public’s attitude: "I don’t believe anything until it actually happens".

Spencer Livermore is a partner at BritainThinks

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