From the Editor - Politicians see blogs as a new battleground

The mainstream media have become all too predictable around big political events.

Danny Rogers
Danny Rogers

In the case of Gordon Brown's 'big speech' this week, much of the content had already been leaked in advance; the political editors were commenting on it before it had even been made; and little of the actual speech ended up being shown - instead we had endless political pundits mulling over the subtexts and implications.

In this environment such statements retain little of their traditional impact. The media filter is now so sophisticated - and as a result the public so sceptical - that striking a chord with the electorate becomes nigh on impossible.

This is one reason why the Prime Minister has found it so difficult to find the right media strategy and staff. Moreover, it is why the more interesting comms strategies are developing online.

This week PRWeek reveals two fascinating blog initiatives by the two main parties. Labour is setting up its first blog rebuttal unit, while the Conservative Party is unleashing a charm offensive on local bloggers.

Once again politicians, whose careers rely on the reputation of their brands, are forced to adopt cutting-edge comms techniques.

It is an echo of the mid-90s when Alastair Campbell and Peter Mandelson's Excalibur rebuttal unit set new standards in monitoring media stories and responding quickly and effectively. Many large corporations subsequently adopted such an approach.

Indeed, these days many firms (McDonalds, Dell, Microsoft) are also at the cutting edge in terms of monitoring - and responding to - influential bloggers. The more enlightened organisations recognise that over-stretched mainstream media are relying on specialist bloggers for their stories, even their opinions.

Crucially, if handled properly, strategic messages can be communicated more effectively when the media apparatus is circumvented.

In short, the web is enabling political parties and big companies to have real conversations with their voters, their consumers. It is a lesson we must all take on board.

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