It’s been a hell of a year for PR in politics. Think Putin, Trump, Brexit, Obama, Farage… the list is endless. But what can we learn, both good and bad from the heroes and the tyrants alike?
The Obama effect
This one is simple, yet entirely effective. The level of positive content created to support the Obama comms schedule is nothing short of admirable. It didn’t take long for Obama’s comms team to tease out his charisma – utilising it to create a President with people appeal. The trick here was to present Obama as one of us. Somebody we can all relate to. Somebody who shares our values and indeed our idea of fun. The cute factor was utilised ten fold. Think the Joe, Obama relationship. The way Obama interacted with children… it’s the Kate Middleton, Diana tactic on speed – and it’s a guy too, so you know, additional appeal(?). Scratch the service and consider how this PR dream of a demeanour has perhaps clouded our judgement on actions and policies implemented by Obama, and we begin to truly understand the power of positive PR. The power of utilising an image of strength and solidarity.
The tyrant comparison
So, we have an example of positive PR used to spin a certain message. And this can also be seen in play by those favoured in a lesser light by the larger voices in the democratic world. A good example of this is the recent reveal of the refugee numbers that will be welcomed into the UK being slashed. The distraction PR technique, saw this announcement being buried in the Brexit debate. Unfortunately for Theresa May, this classic PR technique entirely back-fired, leaving her at the scrutiny to humanistic groups, and well just humans actually. The move is a classic, and yet nine times out of ten, it is entirely unreliable and dangerous to a reputation.
The outlandish cheesy puff
Finally we have Trump, Farage and Putin. The face of the right wing politician. The totalitarian with questionable (understatement) ideology. These guys literally play the Trump Card… they utilise the guise of honesty to fuel fanatical beliefs. It’s extremist communications. By utilising the controversial and engaging the historically disengaged, you can provide an outlet for comms with serious impact. In some ways it’s smart, in other ways it’s crass. But it is undoubtedly effective. Reminiscent of sayings such as ‘he who shouts loudest’, or ‘he who dares wins’, this technique is nothing short of balshy. Just like sex sells, so does the controversial. And whilst many disagree with this tactic, be it Brexit, Russia’s growing influence or Trump’s presidency it works.
So, what can we learn from this? Well it’s difficult. It’s a matter of morality vs. impact. Negative news will always travel faster than positive news, so it’s about striking a balance. It’s where reactive commentary becomes priceless. When there is a negative to be dealt with, it’s essential that you have the finesse and balls to react to it in a way that will engage and inspire others. The best example of this in recent times…? Surely it’s got to be the way Finland reacted to Trump’s inauguration?