251: Don’t forget the retail politics
Politicians often highlight a clear retail offer to their potential electorate – a policy that speaks very clearly to them and offers a tangible benefit. Public affairs campaigns should think along the same lines and be clear in what their offer is.
A retail political offer is all about targeting voters on an individual basis. The approaches of the parties in the 2019 general election can rightly be said to have focused very much on such retail offers, everything from free broadband through to tax cuts. Rather than looking to set out a future path or a big picture vision of the future, the parties looked at the parts of the electorate that they needed to attract and came up with a very direct appeal, a retail offer.
But it’s not just about the offer itself but the practice and discipline of having to be clear and concise about the offer so that it can be communicated effectively.
These are lessons that campaigns should seek to learn from. If campaigns can think in such a way then it could offer a number of potential benefits.
- Helps the conversation with politicians – they can more easily see what the benefits of the campaign are and how they might apply in their own constituency as well as to both existing and potential voters;
- Enhances the prospect of media coverage – if it is decided that media coverage is part of the strategy then having some very clear offers will help when trying to sell in the story and make it come alive for the media. Anything too dull or overly complicated just won’t work. This is about understanding their needs;
- Attracts potential supporters – if the offer comes across loud and clear then that could bring potential supporters out of the wood work. With any luck, or with your encouragement, these supporters could be vocal in expressing that support. The clear off can enhance that prospect; and
- Grabs attention – just getting some space for any campaign can be a challenge but having a clear offer can help deliver some cut through. That in itself offers the prospect of being able to build and coalesce support around it over a period of time.
There is, however, a potential downside as well. Such a clear position could motivate opponents as well. It is not the case that they won’t exist even if the approach was difficult but a bold strategy can elicit a bold counter response as well – just look at the political parties in the election campaign if you need an example.
It is certainly a risk but one that can be managed if the campaign considers the likely approach of opponents and what the responses should be. Sometimes a higher profile dust-up may be no bad thing but only if managed and considered from the very outset. A clear retail offer could trigger the dust-up which can then be utilised to the benefit of the campaign as a whole.
That certainly is not going to be the right approach for everyone but it is an option! Again, taking the election example, just dominating the agenda for a period of time could be helpful and gives a campaign something to build on.
So think early about what your retail offer could be and whether it offers the campaign any benefits.