As a former spin doctor I have watched the BREXIT debate with great interest and not a little horror. From the side-lines I have seen so many missed opportunities and failures to communicate a narrative of why ordinary people should value the EU. Sure every one of the “great and good” has been wheeled out to explain the elite’s view of why the EU is so important, but what I have yet to hear is an emotional argument. Something that gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling so beloved of retailer Christmas adverts.
Remember the military when they talk about ”hearts and minds”; to win any campaign you need both. To date much of the Remain IN dialogues has been all been about facts and nothing about what makes us tick as humans. Just imagine if we were getting the full John Lewis Partnership quality branding for the EU; frankly their agency, amongst many, would have loved to work on that proposition.
What has this got to do with CSR you say? Well one of the big lessons we can teach them is that people want to understand impact. They want to know what that means for me. What are you changing? How many people does this help? How many extra women are employed etc. etc.
CSR folk turn out that stuff day after day, running systems to produce data for all those CSR Reports. We all have to use metrics, measurement and stories to engage people in stuff that they didn’t even know they cared about until you told them. From energy efficiency to fair trade we sell through numbers but combine this with an emotional value proposition. Our claims are that we save you money, we help families, we save resources, we save biodiversity, with all those pictures of iconic wildlife from pandas to tigers and the odd whale etc. etc.
Imagine if we lived in a world where the EU told us actually what ‘benefits’ we get from its service! No more dodgy bridges in Portugal in the knocking copy ads, because people would know about the ones locally provided with money from the EU. Numbers and information on the road improvements and transport support delivered to their country, their region and from which they personally benefit. What about jobs? How many jobs and in which countries is the EU supporting? I don’t know and I bet neither does the EU but that’s the point – the narrative needs to change.
We are “the selfie-generation” it’s all about me and brands, governments and supra-national bodies need to catch up with the mood of the times. “We want information and we want it now”. Won’t see that on a placard in the UK anytime soon, because we don’t hit the streets to march often, but we are on-line with a massive thirst for content.
Ask Google, they have an algorithm to find the best content on the web, for their market and it is yours too, as every politician should know. We are all in business of connecting to people, listening and offering a narrative on how we can or do make the world a better place. Fail to do that and you fail.
Lots has been written about Jo Cox’s brutal assassination but what was clear she was a communicator, listening to her people and trying to bring about change. That is why she was loved – she communicated with passion and commitment. That is what people want from all people, in all works for life; whether you are the CEO, the MP, the MEP or the President. It’s the same hunger for meaning and honesty.
So let’s hope the EU learns from the UK’s EU Referendum this one lesson, to start listening to people and to hear their concerns for their loss of so many things from a sense of economic security to sense of their rightful place in the world. Then they can start a dialogue on how their organisation helps make lives better. With impacts from funding cultural events to supporting job creation. If the political classes can’t demonstrate impact it won’t be just the UK that will think about leaving. This is a wakeup call to all politicians in Europe, just as Trump is in the States. Listen to the voiceless and tell them what you do for them. If you can’t make a stomping communication based on that, then give up and get a new job. Vote Remain for a second chance to change Europe for the better and let’s start a revolution to get “impact politics” part of business as usual.