The X Factor

Five Basic Comms Lessons from the UK General Election.

1. Don’t make promises, make assertions

Do not say: The Conservatives will give you strong and stable government.

Do say: Strong and stable government is provided by The Conservatives.

2. Personalised arguments read badly.  Let others join the dots

Do not say:  Jeremy Corbyn is a deluded fantasist who cannot control his own party.

Do say: How do you imagine Labour’s lack of cohesion will look in government?

3. Dress the part

Leaders wear uniforms. Even in the tech world, Steve Jobs wore only black Tee shirts, Mark Zuckerberg wears only grey.

In politics, suits rule. The smarter you look, the better. Jeremy Corbyn’s standing started to rise when he dressed the part in a jacket, pressed shirt, and tie.

Women have more colour choice, but still they wear it in blocks – viz Sturgeon, Merkel, Clinton, and of course, Thatcher. Mrs May’s distracting embellishments – scarves, belts, designer jewellery, became the physical manifestation of her loss of authority.

4. Talk with, not at, your audience

Voters aren’t stupid. They know there is no Magic Money Tree. What they are asking is that you find a way to square the circle: just as the Commons did when it came to MPs’ wages.

Insulting the intelligence of people who have been good enough to give up their time to hear you speak, whether in politics or business, is guaranteed to lose you support.

5. Speak from the heart

If you speak from the heart, people will respect your views even if they disagree with them. You win Brownie points and, to quote the old gameshow line, points win prizes.

The unexpected and game-changing swing to Labour on Election night wasn’t a function of policy so much as positioning. Mr Corbyn had not necessarily won the minds of those who switched votes, but in contrast to the Maybot he had won their approval.

There are of course much bigger lessons to be learned about getting the messaging right;  about risk assessment and damage limitation; about delegation and teamwork; about listening and responding as much as declaiming and arguing.

Above all good communications reduces to treating others as you would have them treat you – with clarity, brevity, intelligence, honesty, quality, consideration, and warmth.