January 2015

The 5 Reputation Rules of Elections

The 5 Reputation Rules of Elections

Electioneering began in earnest this week, with both Labour and Tories attempting to set the tone for their respective campaigns.

Such campaigning can be judged as a battle for reputation – with the ‘truth’ of who’s best settled by the electorate on 7th May.

Soon the full spectrum of political voices will enter the fray and the public will have its patience tested with weeks of debate, claims and counter claims.

Why not join us in playing the reputation game – trying to make the next few months more bearable, by spotting which parties and politicians are best at following the 5 Reputation Rules of Elections.

Rule 1 - Listen and Respond: Political parties can’t control how they are perceived.  Their reputation is ‘owned’ by the electorate.  All politicians can do is listen in to the concerns and wishes of the public and shape their message accordingly. Who will be best at reading the public mood?

Rule 2 – Focus in on Reputation Drivers: There many things that politicians should do, but only a few key areas that are really going to shape perceptions.  Already the parties have picked two issues they believe will be key – Conservatives kicked off with the economy and Labour with the NHS.  Which will be the key driver of political reputation as Election Day nears?

Rule 3 – Pass the ‘Gogglebox’ Test: Politicians and their parties will be judged against a number of criteria; the abilities to show leadership, bring innovation, manage their campaign effectively, care for the electorate, engage with the issues that matter and be believed.  For these strengths they will be judged not just on what they say but how they say it.  This is the true ‘Gogglebox’ test – when the nation watches the debates what will they really be thinking?

Rule 4 – Go for Trust over Honesty: Would a genuinely honest politician be able to get elected in our current society – one that confronted us with the true implications of an ageing population, massive debt and limited resources to meet our growing expectations? Also do we really believe pledges made in the heat of election? 

I would argue not and suggest that honesty is not the real battleground.  We do, however, expect politicians to be trustworthy.  This is not the same as honest, rather we expect politicians to act consistently with our expectations. 

UKIP may attract more shocking headlines than most parties, but they seem more resilient because these scandals rarely thwart our expectations – in other words they can be trusted to be on the extreme right with all that this entails.

Lib Dems are facing an uphill battle because their actions within the coallition eroded trust, undermining many people’s expectations of how Nick Clegg’s party would act when handed genuine power. 

Which party does the electorate feel it can no longer trust?  This will determine the major swings on Election Day.

Rule 5: Votes are cast from the heart not the head: The winners of this election will be the parties and politicians that strike at the core emotions voters.  Typically emotions run highest on issues that affect our health and our wealth. With a close vote predicted, expect the emotional stakes to be ramped up as we near polling day on May 7th.