martes, 7 de marzo de 2017

UK lessons political parties need to learn to woo young voters

Brands such as Adidas and Red Bull offer important pointers for political parties trying to win over young voters before the general election

A recent poll has found that only 23% of young people definitely plan to vote at the general election in May. Photograph: Matt Dunham/AP

When it comes to targeting young voters, political parties have found themselves in the same place brands were about 10 years ago.

At this time, a digital culture rapidly emerged and flourished but major brands – still over-reliant on their legacy models of broadcast advertising – were unable to engage in a successful dialogue.

Proof is in the stats. A recent poll has shown that 70% of 18 to 22-year-olds would most likely tick a box backing “none of the above” on their ballot papers, and that only 23% of young people definitely plan to vote at the general election on 7 May.

Research also suggests that the youth turnout rate in the UK is the lowest of all the 15 members of the old EU. Clearly, UK politics and all key parties within it have work to do to connect more successfully with younger voters.

Communications experts rightly point to the extreme fragmentation and personalisation of the media landscape as a factor in this communication breakdown.

However, at the same time media convergence has stimulated a large number of new ways in which younger people engage with political causes and content. Young people are highly likely to view and share politically themed content – as long as it is targeted at them correctly.

There has been a proliferation of ways to sign up to and recruit others to petitions and pressure groups. However, little of this conversation is stimulated or guided by the major political parties.

But all is not lost. Brands such as Adidas and Red Bull have increasingly overcome this challenge and created meaningful relationships with this audience. Here are eight things that political parties can learn from their success.

1. Scaled and personal
A major party cannot choose between niche communications and a single inclusive campaign message. In the digital landscape it shouldn’t have to – the opportunity exists to create a clear, compelling vision but then position the most relevant elements of it to the most relevant sub-groups, using the data that is now at their disposal.

2. Personalities over institutions
For an audience that has grown up with social media, personality is much more compelling than institutional authority. Find the most compelling, authentic personalities and give them as many opportunities as possible to engage directly with people. It is as important to think about whether these personalities are good listeners, empathetic and engaging, as whether they are institutionally sound. The messenger is the message.

3. Compass and radar
Youth audiences will expect you to respond at speed to events, particularly on social media, so you need brilliantly sharp radar for what is going on in culture. But quick wins are often soon forgotten and too much reaction without clear purpose will be judged harshly. You need to know your direction and stick to your compass.

4. Video is everywhere
One of the main restrictions of UK politics is on political TV advertising, but the rules of digital video are far more relaxed – which means your video can be held in the palm of people’s hands and shared effortlessly. Digital video is a huge opportunity to engage with younger audiences, but political parties are only beginning to explore it.

5. Follow the journey
The use of behavioural data needs to be explored carefully and only ever in an anonymised form and at an aggregate level. However, it is clear that you would want to position different messages between the politically engaged and the apathetic, between the likely swing voter and the relative loyalist. These data signals exist and therefore the opportunity to avoid irrelevance has never been greater.

6. Close the gap to transaction
The hardest gap to close will always be the gap to action – submitting a postal vote or going down to the polling station. Don’t underestimate the importance of the last 10 yards and of sending many reminders, countdowns and directional communications.

7. Transparency is mandatory
Social media, Twitter in particular, is like a massive, crowd-sourced transparency unit. You have to assume that any historical inconsistency, the provenance of any images, set of words or video, the conflict between personally held and publicly stated views, will be discovered almost immediately. Don’t let issues of transparency become bigger than the message itself.

8. Don’t assume voters are only young
It is easy for marketers to patronise youth audiences and attach old-fashioned stereotypes. Younger audiences are extremely engaged with the challenges of globalisation, with the challenges of the labour market and the battle for values around cultural inclusion. The media and style required to communicate may differ, but the messages still need to be a reflection of your fundamental vision of society and the values of your cause.

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