Ed Miliband has realized photo opportunities don’t work for him. He has recognized that he needs to engage with his public. So why did he come to this conclusion?
The public have become weary of “Spin” in politics: carefully choreographed photo opportunities where politicians convey their message while cuddling a cute baby, or giving support and condolences to victims of natural disasters.
With social media, and mean photographers, these can be chances for negative messages. Bystanders tweeting that said MP stayed long enough for a photo opportunity, media sound bite, but not long enough to provide support. But we all know of, and laugh at photo opportunities: only yesterday Ed Miliband was confronted by a Wallace and Gromit image of him, by Andrew Marr. Also his bacon sandwich image has reached legendary heights!
I am therefore intrigued to hear that Ed is planning to “Engage” with his voters. In other words, he has recognized that not everyone engages with images – in fact many openly doubt them or are cynical. Also it is worthwhile being aware that not everyone is a ‘visual’ person. In this visual world, it is easy to forget that not everyone engages with this method of communication; some people have other communication preferences.
So it is no surprise that Ed Miliband has recognized how important “Engaging” with potential voters is. He is planning to have regular Q and A sessions with voters and LISTENING to them.
Let me tell you about my MP, Grant Shapps. He engages with his constituents and is an excellent constituency MP. He has been involved in high profile local ‘Fights’ including the closure of the local hospital. And most recently, he campaigned against an appalling incinerator to be built very close to residential areas. The fight went to the high court and Hertfordshire County Council have admitted they spent £6M fighting the objections. Grant has created an image of caring for local issues; issues that concern his voters. He is active in ensuring he is visible in these campaigns and keeps in touch with constituents via email, local public speaking and even phone calls. I have heard so many ‘Good’ stories from other local constituents.
Engagement isn’t JUST about providing pretty images and sound bites for the media, but having a two way interaction. I often despair at companies that have no phone number or visible contact form on their websites. Do they not wish to have a conversation with their customers? The same goes to responding to emails or phone calls. Of course we are all busy, but responding to an enquiry is part of running a business: not all businesses do this!
I understand that old style politics relied on politicians meeting voters; listening; talking to them and having a conversation. Perhaps the time has come for all politicians to communicate in this way rather than relying on photo calls and 15 second sound bites. And as for we mere mortals: do we need to review our communication styles to include two way engagement with our clients?