Time is of the essence in developing and delivering lasting and high-impact communications strategies and messaging, and the snap general election makes this an even bigger challenge for prospective Members of Parliament.
With only a month to go, articulating policies to the electorate is going to mean that the team have to work hard to work out exactly what it is they want to say, who they want to say it to and how, in order to build up support and win over voters.
This week, Victoria explains the process of message development for an election campaign team and the key milestones for the new candidates.
What are the next four weeks going to look like for general election candidates? How do the core campaign team devise, develop and deliver top lines and manifesto pledges?
This week the official papers will have been submitted by the campaign teams and the final list of candidates will be confirmed. So now is the perfect time to talk through the top ten priorities the campaign teams will be actioning this weekend.
The candidates’ first task will be to announce their candidacy to the press. Ultimately, the sooner people know who the candidate is– the more time the communications lead has to embed a familiar name and face ahead of polling day. It is at this point that we first get a glimpse of the tone the candidate wishes to set and the angle they will take on the election (including what they want to tell the world about themselves and what their key manifesto pledges are). Do take note at this point as you can learn a lot about what the candidate is passionate about from their background and working life, as well as the more obvious statements on their campaign priorities.
As they say, ‘a week is a long time in politics’, and that is certainly true of recent political events. At this point in time, candidates will be relying heavily on their supporters to spread the message and so they will already be briefing volunteers and activists on how they can help, what the party’s policies are and why the local candidate is the best person for the job of MP so they can ensure the troops are campaigning most effectively.
Even when candidates are selected months or years out from a general election, one of their first tasks will be to select an Agent. Their second task will be to select a Campaign Manager/s. These key people will help fashion the messaging, disseminate policy pledges and motivate activists to deliver them.
The core campaign team will need to agree how much money they are going to spend on what, and when, within the legal spending limits and short timescale (between now at 8th June).
Establishing a timeline of campaigning. Working back from polling day this will include; doorstep canvassing, phone canvassing, direct mail drops, non-targeted literature drops, street stalls, hustings, Q&As, social media activity, press opportunities, fundraising events, rallies and more.
It is the Agent’s responsibility to ensure all the legal stuff is in place. This includes overseeing nomination papers, candidate forms, agent forms, postal vote drop, selection of polling agents and counting agents and so forth.
Plan for polling day: This will typically be divided into 3-4 phases throughout the day. Each phase means a new round of literature and possibly slightly different targeted conversation topics for the doorstep. Therefore, the campaign team need to ensure they write very concise copy for each round of literature to ensure the voters are swayed by last minute reminders to go and vote (and more importantly, for their candidate).
Plan for the count. This involves; briefing and training counters, writing winning and losing speeches for the candidate and briefing spokespeople on top lines for the press.
By now, the campaign team should have an excellent knowledge of what is happening when as well as key pledges. The challenge now is working out how they will deliver these messages to the electorate and how the messaging will unfold and develop throughout the election period. Given the speedy turnaround required for the June election, it will be hard to properly target materials or organise targeted messaging via different channels, as it takes time to establish a wider narrative based around the candidate’s experiences or local events.
Getting on with the job. Here’s an idea of what that includes for the candidate, agent and campaign managers:
Measurement and evaluation