The irony of debating digital elections in Churchill’s War rooms was not lost on those attending The Marketing Society and RadiumOne’s brilliant dinner discussion.
Political comms strategies of the past two years were not as coherent as those debated in those same rooms 75 years ago. However, the venue was perfect for a cracking conversation on data, communications and political campaigning.
Everyone at dinner shared their best political moment from the past twelve months – from fake news and social media ‘echo-chambers’ to the numerically-challenged Diane Abbott. The BBC’s political correspondent Steve Richards kicked off the debate with anecdotes of Blair courting media moguls, May’s campaign mismanagement and even Harold Wilson being pelted with eggs – which, according to Wilson, demonstrated high levels of household income and spending on eggs under his government!
With an array of media and data experts around the table it was inevitable that some sharp observations on digital electioneering would emerge – and they did.
There was a consensus that holding data is useless unless it is used wisely during campaign. Although used in the US to pinpoint swing voters and issues that mattered most during an election, data contained insights that was rarely exploited during the recent spate of elections.
Unless the pin-point insights drawn from the science of data make astute use of the art of interpretation, key opportunities are missed.
In terms of effective traits in social media, politicians that were more authentic - BoJo and Trump - cut through more than those conforming to a brief - May and Clinton. Fake news and scare-mongering stories are making people distrust politics. Traditional media in particular is seemingly more fatigued as the political establishment, so voters are turning to outsiders for solutions.
So much was vented over food and wine that there was a sense we all put the world to rights. Which, in a different era, was pretty much what Churchill’s War Rooms were for!
By Professor Paul Springer, University of East London