The Public Relations of General Election 2015
* This has undoubtedly been the most exciting General Election I have followed – and one where strategy, media relations training and presentational style made a huge difference
* Despite a tremendous amount of media training, there was an awkwardness and otherworldliness about the Labour Party leader that could not be erased
* David Cameron comes across as a serious bloke who knows when to look earnest and when to smile and laugh
* Where Nick Clegg as a party leader went wrong in trying to distance himself from the Coalition he had helped create. Rather than claiming credit for its successes, Nick Clegg and other senior Lib Dems ran rather negative campaigns – playing up their run-ins with their Conservative Cabinet colleagues and highlighting draconian Tory policies they had managed to leaven
* No one could have predicted how brilliant SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon would be at campaigning. She was the right woman at the right time
* It was good to see Caroline Lucas – an excellent MP from a rather half-baked party – retain her seat at Brighton Pavilion for the Greens
By Ollie Wilson, MatchFit Media
Having just sat up all night watching the results come in, I can say this has undoubtedly been the most exciting General Election I have followed and one where Public Relations strategy, media training and presentational style made a huge difference.
I have to admit I was not entirely surprised by the result.
I have been saying during the campaign, and before it, that I had a hunch that the Conservative Party would edge an overall majority, although, at times when looking at the opinion polls over the past few weeks, I had started to doubt my gut feeling.
General Election 2015: Media Training
Why did I have the hunch?
Well, two main reasons. Having seen Ed Miliband in action, he did not seem like prime ministerial material. Despite a tremendous amount of media training, there was an awkwardness and otherworldliness about the Labour leader that could not be erased.
To be fair, he performed better than expected presentationally during the campaign. But the big question remained: “Could you see this guy as Prime Minister?” Even if you supported his party, the answer for many was “no”.
Ed Miliband got his left-of-centre policies across pretty well but, again, for many, they may not have been vote-winners.
General Election 2015: Public Relations
David Cameron is a far slicker public relations machine than Ed Miliband.
I recall briefly interviewing David Cameron a few months before the last General Election to get a quote for a press release I was writing. Like a sound-bite machine-gun, he rattled out quotes almost faster than I could scribble them down.
David Cameron comes across as a serious bloke who knows when to look earnest and when to smile and laugh.
General Election 2015: Communication Skills
When I saw Ed Miliband in action at the CBI Conference last year, it occurred to me that for Ed Miliband these basic communication skills did not come naturally.
He seemed to take the whole thing as a bit of a jape, surely not his intention.
But these presentational factors alone go nowhere near explaining why Labour has been so comprehensively trounced by the Conservatives in this General Election.
Watching the BBC’s comprehensive and generally good coverage of the Election last night (I particularly liked BBC Scotland’s election programme), there was one point that seemed to confound the experts: why hadn’t the Liberal Democrats benefited from the economic successes of the Coalition Government of which they were such a key part?
Why had the Lib Dems been punished by the voters – when the Tories were rewarded?
General Election 2015: Media Relations Approach
I think I know the answer.
Firstly, many grassroots Lib Dem supporters are naturally left of centre in their politics.
To see their leader Nick Clegg sell out their principles to grasp power was sickening to them. And we are not just talking about education fees here, an appalling betrayal though that was.
In his background and approach to media relations, Nick Clegg is too similar to David Cameron to make the argument that the Lib Dems were merely acting in the nation’s interests by forming the Coalition Government with the Conservatives.
General Election 2015: PR Disaster
What came across was that crafty old Nick was using his relatively low number of seats and fortunate position to take a once-in-a-lifetime shot at power – and be Deputy Prime Minister.
Of course, with really big jobs comes prestige and tons of publicity.
We saw last night how easily the Deputy Prime Minister retained his own seat.
Where Nick Clegg as a party leader went wrong was to distance himself from the Coalition he had helped create. This was his PR disaster.
Rather than claiming credit for their successes, Nick Clegg and other senior Lib Dems ran negative campaigns – playing up their run-ins with their Conservative Cabinet colleagues and highlighting draconian policies they had managed to leaven.
This was not what the electorate wanted to hear: that the Libs Dems had taken their share of power from the Tories without the common courtesy to thank them for it!
They were having their cake and eating it.
That’s why I believe they have been slaughtered in England in this election.
General Election 2015: Personal PR
Scotland was the amazing story of the night and the election campaign.
No one could have predicted how brilliant SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon would be at campaigning and personal PR. She was the right woman at the right time.
Nationalist Scots wanted their revenge for losing the Independence Referendum. Unionist Scots wanted their revenge for the Westminster parties’ broken promises.
Watching BBC Scotland’s superb coverage of the SNP’s landslide victory was one of the most thrilling spectacles I have enjoyed on TV.
It was like Labour’s landslide in 1997 – but more so – with incredible swings of almost 40 percent.
Where I believe Sturgeon and Salmond slipped up a tad was in rubbing Ed Miliband’s nose in the stinky idea that he would have to form a pact or coalition with the SNP to form a government.
The SNP did not need to do this to win handsomely in Scotland, and it helped the Conservatives in England.
There are plenty of natural Labour and Liberal Democrat supporters who would rather see a Tory government than have the SNP in power at Westminster.
General Election 2015: PR Strategy
Nicola Sturgeon’s PR strategy won Scotland hands down but cost her the chance of power in a UK government. Yes, you can be too good at something.
Caroline Lucas‘ PR Skills
What about the other parties? It was good to see Caroline Lucas – an excellent MP from a rather half-baked party – retain her seat at Brighton Pavilion for the Greens.
The rumours emanating from her Labour rival Purna Sen’s camp was that they were neck-a-neck when they were not even close.
Caroline is brilliant at media relations and her PR skills did her a power of good.
General Election 2015: PR Profile
In the end Ukip was all huff and no puff this time round.
Sure, their share of the vote was significant and, with a greatly increased second place and third place level of success, they will continue to grow.
But blokey Nigel Farage – who has a great PR profile in the national media – could not even win his own seat and has quit as leader.
It remains to be seen if Tigger will make a comeback!
The real losers were the opinion pollsters who got it so horribly wrong during the course of the campaign.
As for exit polls, I would like to see them banned. Because the BBC exit poll was so accurate, it spoiled much of the entertainment of General Election 2015 night.
If the drama had unfolded seat by seat without foreknowledge of the likely overall outcome, it would have been so much more fun!
* This article is purely the view of Ollie Wilson, a Brighton-based PR specialist who provides media training and media coaching and crisis communication training and crisis support in Sussex and London.