4 PR learnings from the Brexit debacle

31 January 2020 | 5 min read | News
Clearly Team

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Today is, unbelievably, Brexit Day.

After countless false starts, broken promises and shifting goalposts, on Friday 31st January at 11pm GMT, the United Kingdom will officially begin its formal transition out of the EU.

Whatever side of the political fence you fall on, for most of us, this now couldn’t come soon enough.

Over three years of front pages and prime-time TV have been dedicated to the campaign, the controversial referendum, the resulting political fallout and the ever-fluctuating deal. And now, there is finally the first glimmer of light at the end of a very long tunnel: progress is being made. We think.

As attention begins to shift towards what a post-Brexit world looks like for British citizens, it’s an opportune time to reflect back on the period that’s passed – and take away a few key learnings that can be readily applied to any communications campaign.

Keep your message simple

Day in, and day out, all of us as consumers are bombarded with marketing and advertising messages, vying for our attention. The level of noise is overwhelming and unavoidable. And that’s exactly why simplicity is essential to messaging.

Whatever your leanings, there’s no denying that the Leave campaign’s messaging was much stronger on the campaign trail. It had emotion, impact, and it resonated with voters. The Remain message, by contrast, was convoluted and clearly didn’t land as intended.

From day one, be clear on what you stand for and what you want your business to be known for. Define your message and build your communications around your key differentiator – it’s the only way to rise above the noise.

Know your audience

Do you know who your target audience is? Are you clear on their wants, needs, motivations and emotional triggers? Do your communications address these head-on?

Again, looking back with the benefit of hindsight, it’s all too easy to see that the Leave campaign had a far firmer grasp of how to influence and impact behaviour change by tapping into fear, insecurity and economic dissatisfaction – all highly relatable concerns. The Remainers, meanwhile, traded heavily on maintaining the status quo and affecting gradual change from within a system that many considered to be outdated and broken.

Audience profiling is an essential first step in any effective communications campaign. Take the time to research and scope out your target publics’ genuine desires – and the media that they regularly consume and trust – before going public with your message.

Don’t overpromise

Ah, the many broken Brexit promises. It’s hard to know where to begin.

This far down the line, we all know the story far too well, and are exhausted by the numerous twists, turns and outright lies from all parties.

Brexit has divided the nation – but we are all united in the fact that the many promises made, both on the campaign trail and in the aftermath of the referendum, have not been delivered on.

Trust is everything when it comes to a solid communications campaign. Increasingly media-savvy audiences expect transparency from firms and business leaders alike – and will be quick to turn to social media to vent their fury if trust is broken.

In today’s media landscape, only make promises that you’re sure you can deliver on. Don’t make claims publicly about an upcoming new product launch, job creation, expansion or any other ‘success story’ unless you are certain you can back it up.

Maintain momentum

Brexit started with a bang – but enthusiasm fizzled out just as quickly, in the wake of one of the most shambolic periods in our country’s political history. In 2020, you’d be hard pushed to find many members of the British public who can summon up any emotion other than apathy whenever the B word is now mentioned.

Without a strong pipeline of regular, positive news, even the greatest of communications campaigns can tail off. A bang can all too soon turn into a whimper.

Audiences can only be expected to remain interested and invested in your business for so long before something new catches their eye. So once you’ve garnered interest, don’t lose it. Keep the momentum going through powerful PR, content and social activity that adds value and openly encourages two-way engagement.

Careful planning lies at the heart of the very best communications campaigns. If you’re looking to get your business seen, heard and read by the people you want to do business with the most, get in touch with us today.