Last Thursday was the most important day of the political year for me - polling day in the local elections. I wasn't up for re-election this year, but we managed to secure a decent majority for my ward colleague after a hard fought campaign in very difficult electoral times for our party.
Politics is essentially a battle of ideas, but ideas are useless unless you communicate them. There is a myth that political communications is just about catchy slogans - the slogans only gain traction when there is some evidence to back them up. In our case, the slogan was our candidate "works hard all year round, not just at election time" - which we repeated ad nauseum - but we had plenty of evidence, much of it photographic, that this was indeed true, not just empty words.
One of the most interesting cases in green politics was when now Prime Minister David Cameron was 'decontaminating the brand' of his Conservative Party by embracing the green agenda. Not only was the catchy slogan "Vote Blue, Go Green" coined along with a new 'tree' logo for the party, but Cameron famously flew out to the arctic to see the effects of climate change for himself and pose for photos hugging huskies. This effort was extremely successful at first, but his green credibility then eroded over time as he failed to return to the subject with such vigour.
There are three clear lessons here for green communications:
- A catchy slogan is very helpful - such as Marks & Spencer's "Plan A: because there is no Plan B". This should be repeated until you are fed up hearing it, and beyond, as that's generally when it is starting to get through.
- The slogan needs backing up with substance - 'show, don't tell' is the key success factor here - actions, pictures and video speak much louder than words. The stories must also resonate with the audience (the huskies in Cameron's case got more coverage than melting ice).
- You can't expect the message to be self-sustaining. The programme and its communications must be maintained, refreshed and if anything expanded over time.
What you end up with is a slogan that runs like a thread through a whole series of stories demonstrating that slogan in practice. And, as I rest my sore feet from weeks of pounding the pavements, I can assure you it works.