The Communications Fling

scottish independence

With only 8 months to go until the next UK general election, the dial on the amount of communication from politicians is about to turn up to full volume.  If the last few elections are anything to go by, our newspapers will soon be full of wise words from Westminster.  But in spite of all the noise, only 65% of the electorate turned up to vote in the last election and many people struggle to articulate mainstream political party policies.

My longstanding and keen interest in politics has been heightened by a 5 year stint working in a Government Department, and like many, I have been gripped by the Scottish independence referendum.  The daily drama played out on our TV screens feels to me like an exciting novel – where old enemies have become friends and a connection with history has stirred deep emotions.

Walk down an average street in Edinburgh and the conversation is no longer about the weather, summer holidays or the price of milk!  It’s now about the economy, welfare, social conditions, defence, North Sea oil…  Young and old, from all parts of society and from all walks of life, people have become informed and engaged with the issues that really matter.  In stark contrast with UK wide elections, voting turnout is expected to be around 90%.  Who would have thought?

Lessons learned

With many years of experience in helping organisations to communicate effectively, I’m fascinated by the many communication lessons that can be learned from this campaign.  My top three so far are:

  • Focussing on the positive.  The Yes campaign has won plaudits for creating a positive and clear vision of an independent nation.   In contrast, the No campaign focused on many of the negative consequences of Scotland leaving the UK including threats to national security, loss of jobs, loss of the pound, big companies moving their offices to London etc.
  • Appealing to the heart as well as the head.  The campaign has not all been about current political issues.  The No campaign has recently tried to strike a more emotional tone, calling on Scots “to feel the historic values” of the union.  In fact the Prime Minister recently used the word ‘heart’ saying “I would be “heartbroken if this family of nations was torn apart”
  • Real engagement with the voters.  This campaign has been less about information overload and more about conversation.  Strong ‘grass roots’ movements have created significant dialogue in local Town Halls, on the streets and through social media which has been bubbling with activity.

From politics to business

It’s no surprise that similar principles apply when organisations communicate with their employees.  In many organisations, the days of communication downloads are fading fast, replaced by a compelling narrative, authentic dialogue between leaders and employees, and a widespread involvement in the issues that really matter.  The corporate voice is fast being replaced by the employee voice, enabled by social media and other technology.

Your communication journey

What are your communications lessons from the campaign in Scotland?  How can you applying these lessons to the way your organisation engages employees?  What will enable the shift from good to brilliant on your communication journey?

As always, we will be delighted to share ideas and best practice with you.  Why not get in touch?

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