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Top 6 Take-Aways from Political Campaigns in 2017

Digitizing of infrastructure

Political parties from Malaysia to Malta are all talking about and thinking about how to successfully digitize their infrastructure. Why? Because joined up processes and visibility from top to bottom of the organization increases effectiveness. You would not find a national company anywhere in the world who maintained local offices with local staff and did not have a singular system of operation. Politics is catching up on this with the advent of political technology in the last few years.

Fake news is real news

Fake news covers a multitude. Is it negative propaganda, coordinated trolling, or simple misinformation? Whatever the definition, the reality is that it is here to stay. Across the US Presidential campaign, it had a huge impact but it was present in all the major European elections also with the bogeyman of ‘Russian interference’ always in the background. To date, there is a degree of, ‘hopefully it won’t happen to me’, but it is obvious that, at a party level, organizations are developing strategies for combating fake news stories.

Politicians attitudes to voter lists/data

Voter data seems to have twin opposing narratives attached to it currently. These center on data privacy at one end and increasing detail at the other end. What is missed in these narratives is the large cohort of local politicians and candidates who usually just want a stripped down the database of voter name and address. The accuracy of this data is of paramount importance. Additional details on previous voting history or whether they like Japanese food are not as important because local politicians are used to filling in this information themselves anyway. Equally, the concerns around data privacy can be easily warded off by the more direct contact and opt-in of local election campaigns. More on this below.

Social media

The dominance in political circles of the two channels, Twitter and Facebook, has not been impacted in any way by challenges from Snapchat, Periscope, et al. Becoming adept at using both channels is now hugely important, both at election time and in peacetime. A couple of points to note on these from this year.
Video and Livestream are growing massively with those who are competent in this (presentation skills, engaging content and the right tools to record) gaining a considerable advantage.
FB ads are being used to bridge gaps in voter awareness of candidate or of an issue. This is legitimate and doesn’t have to cost much to get an impact.
Social is the frontline of fake news with the best exponents being able to set the agenda rather than put out fires.

Much greater uncertainty

Outsider victories and unexpected results have become the norm. Macron in France managed to completely oust decades of the political establishment in a matter of months by creating a movement, largely on social media. The UK Labour Party jumped from 24% to 40% in the polls in a matter of just 6 weeks! Politicians are nervous that old certainties have evaporated and they are changing their focus from internal teams like consultants, party mandarins, and their own polling companies. The new focus is on listening to the electorate through social media and face-to-face engagement. Existing party structures remain but it is more like a delayed take-up of the Steve Jobs mantra of ‘customer led innovation’. Voters now are central to decision making and messaging.

Data privacy

A huge topic in Europe this year with GDPR legislation coming in May 2018. Political parties in Europe are engaged in finding solutions to this issue and being prepared for that deadline. Preparation will be on three main fronts: cleaning up existing voter databases; installing processes for ongoing compliance with legislation; and installing software systems to handle this new reality.

In the US it is more a case of ‘wait and see’ what happens in Europe first. The lighter touch regulation means US political parties and candidates can freely purchase or source detailed voter data.

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