It’s the Message. Stupid!

British politicians are having a spot of bother at the moment because Remain’s messaging received an unforeseen, response.

Regardless of the side you backed, a legacy of the UK referendum on whether to stay in the EU represents a stark failure by the Remain camp to convey a clear, consistent and convincing message.

Messaging is intended to stimulate feedback: in financial writing and copywriting the right messaging should result in sales, enhanced reputation by inspiring, persuading and motivating your chosen audience.

The expected response to companies annual reports, marketing material, websites or the speeches delivered by its executives can be carefully planned and anticipated.

The words, the structure, the tone of voice are all engineered to elicit the desired response: to buttress existing support and to win over those with doubts.

The Remain camp seem to have achieved the opposite.

The massage is the message

As an exercise in communications the Brexiteers messaging was unambiguous. The reaction they received from their targeted section of the electorate is exactly as they would have hoped for, planned and expected. It was unequivocal.

While the Brexit messaging could be described as visceral, it could be argued that the Remain message was cerebral: they rolled up with the big guns of the Bank of England, the IMF, the IFS, OECD and all the Uncle Tom Cobleys who put the case for banks, fund managers and corporations who considered “Brexit” a threat to the British economy.

The question posed in the referendum was, “Do you want Britain to leave the European Union”? The question was binary. But the reaction from the electorate (outside London, Scotland and Northern Ireland) was less a rejection of the EU represented by Brussels, and more a challenge to the politics of Westminster and its "let's-pretend-they-are-not-there" attitude to those who live beyond the "M25 Island.

Wallets not Wall Street

Adopting Bill Clinton's apparently sure-fire, presidential election pitch that, “It’s the economy stupid”, the Remain camp message not only failed to ignite passion, they blundered entirely down the wrong street.

Bill Clinton was not talking about Wall Street’s economy, but the Main Street’s economy. Stupid!

Brexiteers achieved nothing less than precision in targeting their messaging to the intimate, personal concerns of voters. Instead of targeting the grassroots, Remain kicked (controversial) issues, about which the electorate felt passionate, into the long grass.

Spin unspun

When banks, asset managers and corporations have bad news or have to address difficult issues there may be a desire to spin their way out of it, confront it or simply ignore the issue in the hope that it goes away. In corporate communications choosing to do nothing is also a decision.

They can choose to differentiate messages, segment audience or address varied messages through different channels. But whatever the communications strategy even the most sophisticated and well-funded messaging can fall far short when the response to feedback fails, action on interaction falters and the full spectrum of reactions is not properly anticipated.

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