I was fascinated to hear Ed Milliband reveal that the Labour election tactics will be to engage in thousands of conversations. So is this a smart move?
Ed knows people are bored with being preached at – and no doubt politics in general.
We are all bored with people telling us what we should think because it suits them to do so. Especially when it’s so easy nowadays to tune out organisations that just drone on and on about some message they want to deliver.
And a conversation, on the face of it, is a lovely soft way of demonstrating the likeable quality of listening.
However there’s a sting in Labour’s tail.
Milliband went on to mobilise party members to use conversations to ‘make our case’. And that’s the problem.
If people know that the conversations are a simple tactic – like an army of Jehovah’s Witnesses – in a long line of tactics to ‘make our case’, Labour will undoubtedly be tuned out.
Let me show you what I mean.
I received an unsolicited call from my internet service provider over the weekend to ask (on the face of it at least) if I was happy with my service. I was but I had a specific issue – and I asked the caller to resolve it.
From the moment I took the caller off his very specific script, he began to struggle. He humoured me to a point before trying to coax me back into the sales call he always had planned (making his case).
And that’s the point where I lost interest, doubting if he honestly cared one way or another how I felt about the service.
PR people talk about conversations. But conversations are meaningless if they aren’t authentic. Conversations ebb and flow. And this idea that you’re only going to have conversations that you can control for the prime purpose of ‘making your case’ is a super quick way to get tuned out.
So, authentic conversations as a strategy? Good.
Conversations as a tactic to deliver a message? Bad.
Disclosure: I have no political leanings one way or another.
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