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How to get your PR campaign election ready

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has called the next general election for the 4th July. Amidst the media frenzy and mass speculation, Martin Deakin, account manager at PR Agency Stone Junction, takes a closer look at how to get your PR campaign election ready, and what the core talking-point battlegrounds will be for this election.

Late last year, I visited London for the 2023 Public Affairs Conference, co-hosted by the PRCA and political analysis firm Polimonitor. While political views in the room were divided, everyone agreed on one thing - a general election is coming. So, what issues are dominating in 2024? Is your public affairs campaign even election-ready? Here Martin Deakin Chart.PR, account manager at Stone Junction, discusses.

At the conference, I watched panel discussions with party analysts and even ex-Number 10 staffers. Everyone had their own thoughts on the issues that would dominate 2024, but a clear theme developed.

The green agenda

Climate was first on the agenda. Back in 2021, the UK Government announced its plan to decarbonise all sectors by 2050 and, since then, net zero has dominated climate policy. Today, the green agenda is at the forefront of many of the political parties’ strategies - commentators agree, for example, that last year’s Uxbridge and South Ruislip byelection was won and lost because of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) policy in London.

A poll of MPs last year, found that almost nine out of ten (86%) support the UK’s net zero climate target, with only 14% of Conservative and 2% of Labour MPs opposing. Although a broad consensus is nice to see, could it limit the ability of science, technology and engineering firms to influence policy?

The short answer is no, because of good governance. Most MPs and government ministers are gifted amateurs that rely on input from academics, trade bodies and business to develop legislation. Ongoing challenges, like the rising sea level, will always bring challenges, such as coastal erosion, that governments must respond to - and businesses could hold the answers.

Artificial intelligence (AI)

Another discussion point was the impact of AI and the debate that surrounds large language models (LLMS). It’s no secret that AI chatbots like ChatGPT carry the risk of spreading false or misleading information, or hallucinations, but is the UK actually prepared for this?

According to former Justice Secretary Sir Robert Buckland, "Unless the policymakers [in the UK] are showing some leadership on the need for a strong and effective domestic set of guardrails - plus international work - then we are going to be behind the curve."

Last October, the UK Government passed the Online Safety Bill, which criminalises the sharing of deepfake porn, but there’s still more to be done to protect people from the negative effects of AI. The onus is on tech experts to open the discussion around these generative tools and guide lawmakers on regulation. For example, more firms may call for the tightening of laws around deepfakes, or even new laws.

Getting election-ready

Presenting evidence to parliamentary committees like the Environment and Climate Change Committee or submitting research for parliamentary POSTnotes are valuable mechanisms of influence, but not in the run-up to an election. Once an election is called, the parliamentary session ends and MPs automatically lose their seats.

At this point, go back to the grassroots and start contacting parliamentary candidates based on their constituency, interests, and experience. You never know who will hold power after polling day, so cast a wide net and network with candidates with different political leanings, and MPs from across the House.

You’d be surprised how eager new Parliamentary candidates are to get involved with local issues, so having them fight your corner could be a real bonus. Working with members of the shadow cabinet and ministers will also stand you in good stead for when they hold power.

From all the panels and presentations I heard that day, it’s clear that voters, businesses and politicians need to get on an election footing. If you’re a science, technology or engineering specialist, now’s the time to share your expertise with the powers that be. We recommend working with an industry-specific lobbying partner who can integrate public affairs in PR campaigns and help deliver a strong influence strategy.

Article written by Martin Deakin at Stone Junction

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