Should PR (and Politics) be more regional?

April 4, 2008

With my Yellow Rosette pinned to my coat lapel, my clipboard stuffed with fresh sheets of paper and an earnest, trustworthy and caring expression, I left my house and headed for the mean streets of Cambridge. I haven’t become a door to door salesman, but a council candidate for the upcoming local elections.

If truth be told, Cambridge isn’t a very ‘mean’ place to canvass at all, in fact there are a probably few easier places one could start their political career than the middle class utopia of this famous University town, but still, signatures don’t write themselves (unless you live in a safe Labour seat in Birmingham) and I had doors to knock.

My first observation from my two nights campaigning is that people are a lot friendlier than you expect them to be. One family were so delighted that ‘someone’ from their party was standing that they gathered the whole family together to sign my nomination form and heartily wished me the best of luck (in case you were wondering, I need lottery-esque luck to win the seat). There were of course those people who spied you with suspicion (one woman told me she had the flu and that I should leave immediately unless I didn’t want to get ‘very’ ill) but they were a minority.

I didn’t meet the wave of apathy that I had been expecting, instead confusion reigned.

“are you from the same party as Boris Johnson”

“I think Labour do a good job in this area” (both council and MP have been Lib for the last few years)

“I was against the War in Iraq so I am sorry I just can’t support you”

Does PR (and as part of that, Politics) speak to regional areas in a way we think it does? Not so long ago I worked on a public sector campaign and before we actually had any stats at all, we wrote the press release and left gaps where we later inserted ‘regional’ variation. Does the blind determination to tell the local story contrary to any evidence for that story really help you or the client?

My argument is clearly no.

I think we’ve become accustomed to a London way of thinking in the last few years that is beginning to blight Politics and the news agenda as a whole. As an example of this, consider the way in which the 2012 Olympic debate has been fought and lost. One local campaigner told me the other day that they wanted Cambridge to be an Olympic free zone… What an utter disaster that our biggest opportunity to challenge child obesity and under performance has been turned into a negative thing because the country as a whole has been let down by miscounting and bad PR.

A question then. Are PR agencies that are only based in London equipped to tell the local angle that a story so often needs to cut through the apathy?

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2 Responses to “Should PR (and Politics) be more regional?”

  1. David Child Says:

    You may have a point. Regional journalists often complain about London PRs sending them irrelevant and geographically un-targeted press releases – a prime example is someone having no clue where any town north of Watford is. However, it needn’t be that way. Any simple media research (not to mention a quick look on Google Maps) will demonstrate which newspapers are likely to use a story relating to a particular area. We work across the UK – securing stories in media from Scotland to Kent as well as our Yorkshire homeland. Adhere to local journalits’ areas, give them an interesting, creative and relevent story and they’ll lap it up like any national journalist would.

    The key for any PR is to appreciate the power of local and regional media to people – I’ve blogged previously (http://questprblog.com/32/plugging-the-gap-left-by-the-local-gossip/) about how we feel greater trust in our local journalists as members of our own communities. Don’t understimate the impact of securing coverage in the Manchester Evening News, Western Mail and the Scotsman – not to mention the Bexley Chronicle – it all speaks to a targeted audience and may well have a greater influence on its readers.

    Good luck with the election campaign

  2. Stuart Mackinnon Says:

    I recently read a press release from a major business organisation, based in London, that described the Scottish Parliament as an assembly.

    I almost wept.


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