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Leon Emirali is a media entrepreneur and co-founder of Crest, a digital PR agency. He is a Conservative candidate in the local elections in London.

Since Brandon Lewis’s appointment as Chairman of the Conservative Party, a lot has been made about his commitment to take the battle to Labour in the online world. Whilst this is welcome, the reality is that the war for social media has been over for a number of years now. Despite the tangible improvements to the way the Party communicates online since the General Election, it’s too little too late.

Clearly, social media should not be disregarded entirely, but there is no glory in finishing an admirable second. Instead, the Party should be looking at how they can capture the next frontier of digital communications. And this needs to start now.

Although it’s unlikely that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are going to disappear anytime soon, there are a number of new digital communication methods that are soon to break into the mainstream. Below, I’ve explored a few techniques that are likely to become commonplace in the private sector and that the Tories should look to replicate before Labour/Momentum get the chance.

Messenger bots

We are about to see an explosion of chatbots and instant messaging when it comes to marketing and communication. Early adopter brands such as Sky Scanner and Harper Collins are already using this scalable method of digital communication effectively. Users can now search for flights by simply conversing with Sky Scanner as they would a friend in messenger apps (e.g ‘How much would it cost to fly to Barcelona?’). Whereas Harper Collins provide book recommendations for users who tell their bot who their favourite author is and stating other books they have enjoyed reading.

This kind of technology should be implemented by the Conservatives to create a more personable touch that allows the public to keep track of what’s going on in the Party and in government. For example, by adding a ‘Theresa May bot’ on WhatsApp, users can ask ‘what’s going on with Brexit?’ and be given a bitesize, conversational overview of the progress being made. Not only does this help the public feel closer to the Prime Minister, but it bypasses the occasionally distortive filter of the news media by going direct to the voter.

Virtual reality

Whilst we are still waiting for the true advent of mainstream VR, given the amount of cash tech giants such as Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Google are ploughing into VR research it seems only a matter of time.

The Party should be investing time and resource into gaining a strong foothold in the major VR platforms. Voters can then take a seat in the Cabinet Room or see what it’s like to be at the despatch box during PMQs. This immersive content will enable voters to feel part of the conversation and much closer to the action.

Voice and IPAs

Intelligent personal assistants (IPAs), such as the Amazon Alexa and Google Home systems, are becoming increasingly popular amongst consumers and it’s a widely held understanding that they will play a key role in media consumption over the next few years. There is an opportunity for Party spokespeople to record a short daily or weekly audio message for inclusion in a ‘flash briefing’ that outlines plans for the day/week ahead. Again, this will allow the Party to be heard directly by voters and create a sense of intimacy given it’ll be read by the voices of Conservative politicians. If these flash briefings go live in the morning, it also gives the opportunity to shape the media agenda for the day ahead, much in the same way the BBC’s Today programme and other morning broadcasts do currently.

Put frankly, the Party needs to recognise that there is no point closing the barn door long after the horse has bolted. Now is the time to get the basics right on social media and begin planning the Party’s digital communications strategy with both eyes set firmly on the future. Failure to do so could see the Conservatives slide into a perennial game of catch-up as they struggle to position themselves as an innovative and exciting party that is truly fit for the future.

17 comments for: Leon Emirali: Forget social media. Focus on the next frontier of digital campaigning.

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