Storytelling – how everyone can be a winner in elections

After staying up til 01:00am to watch the results of the EU elections in the UK, I noticed that no matter what party an interviewee was from, they somehow were a winner. This is just a great example of how storytelling and owning your narrative can turn any situation in your favour.

Firstly, I am writing this from a neutral point of view. There is no intention for political bias to this piece.

To kick things off – here’s what happened – pure facts. As you can see from the table below, here’s what happened. Now although this may give a top-line picture of the election’s results, it doesn’t really tell the story that different parties might want.

© BBC News Website (2019) – European Election 2019: UK results in maps and charts

How different statements can benefit different parties

The power of a headline statement is remarkable. All of the statements I have created below are valid and are about the same election. However, from these statements, you’d think each party has played a blinder!

Brexit Party
Even after just 6 weeks, the Brexit Party have managed to secure 31% of the vote – winning more MEPs than the Conservatives, Labour, the Greens and the SNP combined!

Liberal Democrats
The Liberal Democrats have gone from 1 to 16 MEPs, having dominated the UK’s capital’s polling, gaining three MEPs in the region outperforming both the Conservative and Labour Party.

The Green Party
Despite having just one MP, the Greens have managed to secure nearly 500,000 more votes than the Government party, more than doubling their total MEPs.

Scottish National Party
Nationalist party, the SNP secure 37.8% of the Scottish vote – double that of the Brexit Party, up from 29% in 2014.

Labour
As the official UK Government opposition, Labour have outperformed the Conservative Party by 835,000 votes including strong performances in London and the North West.

The Conservative Party
Despite turbulence during the negotiating period and a PM resignation, the Conservative Party have remained strong returning 4 MEPs in the European Parliament.

As you can see, as you go down the performance charts, this does become harder, however, this doesn’t mean that there can’t be a positive story.

Can you make wider statements?

During the analysis period, there has been a lot of debate about the pro-Brexit vs. Remain vote. As you can imagine, this is where storytelling can play a big role especially if you want to own the story.

If you look at the success of the Brexit Party, some would say that the growth of 31% and overall performance, suggests that this provides a strong appetite for Brexit.

However, someone could say that 24.2% of that vote share may have come from the demise of UKIP leaving, with just a growth of 7.4%, which is less than the growth of anti-Brexit, Liberal Democrats.

“It is quite interesting the Brexit Party have repeated UKIP’s success from 2014. We have seen a clear switch from UKIP to The Brexit Party.”

Appearing on BBC, Brexit campaigner Suzanne Evans (The Express)

Obviously, the issue with these stories is that we really just don’t know if UKIP voters and pro-Brexit Conservative voters moved over given the confidential nature of our voting system, however, owning the story can allow you to start painting the picture you want.

© BBC News Website (2019) – European Election 2019: UK results in maps and charts

On the flip side, if you combine the votes of Liberal Democrats, SNP, Greens, Change UK and Plaid Cymru, you can say that the anti-Brexit parties outperformed the Pro-Brexit parties by over 5%.

However, critics have said that people will vote for those parties for other reasons such as the environment, devolution or changes in domestic politics. Whereas people who vote UKIP or the Brexit Party may be more inclined to vote on the main issue of Brexit.

As you can see, even though there is one set of results, from one election, there can be hundreds of different stories depending on who you ask.

One issue is that this creation of stories can upset some individuals – as you can see from this tweet, therefore, think carefully before you craft a story – it might not always work in your favour.

So what does this mean?

If you’re looking at the election results, obviously you’ll want to craft a story that benefits your cause the most and there’s no shame in that. However, one thing that we must all remember is that if we are going to create a story, it must be based on facts and evidence.

There can be no doubt that the Brexit Party had the most votes and MEPs – however, as you can tell, there can be other areas where you can see and communicate positives for your cause.

Finding positives can take work, and usually that work comes in the form of effective and detailed analysis reinforced by strong public relations.

Elections are one of the most interesting things to observe, as you can see alongside the policies and politicians, there is often a team of hugely talented communicators and insights professionals.

These professionals will have to do a huge amount of work, often under a lot of pressure with short time frames. So, when you’re seeing the spin in action, spare a thought for your comms counterparts in the world of politics.


If you have any comments or areas that you think I may have missed, please do let me know.

Follow me on Twitter for more updates . . . @BradTheCommsGuy

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