I very seldom comment on politics, but this is one I cannot ignore. Last night, the Johnson v Corbyn Leaders Debate aired on ITV. Yet unexpectedly, that’s not what conversation on Twitter was necessarily geared towards.
Granted, the debate was rather mundane. Nothing particularly controversial happened and, unsurprisingly, Brexit rather dominated the whole discussion. So, for a short while it seemed as though there were no major dramas for either political party – the perfect outcome, some might say?
The Tories (Or The Fact Checkers?!)…
Obviously, that didn’t last for long though.
The Conservative party quickly generated a lot (and not the good kind) of attention in light of the questionable rebranding of their ‘Campaign Headquarters’ Twitter account. There’s typically nothing too groundbreaking about a change in branding, unless of course, you decide it would be a great idea to change the brand of your party entirely. (Not a bright idea… you’d think). That’s the ingenious thought that the tories had last night, as they changed their Twitter name, profile picture and header to suggest that they were, in fact, a Fact-Checking service.
They leveraged this, of course, to ‘fact check’ all the contentions Corbyn made during the debate. Giving social media users the illusion that a verified service was checking through the pledges and rubbishing them (which, as I found out on the radio yesterday, is actually a real service in Britain). It’s easy to buy into this when, on your newsfeed, you see the Twitter name ‘factcheckUK’ alongside a supporting logo and above all – the verified blue tick.
It was totally misleading for many, many people.
…And Their Public Backlash
I’m sure, as I did, most comms professionals across the country shuddered at this. The epitome of not only tacky marketing, but also unethical politics.
The Conservative Party had a real opportunity to capitalize on the debate last night, as both leaders made pretty validated arguments. But instead, they chose to throw that all away by making the controversial decision to discredit anything their opposition said, all the while pretending to be somebody else. A major ‘oops’ to say the least.
And it wasn’t just us PR people who were largely puzzled and somewhat offended by the Tories’ rebrand. The media, as well as the general public, have largely expressed their disappointment with the party. Calling the stunt distasteful and disrespectful. I’ve seen comments from people illustrating this move as a backwards step for politics, and others who’ve argued that in cheap taste, this stunt may have just lost the party some of their on-the-fence voters.
I get that, to an extent. As you want the political party you’re voting for to be honest and reliable. Not tacky and unprofessional. Which, in my opinion, are words all too kind to describe this shoddy marketing effort. For those who aren’t too sure who they’re going to vote for this December (and I know there’s a fair few), I’m pretty much 100% confident that this spin-doctoring has done the Conservative party no favours at all. You can be political, without being discourteous; and you can generate publicity without being ill-mannered. Yes their social media antics have placed the Tory party much more in public eye than the Labour party have been since the debate, but for all the wrong reasons. Being controversial is fine to an extent, but this is wrong on so many levels.
Let’s shout it louder for those in the back…
Not all publicity is good publicity.
Can They Recover?
I suppose the million-dollar-question to ask now is: can the party recover from this mishap?
#FactCheckGate has now been widely accepted as an unpalatable move on their part. And the rebrand had to be quickly rebranded once again after Twitter intervened and accused the party of misleading voters. But has this put a stain on the Conservative Party’s political campaign moving forward?
There are just a few weeks to go until the General Election, and I can’t deny that I believe this will have some effect. Especially for people who, as mentioned earlier, were undecided on who’d get their vote. I don’t think that this poor sighted decision will cause the ruination of the Conservative party, and I don’t doubt that with a few powerful PR tricks and diversion tactics, they’ll be able to make a recovery. However, this being said, I truly do believe that this had put a tarnish on the party’s reputation that may never be able to be wiped clean. At the end of the day, the Tories really put themselves out their last night as a party who are dishonest and who are up for tricking the public.
If they’re behaving like this on social media, then what hope does that give us in trusting their policies? Can we believe anything they have to say now? Thoughts on a postcard below or on Twitter please, I’d love to know what you think.