The notion of power is something which is often singularly affiliated with frontline politicians who are associated with making crucial, life-changing decisions. As a result, when there is political discontent, the sentiments of anger are solely directed to our elected representatives as they serve as the visual embodiment of the political decision-making process. Thus, power in politics can sometimes become synonymous with politicians.
Our masterclass with Sam Lyon, a Managing Director at the CT Group, made me realise that looking at the concept of power through one lens was highly myopic. The interactive session unearthed the importance that campaign strategists play behind the scenes in an attempt to shape people’s preferences so that they support a certain group. It accentuated that exercising authority is by no means the sole aspect of power, as the gaining and maintenance of one’s authority is equally as important. This was achieved more from behind the scenes.
Sam has an illustrious career having been the director of communications at City Hall, the Official Spokesperson for Boris Johnson when he was the Mayor of London, acting as the media director to Boris Johnson during his 2012 Mayoral campaign and now as Managing Director of the CT group. The CT Group is a political strategy organisation which aims to be the machine behind creating a positive image for their clients. In order to do this, they specialise in research which includes finding out the drivers and behaviours of the target audience, campaigns which entail influencing the media, and strategic counsel which entails gathering intelligence from the grassroots.
Ultimately, the work of the CT group can be simply viewed as communicating a positive brand on behalf of a group or an individual. The session was absolutely awesome, as it was filled with amazing insights into what makes a successful political campaign.
Sam’s simplistic yet methodical approach to delivering his content was very valuable and I left the session feeling inspired, energised and excited.
Yet, it was the theme of communication which constituted a large proportion of Sam’s talk. I would like to share some of the take-away points that I acquired from the masterclass.
He alluded to the fact that communication is as much about researching who you are communicating with as is what you are actually saying. Finding out who your audience is, what they want to listen to and why they would listen to you provides the key to being able to win them over. Moreover, in any campaign, you have the vision and the strategy. The vision is what you want to achieve and the strategy is how you will achieve this. The vision will often be the core of the campaign; it’s guiding principle, the doctrine by which the campaign must abide, the essence of what the campaign wishes to communicate and it will outline the end goal of the campaign. The strategy is simply how all of this will be achieved. Therefore, the strategy needs to be short, simple and clear.
Sam also touched upon the fact that in communication it is always about the message. As simple as this first sounded, he talked about how people often thought that the power of communication is primarily achieved through the effective use of social media as an end. While social media is secondary to the message, it serves as the mechanism through which the message will be delivered. Therefore having a good social media presence but a poor message will not bode well. An analogy which encapsulated this sentiment was owning a Ferrari but running it off cooking oil. He also touched on the importance of the message being able to win over the swing voter – the most important type of voter. Whilst the base and anti voters will have already made up their minds, it is the swing voters who will win elections. Here he used the example of Sir Lynton Crosby, a founder of the CT Group and a hugely successful political strategist who is often dubbed the political “King of Swing.”
The final message which Sam parted with was the importance of keeping things seriously simple. Often very important sentiments are diluted by the overcomplicated attempts to present the message. Effective communication can only be achieved by seeing the world through the eyes of the general populous.
Ultimately, I would like to extend my heartfelt appreciation to Sam on behalf of the Patchwork 2020 Masterclass cohort for such an excellent session.
Written by Mohammad Karim