Political Manifestos and
Business Strategies

The art of communicating to win

At the midway point in the election campaign, each of the main parties has launched their manifestos; their pitch to voters of what they’ll do should they get into government on 5 July.

Each manifesto has been forensically researched and articulated, designed to inspire voters old and new through a careful blend of ambition, confidence and realism. At the heart of their approach is harnessing voter insights to understand precisely what audiences are demanding and communicating in a way that speaks directly to their needs.

Take the Labour Party, who, in a bid to speak to both their heartland and to business at once, have promised a ‘tax lock for working people’, alongside a new National Wealth Fund and a raft of reforms to enable growth without penalising their core audience. And of course, their central message of change is an unashamed bid to attract younger voters while inspiring reminiscence among the disillusioned who remember their 1997 landslide win.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives want to convince voters that ‘the plan is working’, allowing them to offer tax cuts as evidence of a successful legacy and that they can be trusted to continue to protect voters’ best interests.

In many ways, party manifestos are the political equivalent of business strategies: audience-centric roadmaps to shape the future and, ultimately, to win. At Brands2Life, we work closely with clients to articulate and realise their strategies, providing an in-depth understanding of their key stakeholders, what they want to hear and crafting communications to meet audience needs.

We know, from experience, that there are five things that both manifestos and business strategies need to do if they are to succeed.

1. Build credibility

For political parties and businesses alike, credibility is key.

Political parties build their credibility by rolling out manifestos that showcase their values, past wins, and future promises, fine-tuned to the aspirations of the electorate. Traditionally, with some notable exceptions, they avoid significant surprises.

Business strategies share common themes, leveraging evidence of good governance and past successes to assure employees, shareholders, and a wider network of stakeholders that promises of growth can be believed.

Credibility is the bedrock of the relationships each seeks to build, whether it’s with voters or customers.

2. Plan to deliver

The days of hyperbole and business rhetoric have passed: leaders know that if their strategies are to persuade, they must be accompanied an actionable plan for delivery. Audiences today are mistrusting of promises alone. Take environmental claims: seven in 10 Brits don’t believe environmental claims by businesses are credible, giving rise to a wave of sustainability transition plans which now accompany corporate green pledges.

Likewise, political parties know their manifestos cannot rely on creative writing alone. The pithily titled Labour Party manifesto, Change, may promise a new future, but sceptical voters will be looking for detail on how change is to be effected before they are convinced.

At the core of persuading an audience is clear, compelling messaging, not only on the vision but about the plan too.

3. Avoid unwelcome surprises

Stability is critical to both a manifesto and a business strategy.

Traditionally, political parties side-step controversial or unexpected policies in their manifestos to avoid alienating voters, while businesses aim to present stable, reliable growth plans, avoiding any risks that might spook investors or customers.

Both need to strike a balance between ambition and realism, ensuring their promises are solid and achievable to avoid hitting bumps in the road.

4. Showmanship matters

While stability is vital, so too is theatre.

Political parties throw in visionary projects or reforms to excite voters, or adopt outlandish techniques to get themselves heard and introduce them to a range of voters – cue Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey, who’s campaign has taken in paddleboarding, rollercoasters, and obstacle courses, to name a few.

Against a challenging commercial backdrop, many businesses similarly pivot, innovate and expand to create buzz and investor interest, often keeping these final surprises under wraps until the last moment. The more you can surprise audiences with a credible offer, the better.

5. Context counts

In the same way that political parties need to adapt their manifesto to reflect where they are in a political cycle, business strategy reflects where a company is commercially. Acknowledging situational realities can help businesses and political parties alike prioritise their audiences and corresponding messaging. A struggling business will relentlessly focus on aggressive turnaround plans to calm investors, while a market leader focuses on deepening trust to keep its top spot and maintain steady growth.

Likewise with the manifestos, you can see political parties acknowledge the reality of their standing:  as the incumbent, the Conservatives are leaning on stability to assuage economic and geopolitical turmoil, while Labour is the challenger, seeking to turn the page for a new generation of voters.

Time will tell which party most accurately tuned into the mood of the nation. As for business, the field is wide open for new winners once a new government is in seat.