PR’s Influence Behind Brexit

Whoever said PR isn’t powerful, think again. An article on O’Dwyer’s website, DC Shop Credited with Brexit Campaign Win, discussed how a DC PR and issues management company helped engineer the successful Leave campaign in Britain, mainly with social media and “making the issue personal with individual voters.” One of the ways they did this was with testimonials from regular people like parents, farmers, students and healthcare workers. The other camp focused on high-profile individuals and politicians.

Social media was responsible for most of their success. They built their followers to 100,000 on Twitter and 800,000 on Facebook, with weekly posts that “often exceeded 20 million people.” Controversy works when it comes to attracting attention.

Public affairs campaigns are often an effective way to get public opinion on your side. Pharmaceutical and automobile companies do them all the time, with letter writing campaigns, op-eds and editorials.

I once worked on a public affairs campaign that involved defending margarine from that beast, butter. It all started when a study came out in the New England Journal of Medicine that trans fatty acids caused heart attacks, and margarine was blamed as the major culprit. I was involved in writing “Truth Squad” letters that defended margarine and cited work by researchers who offered opposing opinions. Industry research was conducted, third party allegiances were developed and other tactics were used to counteract the negative publicity. All this was done before social media, so I’m sure things would have been different — and a lot nastier — had Facebook been around then.

While it’s been a while since my margarine PR days, my firm works with a lot of businesses that use testimonials and case studies to tell their story. Getting the right customers to talk about your product’s benefits can go a long way to boosting your product’s credibility. These testimonials can be used on company websites, posted on social media and even used in bylined articles. While they may not have the impact of the Leave campaign, they can certainly help raise the profile of your business.

And while you might say the anti-margarine campaign won the butter v. margarine battle, as industry removed trans fats from their products, margarine remains on the grocery store shelf. I’d like to think I had some small part in that.

Written by Wendy Alpine, President of Alpine Communications