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Brand Strategy Politics Marketing

How politicians (and brands) can reach the marginalized. Step 1: Stop lying


By Ndubuisi Uchea, CEO

June 12, 2024 | 5 min read

Word on the Curb's Ndubuisi Uchea shares lived advice for how political movements and, by extension, brands, can reach marginalized or minority audiences.

Someone writing I must not lie over and over

/ Unsplash: Annie Spratt

Engaging with so-called hard-to-reach voters should be for life - not just elections.

For far too long, political parties have treated historically marginalized and/or underrepresented groups as mere stepping stones to attempted electoral success rather than as valued constituents deserving of genuine long-term engagement and representation. This transactional approach of ‘I want your vote today, but I’ll have lost interest by tomorrow’ has bred a deep-seated mistrust fueled by years of broken promises, misrepresentation, and, if we’re being honest (excuse the irony), outright lies from those seeking power.

So how should politicians authentically connect with these groups? (Apart from stopping thinking of them as hard-to-reach - when really you just haven’t tried hard enough).

Step one

It might sound obvious but step one is STOP LYING.

The path to trust begins with truth. In a world where politicians have turned bending the truth into an art form, it’s no wonder that those who have historically been underrepresented, misrepresented or purposefully marginalized are hesitant to lend their support. The wholesale failure of the Windrush generation immediately springs to mind.

Bare-faced lying does nothing to bridge the divide and build the trust needed to overcome the realities of the world we live in. I want to see political parties embracing radical honesty, even when the truth is uncomfortable, as the first step towards meaningful engagement.

Step two

Understand these realities by seeking genuine insight. Opinion polling and ‘public sentiment’ have long been flawed, failing to accurately capture the perspectives of minority groups across various demographic types. This is because the same groups we’re talking about don’t adequately exist in the panels fostered by the (all too often white male) research agencies executing the polling.

To truly understand the realities of the communities traditionally harder to reach, political parties must work with bespoke agencies who can help them directly engage with those they seek to reach and hopefully represent.

Don’t just reach out to tick a box or to win votes. Political parties must create longevity in their communications with these communities. Time and time again, the conversation around hard-to-reach audiences arises solely because political parties see them as potential vote banks to be exploited for electoral success. This transactional approach is short-sighted and unsustainable.

True engagement requires a genuine commitment to understanding and addressing the concerns of these communities, not just during election cycles, but throughout the entire tenure of governance.

An ongoing theme is genuine authenticity and the final step I’d recommend is to avoid forcing relatability.

Forcing anything will seem unnatural and will cause more damage than good. Diversifying communication channels, especially in social media such as TikTok, is a step in the right direction, but it’s essential to ensure that these efforts are authentic and sustained beyond the pursuit of votes. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. The cheesy Sunak National Service Tik Tok isn’t going to shift the dial other than to give creators some great source material for piss-taking memes.

If you’re going to go social, show up in an authentic way. And if a party wins the ‘Genny Lec,’ they need to continue to engage with young people in the same way. Genuine relatability cannot be forced; it must be cultivated through consistent, meaningful and authentic engagement.

I’ve spent years frustrated by the biased and, let’s be honest, lazy, stereotypical view of young Black men - and the general view perpetuated in the media of young people in general. As someone who is passionate about both politics and communicating with various communities, ahead of this election, I’d love to see political parties breaking free from the cycle of empty promises (we’re all too wise to them now) and transactional policies. Instead, I’d like to see a new era embraced that involves authentic long-term engagement.

Only then can we build a truly representative and inclusive political landscape.

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