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Hard Hats And Hi-vis Jackets: What Makes For a Successful Election Visit?

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It’s election time. Politicians the world over love putting on someone else’s hard hat and a hi-vis jacket.

If you’re thinking of hosting a politician on a site visit what makes for a successful election visit and what to avoid? I’ve been involved in a reasonable number of successful visits, and the occasional memorably less successful one.

Let’s look at the PM’s first few campaign stops, none without their hiccups. Firstly, in a biscuit distribution centre surrounded by mainly white men in the obligatory hi-vis jackets, Sunak took questions from the audience of factory workers after his stump speech. Unfortunately, two of them later turned out to be Conservative Counsellors giving a reasonable impression of being warehouse staff (I think young people call it cosplaying). The second visit was to a pub in Wales, where he gleefully asked who was looking forward to the upcoming football, to a stoney response from the Welsh fans who unlike the Scots and English won’t be at the Euros. 

This got me to thinking as a former Cabinet Minister, Shadow Minister, and Party Leader, what makes a good election visit? Below I offer some advice to businesses looking to propose their sites for politicians’ photo opportunities during the current campaign. 

Firstly, it helps if your visit offer is in a battleground seat. All Parties will be laser focussed on only visiting the seats that will make the biggest difference to their electoral chances. A visit to a big site in a safe seat is less attractive than a visit to a small site in a marginal seat. 

Secondly, the main objective for any visit is great visuals that tell their own story. Make sure you have suggestions of the most effective backdrop for ‘a piece to camera’ and be willing to create a compelling scene for their photograph and TV interview. 

Thirdly, think also about social media footage and backdrops that the politicians will want to use for their own social channels. Often, a visit that doesn’t make it onto the flagship broadcasts will be seen by more people online than will ever read about it in print. 

Fourthly, make sure the visit starts on time and ends on time, the politician will be on a strict timetable, so prepare a concise briefing but doesn’t take them off-schedule. There’s no point if your visit has great imagery if it misses the broadcast deadlines. 

Fifthly, make sure you have a diverse audience and staff for them to meet, politicians never want to appear in a photograph with a collection of exclusively white men in suits. Reflect the community you are based in, and the country that they want to lead.

Sixthly, make it easy by doing your prep work, and send them a short briefing note in advance that gives them confidence that they will be in good hands. Make sure you follow up afterwards on everything that was discussed during the visit.

Do all of these things and you can have a visit that works for them and for you.

And finally, don’t leave it too late. They will already be gridding all potential visits for between now and polling day. Their advance team will want to come to the site beforehand to experience what a visit will look and feel like.

If you’d like advice from one of the Arden team on how to pitch a visit and create an effective briefing note then get in touch.

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book a table

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