Article | 27 Feb 2015

'The General Election: it's the technology'

Posted in Industry news,

It is impossible to escape the coming General Election...

An almost endless campaign is underway and it's very likely that almost everyone except the political anoraks will be bored completely rigid long before polling day. Yet this should not obscure its importance. The corrosive nature of the battle between the parties should not make us forget the real implications for business in the UK. That's especially true for all independent communications practitioners and our wider industry.

It's a truism that the result of the election will be a fork in the road for the direction of public policy. Yet all the major parties have accepted the need for several years of further austerity and public sector budget cuts. So, if there is a Milliband Government after 7 May 2015, there will be no expansion in the provision of communications by local councils, government departments and public agencies in the way that followed the Labour victory in 1997. Then thousands of new roles were created. This time around that won't happen. Indeed, in those parts of the country where the public sector is the major engine of PR growth - for example Wales - prospects could worsen rather than improve.

But the signs are much better north of the border. The close run result of the Independence Referendum means that business has to have a much greater level of representation in Scotland. The extra powers for the Scottish Government and the likely increase in influence for the SNP can only lead to more work for PR and Public Affairs practitioners. Some of that will go to larger firms but there will also be a significant increase for independents as well.

Another Conservative-led Coalition with a commitment to more cuts in public spending is unlikely to drive increased business. However, another Coalition might yet have a beneficial impact: a European referendum and the lobby fest which will precede it will generate much work.

In the end, though, it's not the result of the election which will really make a difference to the volume and quality of work for freelancers and contractors. It is the trends which drive the result and voter dissatisfaction which will shape the conditions in which what used to be called the PR business develops over the five years through which the next Parliament serves.

Those trends are all about technological change, innovation and demographics. They provide a rich seam of opportunity for independent PR practitioners as the need for great content and excellent stakeholder engagement - the core skills of today's PR practitioner - take centre stage. We are sure to see further growth and still greater influence for social media and the entrenching of major players like Google and Amazon, but also of the BBC. Opportunities for consumer contact will multiply, as will new avenues of customer distribution. Inevitably, these will raise the knowledge and expectations of all consumers. It is a huge opportunity for our business: in short, in this election it's all about 'the technology stupid'.

Written by Ian Wright