Apparently, the way to motivate or control your audience is to develop a good a slogan. Our mainstream media, bereft of any originality and still dying on its collective feet, addicted as it seems to be to building on stories or ideas from social media sites, is now only interested in ‘cut and paste’ article writing or pouring scorn on people or ideas that they don’t like. Brexit, Farage, the Tory party (Johnson in particular), Corbyn’s Labour party, footballers, actors, political figures, members of the royal family, President Trump, Merkel and many more, quite often quickly interchangeable, all at first built up and then knocked down again as the tide of public opinion rises and falls. It used to be driven by the mainstream media but is now led by social media ‘moods’ and ‘storms.’
Everything changed after the drubbing that the public gave the media during and after Brexit and after the general election – which now seems a lifetime ago. Watching readership and sales figures decline and not having a clue what to do about it must be a very dispiriting experience. The big idea now appears to be ‘sloganisation’ of the news. We’ve seen it before and the master of the headlines just has to be the Sun newspaper. Short, sharp and devastating at times, the 1990s must have been their zenith but some headlines from the late 70s and early 80s take some beating. ‘Crisis what Crisis’ (supposedly uttered by sunny Jim Callaghan during the winter of discontent 1979). Some of the 90s ones have never been bettered: ‘Up yours Delors’ from 1990s complete with a Churchillian ‘V’ sign; ‘1992 saw ‘Paddy Pants down’ and in 1998 a devastating comment about William Hague’s Tory party was headlined with the ‘Parties Over’ and described as ‘the cream of Britain, Thick Rich and full of clots’. The Labour party came in for as much ‘stick’ too, before the Sun newspaper changed allegiances and started to support Blair.
It’s all about the communication, knowing your audience and giving them what they want in short sharp, manageable and memorable ideas. Slogans sum up what you want to say and a good one will stay in the public’s conscience for years.
- ‘Mum’s the word’
- ‘I told em Oldham’ (car batteries)
- ‘Think Small’ – early V.W.
- ‘Finger licking good’ – KFC
- ‘The Real Thing’ – Coca Cola
- ‘Keep Calm and Carry on’
Some are tag lines and just as memorable:
- ‘I only arsked’ – Bernard Bresslaw
- ‘I’m in charge’ – Bruce Forsyth
- ‘Good to talk’ – B.T.
- ‘Can I have ‘P’ please Bob’ – TV
- ‘Time for a Sharp Exit.’ – Lager
- ‘Because you’re worth it’ – L’Oreal
All these are targeted to a specific audience demographic and, as people will tell you, particularly if you are of a certain age, if you don’t understand it, it’s not aimed at you.
David Cameron famously said he ‘got it’ when it was evident to most outside of the ‘bubble’ that he didn’t and subsequently paid the price for not realising that most did in fact ‘get him’, and his acolytes. What seemed good during the well-heeled parties in Kensington or the Cotswolds was just not acceptable to the ordinary bloke down the pub, the ordinary bloke that works, does his best for his family, is patriotic and law-abiding, wants something done about the NHS, the BBC, immigration, knife crime, house prices and who is not particularly interested in the ‘arts’ or airy fairy discussions on heavyweight political issues or the pseudo concerns of what he sees as the smug four-by-four driving middle class.
And then out of the blue came the Covid epidemic.
Thousands of articles have already been written about how, why, where, and when this started. What is interesting and as yet unexplained is how the media has covered this on a regional, national and international level. The same message has been repeated in a multitude of countries and languages as governments good and bad, large and small, come to terms with what is needed and how they will eventually pay for it.
Worldwide the media has attacked governments for their response, health service provision, lack of intensive care equipment, protective clothing and so on. It all seems remarkably similar. The economies of whole countries have been closed down and people asked or required to self-isolate or lock down for similar periods of time. Laws have been enacted or made in very quick time and without, in many cases, including the U.K., any proper democratic scrutiny by opposition parties. At first there was not too much opposition voiced by the press, particularly in the U.K., but after the initial shockwaves when a climate of fear took over, people reacted in the most basic way. Panic buying took over as they swarmed to supermarkets – not a particularly edifying spectacle for our country known for decades as solid and reliable, whose people were not likely to react to a difficult situation with panic and actions often bordering on hysteria.
Certainly not in any way like their forbears in the Second World War. Pundits, of course, particularly those in the broadcast media outlets had a field day. I’ve recently heard the BBC described as ‘death channel one’ by one acquaintance who, like many others if media reports are to be believed, has now switched off completely from the mainstream news channels. To a degree this is also true of print media. It looks as if circulation is continuing to fall, with some old established media pleading for readers to buy subscriptions. All of which can be explained by ‘not knowing your audience’.
[To be continued in Part II tomorrow.]