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Reading the ruins: lessons learned from the aftermath of a political earthquake

Brexit, Government Affairs
Ed_Williams_Brexit_Case_study

Ed Williams, CEO, Edelman UK & Ireland recently spoke at Goldsmiths University on how the Leave campaign won the EU referendum.

Ed Williams, CEO, Edelman UK & Ireland recently spoke at Goldsmiths University on how the Leave campaign won the EU referendum. Here, he explores how levels of public trust, growing divisions in society, historical attitudes to Europe and the tactics employed by the Leave campaign resulted in a win for Vote Leave.

First let me make a confession. I am one of the 48% who voted to remain in the EU (big surprise, right!).

I felt the economic, security and social case were stronger than the arguments mounted by those who wanted us to leave. But today’s case study isn’t about re-running the referendum. We must accept that the Leave camp won.

So, please put aside what you personally feel about the result. Instead, let’s focus on how the campaign was won. How Brexiteers defied the pollsters; political commentators; and the “experts”, to win a majority.

Let’s go back to February 2016. This felt like a vote that was Remain’s to lose.

All roads pointed to victory, even if in the darkest hours of the night, there was still a sense that this was a reckless spin of the roulette wheel.

Polling data was positive.

Expert opinion sat mostly in one camp.

The agitators looked like fringe head-bangers.

But, most importantly, we sought comfort in the long-standing norms of political science, which meant victory (while not a shoo-in), was in all probability, likely.

Let’s first look at those accepted wisdoms of political science that offered what turned out to be false reassurances in the months before the vote.

Number One. “The economy, stupid”. The phrase coined by James Carville during Bill Clinton’s 1992 Presidential race. This phrase underlined a truism of political behaviour – the power of the pocket book in the polling booth.

The theory goes that we will cast a vote based on the outcome that will benefit us most financially. Even in the most emotionally driven campaign, out of the fog comes people’s finances, which they consistently put first.

The problem with this theory – it completely ignores behavioural economics and replaces it with classical economics – and ‘rational man’ logic.

But nevertheless, the pocketbook argument for remaining in Europe looked like a slam-dunk.

The experts backed this up:

  • OECD figures echoed by the Treasury said GDP would be 3 per cent lower within four years of leaving the EU
  • By 2020, UK households would be worse off by an average of £2,200 a year
  • Government deficit would balloon by an extra £17bn a year
  • The IMF said leaving would result in a “negative and substantial” hit to the economy, “permanently lower incomes”

None of this sounded great…

Read the full case study in the publication below.

The certainty in uncertainty

Government Affairs, Technology
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After a fascinating two days in Lisbon recently at the Web Summit, Justin Westcott, Managing Director, Technology, blogs on the uncertainty that prevails in the world. The main consensus on this was that it's going to get worse, much worse, before it gets better.

After a fascinating two days in Lisbon recently at the Web Summit, and some time to ponder on all I heard, I remain certain in the uncertainty that prevails in our global world. Debates and discussions were wide-ranging, but much talk was focused – how could it not be – around the social unrest we are seeing reflected in recent votes in the US and UK. There was also talk of the ongoing hollowing out of the middle classes, largely driven by technology.

The main consensus on this was that it’s going to get worse, much worse, before it gets better.

The tone of the event was perhaps best set at the onset, with the first panel – three old white men in suits representing the World Trade Organisation, Goldman Sachs and the United Nations telling us that globalisation was failing. They told us that protectionism and nationalism was inevitable and that none of the political leaders were acting, in their mind, with enough urgency to counter the wave of job-losses about to sweep the Western world due to automation. A sobering start.

For one oft referenced example, there are 3.5 million truck drivers in the US. Add to this the multiple of employed people providing services (motels, petrol stations, diners and the like) – all at “certain” risk of job loss. Yes, we’ve seen great job loss during previous industrial revolutions and rapid reemployment – so what’s different now? The sheer speed of deployment and lack of skills. New technologies will deploy rapidly, and those displaced from traditional middle-class work will not easily be redeployed – as the jobs new technologies create will be for highly-skilled/STEM skilled individuals. What will these unseated people do?

The clear call was made for stronger leadership. More honesty from our political leaders to the electorate – time for hard truths. But equally increased entrepreneurial thinking to solve the challenges that innovation is surely going to place on society. Innovations that create jobs, or provide more equal prosperity. The network effects of both connectivity and data afforded to a few Silicon Valley-based corporations are sucking wealth from the many to the few. This is not the utopian vision technologists have when they start out.

The most used term during the event, well certainly from the sessions I attended, was Universal Basic Income (UBI) with firm agreement from all that UBI is inevitable at some point down the road. One would argue we’ve still not reached peak employment if you look at current levels, so perhaps not just yet. This is not a simple change to society, this is a huge philosophical jump that is going to take much debate and soul searching around the fundamentals of society.

This was exactly what Albert Wenger from Union Square Ventures thought in his talk “The Age of Knowledge”. We’ve become trapped in job-loops providing labour in return for access to “stuff”, short-termist thinking that is taking us further away from the freedom of thought. We need to think about how automation, and robots, can actually take away the “work” from the job loop and free us all up to seek out higher pursuits. To be defined not by our work, but by our interests and thoughts. A very real picture was painted of a world without work, not in our lifetime but perhaps within the next generation (unless, like me you’ll live forever of course – read Transcend).

This is a time, right now for real leadership yet this is something our world seems to lack right now. Democracy, we should be reminded, is a fragile thing. Harvard University research found that young people globally are losing faith in democracy. Meanwhile, the Edelman Trust Barometer indicated this year that people don’t trust government officials (35%).  In the vacuum currently provided by our politics, we must look to our businesses, our institutions and even more importantly our communities for answers.

I’m an optimist, and a firm believer in the abundance that technology provides. Technology will provide the answers to the problems it has created. Of that I’m certain. Let’s just do it actively, and together. The polarisation in society, and the discrimination that comes with nationalisation, worries me, and others. But let’s find those answers soon. Let’s open true dialogue about a better and more equitable society, enabled by technology and the changes it provides.

Edelman Bolsters Corporate with Appointment of James Morris as Senior Director

News
James_Morris_Joins_Edelman

Edelman UK today announced the appointment of James Morris as Senior Director, Corporate Reputation. In this new role, James will join Edelman’s roster of reputation advisory experts and lead the growth of its corporate narrative and positioning work.

Edelman UK today announced the appointment of James Morris as Senior Director, Corporate Reputation. In this new role, James will join Edelman’s roster of reputation advisory experts and lead the growth of its corporate narrative and positioning work. Edelman’s corporate team comprises 80 people, who provide advisory services, integrated masterbrand campaigns and specialist support, including employee engagement, crisis and litigation & legal affairs consultancy.

James joins Edelman from Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. As Director in their European division, he advised leaders from international business and politics on reputation management. A specialist in using data to drive communications strategy, his clients have included British Gas, Virgin Media, McKinsey, Save the Children, Thames Water, Starbucks and the Presidents of two countries. He is a former speechwriter, advertising planner and advisor at the Number 10 Strategy Unit.

Nick Barron, Managing Director, said: “Increasingly, our clients are asking us to help them articulate and refine their purpose, strategy, and key positions on business-critical issues. James’s experience in business and politics gives him the breadth and depth of thinking that our clients need, while his background in data science will ensure we offer the rigorous approach that their challenges demand.”

Looking forward to his new role, James said: “I’m excited to be joining a company that has invested so heavily in its research, planning and creative capabilities and on building a sophisticated understanding of trust. It makes it the perfect place to do first-class work at a time of rapid change.”

James will join Edelman in early January 2017.

Crystal Ball 2016: Predicting the Unpredictable for 2017

Consumer Trends & Insight, News, Technology
Crystal_Ball_2016_Panel

If 2016 has proven anything, it’s to expect the unexpected. Every year, Edelman UK hosts the Crystal Ball Breakfast, to future gaze into the year ahead. Now in its 9th year, on 1st December an impressive panel came together to try and predict what 2017 might hold.

As we entered 2016, the British media and polls were still backing the UK to remain part of the EU, Trump was little more than an unimaginable presidential outlier, and Leicester City looked to just be on a lucky streak as it topped the Premier League Table at Christmas. If 2016 has proven anything, it’s to expect the unexpected.

Every year, Edelman UK hosts the Crystal Ball Breakfast, in which a panel of notable individuals in fields ranging from culture and society. Now in its 9th year, on 1st December an impressive panel came together to try and predict what 2017 might hold.

The line up included: Ruby Wax OBE, Actress, Mental Health Campaigner, Lecturer & Author; June Sarpong MBE, Co-Founder of the WIE Network & Ldny.com, Present & Broadcaster; Bindi Karia, Startup Expert, Connector & Advisor; Anne Richards, Chief Executive, M&G Investments; and Joanna Tatchell, Director, Edelman. The discussion was moderated by Newsnight’s Kirsty Wark.

Kicking off the discussion, all panelists were in agreement that 2017 would see a rise in micro-activism as the world deals with the fallout from 2016 and people try to do something about it. The panel discussed the “post-truth” era we now live in and the disconnect that has been seen between governments and their electorates. When talking about how to combat this and return to solid facts, the panel focused on regulation, leadership’s responsibility, fact checking software, and the onus on people to be curious and seek out viewpoints other than their own.

Other predictions included:

  • The spread of use of Artificial Intelligence in data security, personal security, financial trade and healthcare.
  • The spread of the “amazing shrinking chocolate bar”: a rise in inflation in the UK as prices increase by around 4-6% in 2017.
  • The pro-business mood seen in America spreading across the Atlantic and to the UK.
  • Whilst cyber security has always been automated software, human intelligence will be introduced to help improve safety.
  • Brexit means Brexit, but we still won’t know exactly what that means.
  • 2017 will witness a series of interesting elections and referendums around the world.
  • A return to politics from Tony Blair, and a bright future for Ed Balls in both politics and entertainment.
  • If 2016 was the year of “post-truth”, 2017 will be the year of “no truth”
  • Widespread use of “intelligent things”; smart homes, smart cars, chatbots and more.
  • A rise in micro-activism, as people and businesses try to take control. This will mean more action taken locally and physically, re-injecting the human into a largely tech-centric world.
  • More awareness of mental health issues: just as it is cool to be busy, it will become cool to be mentally ill and no longer a taboo.
  • Virtual and Augmented Reality will go mainstream and be embraced by Hollywood.
  • The next American president will be a woman.

The panel also talked about the current state of British politics and political parties. Arguably, the biggest question of all is how we elect representatives to the British Parliament, and if this system should be reappraised to give a voice to the forgotten electorate. There was agreement that the centre-left need to find a new narrative for this demographic, and that there is a need to be more transparent about the extent to which the future of the youth’s is being mortgaged.

The event closed on a hopeful note, with the panel asking people to “just keep doing stuff” about causes they care about.

View highlights from the event below:

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