THE BLOG
17/10/2013 08:45 BST | Updated 16/12/2013 05:12 GMT

If You Want My Vote, Tell Me A Story

Let's imagine for a moment there are two companies, bitter rivals, each with their own defined ethos and recognised team, and both with the same broad agendas - to sell their product, make money and steal customers away from the other. Let's call them Team Red and Team Blue...

Let's imagine for a moment there are two companies, bitter rivals, each with their own defined ethos and recognised team, and both with the same broad agendas - to sell their product, make money and steal customers away from the other. Let's call them Team Red and Team Blue.

Both Teams decide that conventional media is all well and good to stay connected to their core audience, but that the real way to enhance that connection and reach out to those who might have strayed or prefer to 'shop' elsewhere, is digitally.

And this is where the online divergence occurs. For Team Red believe that 'stories' are what will sell them, stories about individual customers, moments, reminiscences, reactions, beliefs. The strategy is to ensure everything points in the same direction - towards the values that sustain the core business - as long as they are focused on the individual. In essence, the digital strategy is You.

Team Blue, however, believe that Us should underpin the digital face of the company. So the front of the website is much more corporate, focused on the men and women at the top who will make your lives better and sell you better product. The stories give way to policies, the anecdotes are replaced by finely crafted business messages, the individual replaced by the 'whole'.

That's my reading of the revamped Labour and Conservative websites, anyway. And it doesn't need a revered, lusted-after and modest media genius like me to tell you which version is more likely to be virally and socially shared by voters and floaters, which website feels more inclusive and which is standing on top of a soap box.

The agenda at www.conservatives.com for instance - and, make no mistake, it is a brilliantly professional website - is what it will do for you. There's a section on policies to help entrepreneurs, another on protecting children online and of course lots of lovely platitudes from the Leader and his closest acolytes.

At www.labour.org on the other hand, there is a very shareable blog on campaigning in the rain, lots of headshots of Sue, Tom, Rhian and other 'real' people in love with Two Eds and a story - a proper, interesting story - about newly enobled Doreen Lawrence.

The next General Election will be the most digitally sophisticated ever witnessed outside of America and it is where the key battle for floating voters will be fought. It's presumably why the Tories have enlisted the help of Obama's re-election guru Jim Messina, while Labour have appointed the President's equally-lauded rapid response chief Matthew McGregor to lead their online fights. They both seem to be as motivated in mobilising support and creating 'content' as they are in crucifying the opponent, yet only one of their chosen employers seems to be acting on that content mantra at the moment.

Perhaps it's too early to judge the digital approaches, there's an awful long time to go. But the abiding lesson politicians, their wonks, spads, sephologists and favoured columnists should have learned in the last five years is that there is a yawning chasm of disconnect between 95% of the population and the cosy Metropolitan elite they rarely stray from. Social media is the perfect opportunity to repair that broken relationship, to show voters you really are on the same team.

There's nothing wrong with being corporate. But if you can only be sure that a fifth of the country at most will buy your product today then instead of just telling them what you are, you really ought to ask them what they want.