Brexit debate calls for clearer comms

The Brexit debate in the UK is gaining momentum now David Cameron has announced the referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU will take place on June 23 this year. But, while politicians, economists and business leaders have aired views from different sides of the debate, more detail will be needed if rival factions want to mount convincing arguments, according to opinion-formers at the Daily Mail, the FT and the Press Association.

Businesses and brands had remained fairly quiet on the topic until last Saturday (20 February) when David Cameron – after hours of negotiation with EU leaders – announced the official date for the referendum. Since then hundreds of business, including 36 of the FTSE 100 brands, have publicly endorsed the movement to remain in the EU.

However, journalists from Daily Mail, the Press Association and Financial Times who spoke to Gorkana on the subject believe that, as a whole, communication from the groups seeking to influence needs to be clearer for the general public to make an educated decision.

Arguments lack convincing detail

Alex Brummer, City editor of the Daily Mail, believes it’s been hard for Cameron to deliver effective messages about the EU referendum because it’s often ‘technical’ and material on EU membership is often ‘phrased in convoluted terms’.

“It’s the bigger picture arguments I’d like to see more argued about. For example, that the EU is a very divided continent and that Schengen (travel zone) is in big trouble, Greece is in economic  trouble and the tensions between France and Germany. There are huge divisions and I don’t think that any of this is reflected (in the debate),” he said.

Brummer added that business issues are also not well portrayed in campaigns for both sides as there’s often a lot of ‘generalisation’ and few  talk about the true impact of being in or out of the EU and how it’s going to help the problem.

“I get big email traffic from almost every corner of the forest about every aspect of this debate, the amount of information is quite large, and when you actually look at it you think about how informative it all actually is,” he explained.

Clarity will help you cut through

Pete Clifton, editor-in-chief at Press Association, explained to Gorkana that clear and succinct PR is more important than ever to get through the noise.

“It is going to be a long-haul, and the public could easily be deafened by all the noise and confused by all the claims and counter-claims. Our job is to reflect the different shades from each day of the campaign, and complement that coverage with clear, easy to digest explainers around the key-issues – and always looking for fresh approaches whether that is through data journalism, graphics, video, or great words and pictures.

Clifton added: “We receive hundreds of calls and emails from PRs and campaign groups every day. If it is new information, clearly and succinctly outlined, with decent people available to comment if required, there’s a better chance.”

Strong examples and case studies are in demand

Duncan Robinson, Brussels Correspondent at Financial Times, attends many summits surrounding EU issues. Although, he believes it’s still too early to tell if campaigns on either side of the Brexit debate are doing a good job of communicating their ideas in the press, there is something that he has spotted that newsrooms are missing.

“A constant plea from editors is for clear case studies: examples of people or companies who have benefited from the EU, or been hindered by an ill-thought out piece of legislation stemming from Brussels. Relevant, original examples are always welcome – with an emphasis on the relevant and original.”

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