Hitting the ground running: The first 100 days
Hitting the ground running: The first 100 days

Posts Tagged ‘digital’

Tokking political campaigning to the next level: How Labour and the Conservatives are using TikTok for election campaigning

This is the first General Election in the UK where TikTok is playing a leading role in the parties’ communications strategies. “Sorry to be breaking into your usual politics-free feed,” announced Rishi Sunak in the first TikTok published by the Conservative’s new account last month. The platform launched in the UK in 2018 and was still finding its footing during the 2019 General Election. In the latest edition of its Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes Report, Ofcom noted that 37% of the participants had watched video content on TikTok within the last 12 months.

TikTok’s rapidly growing userbase has rarely shied away from discussing politics. As both parties establish themselves on the platform, there are important reminders about planning comms campaigns when reviewing their launches and initial weeks on TikTok.

TikTok? Isn’t it banned?

Seeing politicians on TikTok may raise some questions with its users. The social platform has found itself under the scrutiny of governments across the world. The UK government banned TikTok from government-issued devices last year. Crucially, these limitations do not stop parties from creating accounts and publishing content on TikTok. Still, there is a certain irony about politicians pivoting from slamming TikTok just last year to now using it as their latest campaigning channel.

Unlike other social media platforms, TikTok will reject any political adverts. This means the parties cannot pay to push adverts to potential voters who they want to see their election messaging. They must create compelling content that users engage with and share with their followers.

The prevalence of misinformation surrounding the election is another important reason for the parties to create their own accounts. TikTok users have been subjected to false information about policies and candidates, including claims of 18-year-olds being deployed in war zones during their national service if the Tories were to win. The creation of party accounts will allow Labour and the Conservations to challenge misinformation published on TikTok.

Taking the first steps into a brave new TikTok world

The Conservatives and Labour launched their TikTok accounts shortly after the election was called. They both featured their leaders talking head-on to the camera in their debut posts. But whilst Sunak was filmed in an empty room with an imposing wood panelled background, Starmer had a group of supporters brandishing Change placards in the background of Labour’s first video. Keir used his 11 second video to repeat his party’s election messaging and encourage viewers to vote for Labour, whilst Rishi explained his widely criticised national service policy.

Unlike other social networks, such as Instagram, TikTok and its users put a lower value on perfectly shot and lit videos. In fact, some of the platforms’ most watched videos have featured someone walking down the street, ad libbing to their phone. The Conservatives’ first video may look more professional, but that’s not content TikTok users are desperate to see. Labour’s video will still have had a team filming and editing it, but featuring a crowd of supporters behind Keir does give the impression that he’s shot this on the fly and fits more closely alongside other content on TikTok.

The Conservatives had an uphill battle launching on TikTok. Its userbase’s average age skews far younger than the average age of a Conservative voter. This first video wasn’t able to explain why a sceptical TikTok viewer should vote for them.

Unpacking the parties’ identities on TikTok

Since both the launch posts have been published, Labour and the Conservatives have used their TikTok accounts to react to and critique announcements coming from the other party. Where this reactionary content was previously in the form of witty one-liners, photoshops, and GIFs on X, both parties are now making use of the video formats and editing available on TikTok.

The Labour Party heavily criticised the Conservative’s proposed national service policy, publishing multiple videos ridiculing it. These videos have used clips that will be easily recognised to TikTok users. A cut from Cilla Black singing Surprise! Surprise! with the caption POV: Rishi Sunak turning up on your 18th birthday to send you to war has now been viewed over five million times. This type of content demonstrates both an understanding of what performs well on TikTok and the ability to be able to make it relevant to political news.


Surprise surprise #generalelection #toriesout #ukelection #ukpolitics

♬ original sound – UKLabour

The Conservatives’ posts have clapped back at Labour’s response to the national service plans. One video features James Cleverly reacting to an interview Rachel Reeves had with Laura Kuenssberg, with him claiming that Labour could cut funding for apprentices.


James Cleverly calls out Labour’s dithering #uk #generalelection #rishisunak #conservative

♬ original sound – Conservatives

Learnings for integrated campaigns

TikTok may be the new kid on the block for this General Election but how Labour and the Conservatives have launched their accounts offers useful reminders on some age-old rules for integrated campaigns.

Go to where your audiences are

With attention spans getting shorter by the day, organisations cannot rely on people proactively visiting their websites or searching for their press releases. They instead need to communicate on the channels they know their audiences regularly use. For political parties trying to reach younger voters, that’s TikTok.

Understand the expectations for how you should communicate on a channel

Just as the format and tone of voice for an organisation’s press release should be different to a post published on its LinkedIn account, so too should any content published on TikTok. Copying and pasting language from a press release into a TikTok post is unlikely to get a positive reaction. Organisations who are successful on TikTok (or any social media platform) take the time to consider which points from an announcement or release their audiences need to know about and how these points can be told in a relevant and engaging way on the platform.

First impressions matter

Many of the media outlets reporting on the launch of these two new TikTok accounts praised Labour’s content and critiqued the Conservatives’ approach. This narrative in the media has continued despite the Conservative account more recently using similar tactics to content published by Labour.

This inability to change the perspective that the Conservatives’ TikTok content isn’t working demonstrates how important first impressions are for any campaign. They can be extremely hard to change and will set the tone for the rest of the campaign.

Don’t underestimate the value of timely reactive communications

The most successful social media campaigns publish both planned and reactive content. Giving space for reactive content is undoubtedly more challenging to manage than scheduling all your posts in advance. But the upsides of this include being able to directly address incorrect information and communicate directly with your target audiences. Their reactions to your content are an invaluable way of getting feedback on your campaign in near real-time.

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The Future of UK Digital Policy

“Covid-19 has impacted all areas of digital policy, but it has mostly accelerated a lot of trends that were well established”, according to former chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee Damian Collins MP. Speaking at WA’s recent event “The Future Of Digital Policy: In Conversation with Damian Collins MP”, Collins set out his take on the challenges, opportunities and ideas that lay ahead as part of the UK’s digital policy landscape.

A short overview of the most interesting points arising from the discussion is captured below, but if you would like to watch the event in full you can register for the link below, or to speak with us about any of the points raised, please do get in touch.


Priorities for the Prime Minister and DCMS

The Prime Minister made connectivity a key feature of his leadership campaign and since then, this has of course become a much bigger issue. The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated a number of trends in digital policy that were well underway; the pre-existing drive for gigabit connectivity has been accelerated by the increased demand and use of streaming services, video conferencing and online communication. As such we should be prepared for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to become much more of a delivery driven department, compared to how it functioned in the past.

In addition to its necessary focus on digital infrastructure, DCMS has a number of live debates on its hands which will all need addressing in the coming months and years and it will have to consider the disruption of all new service models. These include;


  1. The future of Public Service Broadcasting and the role of the BBC,
  2. The impact of Covid-19 on print media and the role of online advertising,
  3. Regulation of social media platforms and online harms,
  4. The future and funding of the arts and creative industries,
  5. The fusion of the digital and traditional tax economy.


Digital Infrastructure

While the increased demand on digital connectivity has doubled down the government’s determination to deliver gigabit capable broadband by 2025, the last few months have also shown that the parliamentary party and Conservative backbench are more concerned about “doing it right, rather than doing it quickly.”

This is good news for the competitive market, as regardless of a company’s (like Huawei) ability to deliver the infrastructure at pace, the Conservative backbench do not want to be in a position where the UK is vulnerable and dependent on a single infrastructure delivery company. In the eyes of the government, competition therefore remains necessary for both the delivery of digital infrastructure and a competitive market for retail network access afterwards.

There are options the government may consider, including adopting a similar model to that of Spain, where the networks have been opened up to competition and built by a number of different firms. Or the possibility of creating a tech version of Airbus, where there is a consortium of trusted companies across the UK and USA and other countries working together to deliver the infrastructure at scale and pace.  Ultimately however, the government is aware that protecting the competitive market with “use it or lose it rights” for shovel ready firms, has delivered results internationally and the government needs a solution quickly.


Public Service Broadcasting  and Online Advertising

The issue of Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) is one at the top of DCMS’s list of urgent priorities to address.

No longer does the premium of being a PSB cover the cost of funding needed, and questions are being asked in government about what PSB’s should look like and whether or not there is a space for them in the future.

The real funding gap faced by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and others poses an existential threat to the traditional form of media and news media. The live debate around the funding of the BBC, and their decision to reduce budgets for their local news service is being challenged by Ofcom, as it brings into question what purpose the BBC and PSB’s truly serve in a modern Britain. These are major considerations being made by the government, and greater scrutiny of ring fenced funding is to be expected from both government and regulators.

The founding of PSBs is a bellwether for a whole host of issues as the UK shifts towards a more digital economy, and one thing the pandemic has brought into question is the need for greater alignment of the tax system. Considerations are being made in government about how best to raise revenue without introducing hefty tax increases, and we can expect the Treasury to look to tech firms and online platforms as a source of such income.


Online Harms 

The UK had the opportunity to be a world leader in online content regulation, however, over the last couple of years the government has stalled.

Alongside the long overdue outcome of the online harms white paper, the regulation of  online content has been drawn to the forefront of government’s attention by the increased public awareness of misinformation, particularly throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

There are areas of responsibility the government will be looking at over the coming months, particularly in the role of social media firms in combating online harms and promoting misinformation. Social media platforms can expect to face scrutiny of the tools and algorithms they use to promote certain content. Where public pressure begins to mount on the government, such as has happened in Australia, the government may consider the need for an “online audit”, from an independent source, where a firm’s algorithms and internal mechanism are reviewed, ensuring it is operating responsibly, fairly and cooperatively.


The Role of Ofcom

Ofcom’s remit, just as that of DCMS, has consistently come under criticism for the scope of areas it is intended to regulate. As we see a reconfiguration of the Public Service Broadcasting service model, the increased prominence in online audio-visual content and the ever growing demand for greater digital connectivity, the role of Ofcom will become increasingly important. As such there are legitimate concerns and questions to be had around the regulators remit. Do they actually have the expertise and bandwidth to regulate this uncharted policy territory?

Possible options for the regulator may include dividing it in two, so that there is a regulator for infrastructure and a regulator for content. Solutions like this may be devised as part of a much broader review of the role and work of DCMS and its related regulators.



The future of the UK Digital Policy remains an ambitious landscape with incredible opportunities and challenges ahead. Our conversation with Damian Collins MP highlighted one thing in particular, which is that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports has a whole myriad of complex and convoluted challenges on its hands. These challenges alongside this government’s affinity for data and technology, means that we should watch this space for the creation of a new Digital Department claiming overall responsibility for driving digital policy across Whitehall.



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