Sunday, October 17

Rishi Sunak has become a social media star, but who is he trying to influence? | Rishi Sunak

“II’m sure this budget will look better on Instagram, ”Keir Starmer told Commons on Wednesday. “In fact, this week’s public relations video cost the taxpayer so much that he almost expected to see a line in OBR’s forecast.”

The joke was aimed at Rishi Sunak, the finance minister and someone who has become increasingly difficult to avoid online. the video in question It lasted almost six minutes and featured about a hundred different takes of the 40-year-old talking about his year at the Treasury.

With its sleek lens flare moments and rousing orchestral soundtrack, it was a jarring watch, mostly because it felt like promotional content to a social media influencer, not the chancellor.

It didn’t come out of nowhere; Ever since Johnson promoted it, Sunak’s social media has been full of stylish graphics, bearing his trademark signature. On Instagram, there are countless stylish and stylish slogans, as well as photos of the man looking professional yet laid back, wearing hooded sweatshirts and making light jokes in the captions.

Scroll back a bit more, however, and the real Rishi begins to appear. In 2019, Sunak’s feed looked exactly like what you would expect from an MP. There were slightly awkward images in small businesses: complete with unnecessary flash – and grainy, blurry pictures of him at Proms, looking like someone that he had won a Blue Peter contest to be there.

The man behind the blaze was Cass Horowitz, special adviser and co-founder of The Clerkenwell Brothers, an “independent creative studio working on strategy, identity, advertising and social media.” Looking at the company’s stylized photo shoots from fancy ice cream, luxury tequila Y pouty women Posing with green juice provides much-needed context for the chancellor’s transformation. After all, a politician can be a product like any other; you just need to know how to market it.

“There is a certain obvious opportunism,” says Philip Seargeant, author of The Art of Political Storytelling. “The particular approach that he and his team are taking probably has a lot to do with the old advertising idea of ​​positioning, that is, finding a different person in the market, so the elegant but homey image that is being pushed is different. of the belligerent populist images that have dominated politics recently and has a chance to stand out for it. “

Still, the real question is: who is Brand Rishi being marketed to? This was raised by Henry Hill, Conservative Home news editor: “Given that the prime minister seems quite secure in office and we are three years away from a general election, why is he investing so much in building his brand with the country in general? The only constituency he’s likely to face soon is his Richmond. [Yorkshire] constituency, which would return anyone with a blue rosette. “

It’s not even clear that the general public is the target. Take the budget video; in Twitter, which is densely populated with Westminster connoisseurs and political obsessives, was viewed more than 850,000 times. In FacebookWhere politicians tend to connect with more normal voters, the figure is just 33,000. Whether by mistake or by design, Dishy Rishi is largely selling itself to the SW1 bubble, who should not necessarily be made a case of. This can end up having some unintended consequences.

“The principle of collective government is supposed to be that all policies are approved by the cabinet and the prime minister and therefore are government policy,” says Hill. “When he advertised a lot of very popular things and had his signature and his brand on it instead of the Conservative Party brand, that was upsetting some people.”

Deciding to put yourself in the spotlight early is risky; The stars cannot keep rising forever and, especially in the fickle world of politics, it doesn’t take much to become the man of yesterday. It is also worth mentioning that their strategy is novel; While many MPs have relatively high-profile social media accounts, none have taken it as far as he has.

“I don’t think we’ve seen anything on this scale before,” says Bethany Wheatley, former head of digital for the Conservative party. “Cameron had Web Cameron and strategists who understood digital, so there was cohesion, but their policies weren’t tied to their brand name in the same way. “

Until Brand Rishi appeared, power-hungry politicians had to raise their profile through others. There were long sit-down interviews with friendly journalists who would get lyrical about their spotless homes and lovely children, or soft-focus conversations on TV shows that weren’t known for their blunt questions.

Then inside Westminster, it was about building a new, trustworthy team of people around you who could convince you of both the pirates and the MPs. The game was actually about surrounding yourself with people who found you extraordinary, rather than having to remind everyone how extraordinary you were.

Eliminating the middle man might seem like a faster option, but Sunak should keep something in mind: shortcuts tend to remain shortcuts for a reason. Everyone would take them differently.

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