Emotion is the most important factor

Phil Stanier

Scottish voters are making up their minds on whether they want to go it alone as an independent nation. And predictably they won’t be making up their minds on what the facts present or the debates have covered, but (as most of us do in our day-to-day lives) on emotion.

The ‘yes’ campaign has been lauded for being emotionally engaging and for its positivity and optimism, while the ‘no’ campaign has been fiercely criticised for lacking emotional punch – being seen as dry, negative, and money focussed.

However, what the pundits are ignoring is that the negative ‘no’ campaign is mobilising perhaps the most powerful emotion – fear.

Fear campaigns tap into the very deepest parts of our imagination and often only really manifest themselves when we come to actually make a decision.

Just as many voters will panic at the ballot box and vote with their fears (i.e. against an uncertain future of independence) so, many councillors when making a decision on an exciting development will revert to their natural fear of, ‘if I vote in favour of this application, will the electorate vote me out?’

If you’re fighting for change – be it political or in planning – there are three key lessons:

– You need to be in close contact with decision makers and understand their aspirations and their fears
– 50-60%[1] support in the run up to a vote won’t do – you’ll need to be confident of more than 60% of voters to be sure of victory
– Be prepared to use emotion in your campaign (few things are more effective)

So if you want advice on influencing key decision makers, building support for your proposals or harnessing stakeholders’ emotions, drop us a line and we’ll be more than happy to help.

Phil Stanier

[1] On this note, I don’t rate the ‘yes’ campaigns chances of success. I believe enough people casually answering opinion polls will be positive and optimistic when doing so, but when faced with the ballot box, fear will play a decisive role and we won’t end up with an independent Scotland.