Old-School Lessons for Business in U.K. Politics

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U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron stays much in the news.

It’s not surprising, given his party leadership in a national campaign to persuade voters in June to remain in the European Union.

The surprise came last year. Cameron defied public polling to win a stunning re-election.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron delivers a speech outside 10 Downing Street.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron delivers a speech outside 10 Downing Street.

The polling got it wrong, Cameron got it right, and much of the credit went to a longtime, low-key Australian strategist, Lynton Crosby.

In a master class lecture in 2013, Crosby told youth leaders that old-school basics lie behind success in any campaign – political, business, civic, even volunteer.

It’s instructive and worth watching. Success, Crosby reminds us, boils down to having a message relevant to people and knowing how to get it to them: Who matters. What matters. Where do you reach them. How do you reach them. How do you monitor results.

He cautions against placing too much emphasis on the latest technique, the newest, clever thing. I recommend taking a look.

I flagged the link to colleagues last summer with admiration for Crosby’s skill at reducing complexity to simplicity – a talent almost always more difficult than it may appear.  

I’m proud clients on both sides of the Atlantic have told us that we take this essential first step particularly well at Hillenby.

A brief trip to London after Christmas brought back to mind this enduring lesson.

During a quick stop by a newsstand on arrival to pick up longtime favorite UK titles, I saw to my considerable amusement bold headlines around an indignant debate between last year’s winners and losers.

Firing the indignation as only the British can do it was Cameron’s role in seeing to it that Crosby, his architect from Down Under, was knighted.

Your entirely American contributor has no interest in the politics of knighthoods in Britain, but maintains keen interest in smart minds who remind business how to get out its message in ways that are relevant and win on merit.

If you want to read more on Sir Lynton's views on politics, polling and campaigning, I recommend reading his take on Labour's post-mortem into its devastating general election defeat, delivered in a recent speech at Westminster University.