Margaret Thatcher’s Political Communication Strategy

By Esha Lotey

The Hoffman Agency, London

On April 8, 2013, Margaret Thatcher, first female Prime Minister of the UK, died at the London Ritz Hotel. I remember first reading the news on my Google reader, how I had to blink with extra focus to register its meaning. Having graduated with a major in Politics at university, the late Prime Minister (or “Maggie,” as the Europeans like to call her) had been a focus of study since my teenage years.

In this blog post, I would like to focus on how Maggie married her political knowledge with the use of impressive communications and branding strategy. Maggie made her own stamp as a “communications legacy” – the exact headline appearing in a print issue of CorpComms Magazine. The article, written by Clare Harrison, rightly mentions that the Thatcher administration redefined traditional political communications.

When the Conservative Party entered power in 1979, they did not rely on the conventional leaflets and podium speeches to get their message across, but hired Saatchi & Saatchi Garland Compton as its advertising agency. This “Thatcheristic” move helped established Maggie’s communication strategy and inspired local governments to explore advertising as a means of connecting with the electorate.

Thatcher Political Communication Strategy

The respective advertising agency used succinct messaging to get Thatcher into residence at 10 Downing Street, crafting a simple poster campaign: “Labour Isn’t Working.” Similarly, even though the public are less receptive to photo opportunities nowadays, it was of course Thatcher who promoted the photo op as a way to leverage her power and oomph.

An interesting aspect of Thatcher’s campaign is the careful fine-tuning of her brand image in order to politically communicate and engage with voters. Two points to note: (1) her “growing” hairstyle which gave an extra four inches in height, and (2) her effort to ensure that the administration wear bright blue suits at keynote events. Both these moves contributed in giving the Thatcher party a distinctive brand and “look” and helped Maggie acquire a distinguished political voice.

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During her years in Government, Thatcher made a prominent mark in history by hiring a PR consultant who remained with her from the very first day of her election to the day she passed away in April. Most notably, as has been mentioned by Jason Stone in “How Margaret Thatcher transformed the world of modern political communications,” Thatcher’s press secretary Bernard Ingham was regarded as her right-hand man (many even referred to him as Thatcher’s “Rottweiller”). Ingham cleverly protected Thatcher’s political interests, keeping a close check on Government ministers who weren’t obeying the Iron Lady’s political remit by undertaking off-the-record briefings.

I can confidently say that Thatcher will always remain one of the most influential figures in politics and communication. She showed women at a global scale that basically anything is possible with sheer hard work, determination and with belief in oneself. And, of course, having a little knowledge of effective communications strategy always helps.

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