A link to the full report here: Get Involved – EU Referendum
A Personal Note from Marshall Manson, UK CEO of Ogilvy Public Relations
It’s a worrying time to be looking after a business in Britain. The June vote on the UK’s membership in the EU has created a climate of uncertainty, and uncertainty is always bad for business.
A vote to remain puts an end to the uncertainty and allows the UK to begin achieving its full economic potential once again. That’s good for businesses and, more importantly, for their employees and the communities where they operate.
A vote to leave promises years of further uncertainty, economic disruption that will dramatically impact investment in the UK, and make it harder to do business with some of Britain’s most crucial trading partners.
In my view, everyone in Britain will be worse off as a result.
In our industry in particular, a vote to leave will promote growth and investment in alternative creative and communications hubs elsewhere in Europe. Amsterdam, Geneva, and Paris will almost certainly benefit at the expense of London and emerging creative and tech centres in places like Manchester, Brighton and Bristol.
But the horse race now looks a lot closer than the the Scottish referendum was at the same stage. And the reality is that no one can accurately predict what will happen between now and the vote.
Uncertainty is the watchword of the moment. And the vote is sure to be a close one, as the campaigns get more geared up, and interventions come thick and fast from domestic and foreign sources alike.
When it comes to politics, risk averse businesses usually – and understandably – stay on the side lines. But given the significant negative consequences of a vote to leave, the balance of risks sends a powerful, albeit unusual, message to British businesses and their leaders:
It’s time to consider getting in the game. And doing so soon. In the Scottish debate, businesses waiting very late to act, and almost missed the opportunity. It’s important that not be duplicated in this campaign.
But that raises the central question we explore in this paper: What can businesses and business leaders do?
The answer starts with understanding two critical factors in the upcoming vote:
- About two-thirds of undecided voters are women between the ages of 35 and 44 who want to better understand how their vote will impact their own lives and experiences. They need to hear arguments that bring to life tangible effects of remaining and leaving. They’re not interested in macro-gibberish about the British economy or the other choices from the menu of sweeping generalisations that have been all too common in the debate thus far.
- Young voters are the group that’s most supportive of remaining in the EU, but the least likely to vote, and the most suspicious of business. Given that suspicion, the need to present arguments with specific, tangible effects stands out again. As does a need to look objectively at the future, and provide these voters with an emotionally compelling, positive rationale for going to the polls.
In the pages that follow, our team of experienced political operatives takes a hard look at undecided voters as well as the debate as it stands and then makes suggestions for what businesses and their leaders can do, suggesting both activities and messaging that could have an impact.*
And we’re doing what we can to take our own advice.
Today I am publicly adding my voice to the debate.
As an American who has lived in London for 8 years and recently became a British citizen, I’ll be casting my vote in June to remain, not because I love the bureaucracy and anti-democratic behaviour of the EU (I don’t), but because it is, quite simply, the best thing for Britain and all of us who call it home.
Not everyone will agree. Indeed, I’m sure that not everyone in my agency agrees. But this vote is too important to stay on the side lines. We have a voice, and I feel it’s important that we use it.
Marshall Manson, CEO, Ogilvy Public Relations, UK
* Important caveat: We’re communications advisors, not experts on election law. We urge business leaders to ensure that they are clear on relevant laws and rules of engagement propagated by the electoral commission before getting started with anything.