Why liking is a powerful tool in communications

In speeches I sometimes pick on a friend in the audience. I tell him how much I hate him. Predictably enough, he responds by telling me that the hatred is mutual. My point is that our view of another person is influenced heavily by what they think of us. People like people who like them.

Yet many political PR campaigns fail to recognise that simple insight from psychology. Lionel Zetter, in his book, Lobbying, refers to commonplace but unsuccessful lobbying campaigns which just moan and criticise, rather than offer something constructive. It is particularly notable on Budget day. When some policy campaigns win concessions, but not their own agenda, they go into attack mode – a really stupid approach. They should praise the government for moving towards their position – and then ask for more.

Part of the problem is that too many comms and policy teams still measure themselves on misleading measures such as Advertising Value Equivalency, which encourage coverage at any cost, rather than as a means to achieve useful objectives. The result is that they go shrill and beat up the government in public. This almost always generates the most column inches. But it isn’t necessarily an effective strategy.