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Italian elections: when communication beats politics

The recent elections in Italy highlighted an ongoing trend that’s always on the rise: people, more than ideologies and policies, and communication are what determine the success of the campaign. This phenomenon has occured throughout different political techniques, from local elections to regional ones all the way to European elections. An emblematic example of such can be seen in Piedmont’s regional election, in which Alberto Cirio triumphed over Gianna Pentenero.

Cirio’s victory and the importance of communication

«I believe the fact I am a “man of the people”, listening to everyone and always looking for a way to balance everyone’s demands and requests, helped me»

Alberto Cirio

Alberto Cirio, now on his second term as President of the Piedmont Region, won in landslide over Gianna Pentenero. This victory was not only due to his policies and the success of his previous term, but perhaps due to his communication strategy. Cirio created a bond with his voters from the beginning, being present at events, festivals, hugging people and signing autographs. A series of behaviour which made him a recognisable figure close to his voters.

«We started off too late, too late into this political campaign»

Gianna Pentenero

Gianna Pentenero, recognising her defeat, admitted that one of the main reasons for her failure was a “late to the game” campaign and an ineffective communication strategy. Pentenero declared to be proud of her party, but recognised a lack of a strong and coherent communication strategy may have negatively impacted her final results.

The person at the centre of the campaign

What clearly emerges is that the person, more than the political party, plays a crucial role in modern campaigns. Winning candidates are those who present themselves as approachable individuals, who speak directly to the people and seem ready to understand and resolve all of their problems. Knowing a candidate, seeing them as close and present, has become a decisive element.

Giorgia Meloni, leader of “Fratelli d’Italia” party, is a glaring example. Deciding to have people always call her simply by “Giorgia” contributed to making her seem more down-to-earth and approachable. This type of strategy has proven to be an efficient way of building a emotional bond with the voter.

A political candidate, supported by a “spin doctor”, must be easily identifiable and associated with the ideas and values of the party they represent. Communicative strategists shape the public’s perception towards a candidate or a party. Thus creating a coherent and persuasive narrative around the client, shining a light on a specific themes or issues.

An all encompassing communication strategy

Without a communication strategy, which includes all media, every effort is in vain. It’s important to be present on all platforms. Candidates who outright exclude certain social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok and LinkedIn, risk losing right from the start. A communication strategy forces candidates to fill these voids and start off on the right foot, tailoring the campaign for the specific platform they use. As Marshall McLuhan once said: “the medium is the message”, this is why starting months before the elections is essential.

All things come with the risks, even social media. Fake news, polarising debates and the loss of narrative control are, in fact, lurking behind the corner. Knowing how to handle these platforms is an art, it’s like being on a stage that is hard to get off of, but it can make those who know its secrets shine as bright as can be.

An efficient political campaign cannot be improvised close to the elections, it must be planned in advance. This is the only way in which one can organise a coordinated strategy which can give birth to a clear and recognisable brand identity. Like in the world of business, even in politics recognising a candidate and their party is crucial.

The case of local elections

This year’s local election reinforces this theory. In different towns in Italy, the results of the regional and European elections did not match local ones. This proves that the candidate’s ability to communicate directly with the people can outweigh party reference. The results of these past elections in Italy shed light on an unavoidable truth in modern politics: effective communication and being present among the people can determine electoral results. Winning campaigns are able to create a strong and familiar image around the candidate, making them seem close and aware of the people’s needs.

Communicative strategy, therefore, isn’t just an accessory but the key to winning. Without a strong and coherent media presence, even the best political programme risks going under the radar. The lesson that Italian politicians must learn is clear: in order to win, you must put a face to the name, be present, and build a rapport with your voters.

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