The 2004 UK PSA

The PSA conference this year was held in Lincoln, a beautiful old city with steep hills, a relatively new University and an imp in the cathedral. One thing that separated this conference from previous years was that the political marketing panels were devoid of ‘heckling’; political scientists seem to be taking us seriously now, despite all our valiant attempts in the bar. This may be a result of a greater number of papers presented this year on the conceptual aspects of political marketing. One of the most thought-provoking papers was presented at the first panel by Kevin Maloney, who questioned the existance of political marketing as a discrete field of study, suggesting that it may only be a sub-area of another field, such as media or marketing. Rather than being condemned as heresy, his comments led to an interesting discussion on the nature and scope of the area of study, which continued on and off throughout the conference. 

Excerpt from the report by Robert Ormrod written for the PMG newsletter


 The 2003 UK PSA

We organised six panels at the 2003 PSA which was held 15-17 April 2003 in Leicester. We had over 18 presenters and other chairs there may be as many as 25 political marketers at the conference. A list of paper titles is below. 


Panel 1: Political marketing and democracy: a threat or solution to dissatisfaction with politics?
Roger Mortimore Why politics needs marketing
Declan Bannon Electoral Participation and Non-Voter Segmentation
Darren G Lilleker Is there an emergent democratic deficit in Britain? And is political marketing the cause?


Panel 2: Party marketing: implementation and change
Robert P. Ormrod An Empirical Test of a Conceptual Model of Political Market Orientation (Danish parties)
Barry Macleod-Cullinane A Public Choice perspective on effecting political change (Conservative Party)
Jennifer Lees-Marshment and Chris Rudd Political Marketing and Party Leadership (UK and New Zealand)


Panel 3: Marketing local government, education and parliaments
Patricia Rees and Hanne Gardner Best Value, Partnerships and Relationship Marketing in Local Government
Mari Brookes Higher Education: Marketing in a Quasi-commercial Service Industry
Rita Marcella The impact of new technology on the communication of parliamentary information


Panel 4: Strategic political marketing and non-major parties
Stephen Barber Strategy and Political Marketing: Liberal Marketing: the Centre party strategy in 1983 and 1997
Robbie Mochrie Niche marketing as an entry strategy: formation and growth of the Scottish Socialist Party
Jenny Lloyd The Lost ‘P’s’ – To what extent does the electorate view the political party offering as a ‘product’ or a ‘service and what are the implications for marketing strategy in the light of the extra three ‘P’s’ of the ‘service’ marketing mix?


Panel 5: Marketing communications from new angles
Dr David Dunn Comic book political marketing: An initial overview
Nigel Jackson Vote Winner or a nuisance: email and British MPs relationship with their constituents
Sílvia Becher Representing the public self of political candidates: a close look at the papers and how they have marketed Lula, Serra, Ciro and Garotinho before the Brazilian 2002 elections


Panel 6: Political Marketing, organisation and democracy
Sue Granik Part of the Party: continuity and discontinuity amongst political party memberships
Helene Johansen Political Marketing: More than Persuasive Techniques. An Organizational Perspective.
Margaret Scammell Citizen Consumers: towards a new marketing of politics?


The 2002 UK PSA

Building political marketing sometimes seems like mining for diamonds in a coal face: it’s hard, dusty, messy and if you ever burn the coal it leads to a lot of smoke and can burn you. But to get the diamond it is worth the effort. The PMG panels were a clear example of this – the diamonds that is – there were a lot shining at this conference.

This year, we had four whole panels on the topic with a wide range of focuses – party marketing in the US, Ireland as well as UK; the role of market intelligence/focus groups; public service marketing; and the panel on marketing Westminster and Scottish Parliament represented the first ever political science panel on parliamentary marketing. One of the interesting comments made about Westminster was its very traditionalism, symbolism and mystique may be an important and positive part of the ‘parliamentary product’ which the Scottish Parliament, despite its new and more modern outlook, lacks. Another general point arising from the party marketing papers, aside from the wide spread use of political marketing (even Sinn Fein are doing it now!) was that the use of focus-groups by politicians is itself becoming an issue. Whilst it is true that parties are only doing what businesses have been doing for decades, this in itself raises objections amongst academics but also the general public. President Bush for example played down his use of focus-groups; Labour now claim only to use them to shape rather than determine policy. Other issues raised were the difficulty of using political marketing and the potential conflict between external marketing and internal party democracy; the extent to which it is used to shape rather than follow preferences; and finally the difficulty parties will face to deliver on their market-oriented promise when public service marketing literature suggests it will be almost impossible to succeed in this. Overall, the panels made clear the importance of this topic and raised many new questions for political marketing to consider.

Not only that, we attracted good audiences – people from all areas and levels of the discipline and with lots of good comments to make. Whilst other panels had only two in attendance, we even managed to attract around 10 first thing Sunday morning. The interest in political marketing amongst political scientists is clearly strong. I have been used to going to conferences over the past five years and being the only one, or one of only a few, talking about political marketing. For once I found myself in the rather wonderful situation of not being able to get a word in edgeways because everyone else had something to say about political marketing – it was a pleasant problem to face! 

Furthermore, political practitioners present were supportive of our endeavours: Janet Seaton from the Scottish Parliament said at the roundtable ‘political marketing is a very good model for explaining what is happening in the political world’ and we ‘should just get out and do it.’

A representative from the Electoral Commission directly asked for any of us doing political marketing on the issue of how to get voters out – how to market politics itself – to let them know as they wanted to hear from us. It is not often that academics, who are prone to be sat in their ivory towers discussing grand philosophical issues to get asked for their research. It is a nice position for political marketing scholars to be in. This, combined with the wide range of topics, means we broke new ground, which is not a bad start for a new group!

My thanks go to all the presenters for putting such effort into writing and presenting; to the chairs who did a splendid job fielding the many comments, and to the audience, some of whom we hope to have persuaded to present at the September conference also!

by Jennifer Lees-Marshment, written for the PMG newsletter