Last week I went to a conference titled “’Go Home’: Mapping Immigration Controversy” at the University of Warwick. The conference reported on a two-year research project designed to explore this and other related campaigns, their impact on migration and public attitudes.
It was fascinating and, at times, more than a little sobering. One of their findings was that many people came to the UK because of what they understood to be ‘British values’; democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect and tolerance for those with different faiths and beliefs. After being here they doubted if these values existed.
Whatever you think of immigration, this should give you pause for thought.
One of the other findings was there was no evidence the Home Office communications team based on the campaign on any research about ‘what works’ in migration.
Of course it depends what they were trying to achieve. If it was to get migrants in this country illegally to come forward it was a dismal failure; it just filled them with fear and anxiety. But if it was to make a ‘statement’ about being tough on immigration then the results are mixed.
There was also a fascinating workshop on performance politics. Essentially it looked at how core messages can be brought to life through performance. The theatre set we create at our borders with flags and guards; whether its politicians or Border Agency staff who do the interviews.
Everything we do and say and the way we behave creates meaning. We just need to be sure it’s the meaning we intend!
I don’t normally go to conferences like this one but it’s really made me think. I’m still working through it in my mind but it’s certainly given me a new perspective for my communication work.
Doing something different, being open to new inputs is always worthwhile.
Take a look at this short video if you want to find out more about the project.