Silence may not be golden for UK and EU tech companies and trade bodies on Brexit

Written by Dominic Weeks, Head of Technology

Last month, Madano joined forces with Brussels-based peer BOLDT to launch the first ever social media study of industry attitudes to Brexit, thanks to rigorous analysis conducted by Madano’s Insights team.

What is surprising in the technology industry is how quiet the various UK and European companies and trade bodies analysed were in 2017.  Largely, in all other sectors, trade bodies were putting themselves front and centre and outlining industry concerns and priorities and commenting frequently. In the technology industry, that’s not been happening at the same level. 16 technology, media & telecoms trade bodies were analysed and combined for 280 posts on the subject of Brexit, which per head was the lowest of any other sector analysed barring the construction and property industry. In contrast, nine financial trade bodies were analysed, combining for a whopping 535 tweets on Brexit. 

The 118 individual technology companies analysed combined for a paltry 100 tweets relating to Brexit, a considerably lower ratio than seen in finance, insurance, chemicals and engineering, but much higher than industries like pharmaceuticals and property.

It is perhaps understandable that individual firms would not want to speak out volubly on such a hot button issue and precisely why they might chivvy their trade bodies to lead the debate. However, the joint picture is one of relatively low public comment on the topic and suggests a lack of coordinated response from the technology industry as a whole.

Areas of commentary

According to our research, the two major issues that technology trade bodies have engaged upon via social media are, perhaps unsurprisingly, market access (33% of tweets analysed) and labour shortage (28%). Tech London Associates issued a powerful survey to highlight the hiring uncertainties and Tech UK has spoken about the damage to the competitiveness of the wider tech ecosystem of labour restrictions.

What’s more, many individual figures have been highly vocal and active in surfacing issues relating to the split. TechCrunch editor Mike Butcher, for example, has led industry figures in research and debate and been active in promoting TechForUK as part of the Best for Britain movement, looking to secure a public vote on the final deal.

Why the wallflower?

There are potentially more questions than answers about the comparative lack of social media conversation on this topic from companies and trade bodies in the technology sphere. Is it because the industry is still waiting to see how it all shakes out and get a grasp of what Brexit will mean? Is it because many expect a second referendum? Or is it simply because the conversations that matter were happening offline and required less public pressure than they did in the financial and insurance sectors?

Whatever the answer, it may make companies within the technology sector that have a lot to lose or gain on the outcome of Brexit, consider their own communications and engagement strategy on key issues, especially as the final details are thrashed out over the next year.

Speak now or forever hold your peace, as the vicar would say.

Madano is a full service communications consultancy with sector specialisms in technology, energy, transport, healthcare and infrastructure.

Madano and BOLDT have recently launched a Brexit partnership group to support companies as they try to navigate the related communications issues.

To get in touch, please contact me – [email protected].