The culture secretary has made an app. Matt Hancock, who is also the MP for West Suffolk, is the first member of parliament to launch his own smartphone application. The app features picture galleries and videos of Hancock, and provides updates on his activities. Trusted Reviews said it was ‘straight out of The Thick of It’, adding ‘#cringe’. Maybe. No doubt Hancock and app will be a subject of mockery for a few weeks. But maybe it’s also a stroke of public-relations genius. I’m not the first media commentator taking up column inches writing about Matt Hancock.
Maybe it takes someone in my line of work to see the value in creating an app about yourself. Obnoxious? Maybe a bit. Effective? Yes, very. Why? Because first of all, Matt Hancock is getting himself out there. Since Thursday last week, he has not been out of the headlines. ‘MP Matt Hancock releases app called Matt Hancock MP,’ said the Guardian. ’I can’t stop running my finger over the groovy new Matt Hancock,’ Matt Chorley of The Times wrote. And the most telling one, from the Guardian again: ‘Now he’s conquered social media, what next for Tory MP Matt Hancock?’
What’s most interesting about this is that Hancock is not only raising his profile. He’s raising it in the right way. Not all bad publicity is good publicity, despite what you hear. Toyota’s sales plummeted after it was forced to recall eight million vehicles to fix problems with the accelerator pedal and the braking system. The company had to pursue the ‘most far-reaching sales programme in its history’ to mitigate the damage to the brand and retain its customers. SeaWorld may never recover from the negative press it received after Blackfish won an Academy Award for showing what many believe is animal cruelty taking place at its marine parks. Matt Hancock is showing that not all Conservatives are old and stuffy, as they are stereotyped to be. He’s also appealing straight to smartphone users––a younger demographic. POLITICO wrote in 2017, ‘Conservatives are right to be worried about their lack of popularity with young Brits.’ The article read, ‘The Tories have an age problem. In June’s general election, some two-thirds of British voters aged 18-25 voted Labour. Only one in five voted Conservative.’ Last year, 96% of young people between the age of 16 and 24 said they owned a smartphone.
Because of how brash Matt Hancock’s app launch is, he’s also finding himself on TV shows, such as The Last Leg, and being mentioned alongside household names and celebrities, such as Stephen Fry. Moreover, the former digital minister is flaunting his digital chops. He’s showing he’s smart, savvy, innovative and optimistic about our tech-driven future. He’s building on the positive feedback he received from tech bosses back when he was digital minister. ‘He is somebody who has quickly built up good and constructive relationships across the sector,’ sad Anthony Walker, deputy chief executive of TechUK, which represents more than 950 tech companies, last month.
It’s useful to remember that Matt Hancock was the protege of former Chancellor George Osborne, and was going places until Britain voted to leave the European Union. He lost his pre-referendum seat at the Cabinet table in Theresa May’s clear-out of David Cameron allies. Now, he’s on the rise. So joke all you want about his app––it might be a smart political move.