Did Matt Hancock’s I’m a Celeb PR stunt work? The numbers don’t lie, says DARCY HUTCHINSON | Express Comment | commentary

Searches for Matt Hancock joining I’m A Celeb were 132 per cent higher than searches for Matt Hancock losing the whip. Searches for “Matt Hancock” increased an average of 1,200 percent during the show each night. And search topics for “Matt Hancock” have changed from other politicians and journalists to celebrities.

November 1 saw a massive spike in searches for Matt Hancock as it was revealed the politician had been suspended from the Tory whip for agreeing to join the reality show.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said of the situation that “at a difficult time for the country, MPs should be working hard for their constituents”.

Losing the whip is one of the most humiliating punishments a politician can face – but were most Britons looking for this shocking news? Our data suggest not.

Searches for ‘Matt Hancock I’m A Celeb’ were 132 per cent higher than searches for ‘Matt Hancock whip’ in early November (the show started on 6 November). Clearly, the politician’s appearance on the reality show was more search-worthy.

Bringing in Matt Hancock was clearly a coup for the show’s producers.

The first week of I’m a Celebrity 2022 received 25% more searches than last year.

But Hancock certainly benefited from the high-stakes PR stunt, too.

Before Hancock entered the jungle, we were told the West Suffolk MP “doesn’t expect to serve in government again, so it’s an incredible opportunity for him to engage with the 12 million Brits who tune in every night” .

And indeed, searches for Hancock have seen spikes every night, rising 1,200 percent between 8pm and 10pm in the past week.

Clearly, the politician was successful in his mission to engage with the public, gaining relevance and searches every time he appeared on their screens.

Additionally, Google Trends data shows that topics related to “Matt Hancock” have completely transformed over the course of his time on the show.

Over the past 30 days, Hancock has appeared alongside ‘Celebrity’, ‘Seann Walsh’, ‘Boy George’ and other I’m A Celeb contestants.

Compare this to the last 30 days – related topics were “Rishi Sunak”, “Laura Kuenssberg” and “Boris Johnson”.

It’s only natural that news about Hancock focuses on his time in the jungle, with new stories covering every time he’s on screen.

But Hancock’s decision to appear on the show worked in his favor and transformed his internet presence from a disaffected politician to a reality TV personality.

Now when Brits search for Matt Hancock, their search results page will be populated with stories about him covered in slime or eating a camel’s penis, rather than the controversial decisions he made as health secretary in during the covid pandemic.

Hancock’s appearance on the show led to much speculation about his intentions.

Did he want to give up politics in favor of showbiz or was it just an attempt to save face and win public opinion?

Reports that Hancock would like to become a showbiz star were dismissed by a spokesman, who said he had “no intention of giving up or walking away from politics”.

But with Hancock also appearing in next year’s SAS: Who Dares Wins, it’s clear he won’t be disappearing from our screens.

Hancock’s long stay in the jungle benefited from a well-executed behind-the-scenes PR campaign in the UK, notably through TikTok.

According to TikTok’s internal data, Hancock’s videos have been viewed more than 400 million times.

Most of them also encouraged users to vote to keep him on the show – largely why Hancock – seemingly universally loathed or ridiculed when he entered the jungle – came third.

However, media coverage of Hancock was overwhelmingly negative, with other campmates such as Chris Moyles branding him a “fake” and admitting they struggled to live with him.

But one poll showed 25 percent of voters wanted Matt Hancock to win in the jungle, and another showed 33 percent of respondents said their opinion of Hancock had changed. In 88% of cases, this was a positive change.

Although the majority of the British public did not forgive Hancock, his reputation probably would not have improved at all if it had not been for his appearance in the jungle.

Despite the fact that the general opinion of Hancock remains negative – and his past is certainly not forgotten – he won a small majority of people, amassing more than 86,000 TikTok followers.

His TikTok following has grown by over 70,000 followers in the past month, from 17.4K on October 24.

So it seems that general public opinion is now generally more favorable and this stunt has worked.

But he’s also managed to grab (and keep) the headlines over the past month, becoming one of Britain’s most talked-about figures online, and the fallout from that may be even more enduring.

Darcy Hutchinson is Content Director at The Audit Lab, a digital marketing agency based in Bolton.

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