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Good communication with the people you are going to ask to vote for your is essential.
The good news is that social media makes this task a whole lot easier than it was even ten years ago. Whereas you might have had to be delivering newsletters through peoples doors regularly at that stage, you can do so much more with social media than you could then.
Before I say any more about the positives, we have to recognise the negative impressions that we have of social media and why.
Chances are that you might not want to use Social Media at all, because you have heard of things like Twitter trolls, fake news and all sorts of other problems that come with using services like Facebook and Twitter.
The news makes using these free services sound very risky if not bad, and there is always a risk that you will have a bad experience in some way.
The upside outweighs the downside however, and if you stick to a few clear rules about what you post or publish yourself, what material you republish as something you like or repost – which can be taken by some as a recommendation by others – even if you didn’t mean it to be, then you can be reasonably safe most of the time.
We have all heard the jokes and horror stories about people publishing posts about their underwear, what they ate for breakfast or when they went to the toilet. Yes, some people want to share their entire lives with the online world, but there are no rules saying that you have to do that, and to be a good political communicator, all you need to do is publish material which is going to attract your voters, keep them interested and better still, make them want to get involved.
Some basic rules for social media:
- Have a separate account or accounts for your political work and campaigning – voters will recognise you as being your role in the community and will not find value in hearing about your day-to-day activities as a normal person!
- Never publish material that you cannot be sure to be accurate or true – unless you make clear that is your position. If you there is any possibility that you could be linked with material which is potentially untrue or misleading by publishing a link – DON’T!
- Never attack anyone personally in any way. Politics is actually about the work of politicians and the results of what they do – not about the people who do it, who are just as human as you (even when they don’t act like it!). Always remember the mantra ‘play the ball, not the man’ and you will be fine.
- Never take comments made by anyone personally. Once you start publishing as campaigner, activist or candidate, there will be people out there who just want to disagree with you simply because of what you do. Take it as a compliment and bear in mind that they wouldn’t be attacking you if they didn’t feel the work you are doing is a risk to what they themselves do!
- When you do feel you are justified in criticising something, focus on what is wrong and explain why it is wrong.
- Use facts to back your arguments whenever you can
- Focus your material on action
- Do not make promises you cannot keep.
- Be aspirational but keep it real – Talk about your vision for something better, but acknowledge the obstacles at the same time
- Be positive
- Avoid gossip and hearsay
- Always report threatening behaviour to an appropriate authority – as if you follow the rules above, you will not have anything you need to apologise for.
- ALWAYS REMEMBER that as soon as you publish something online or to the Internet, it is likely to remain ‘out there’ in some way for good. Even if you delete something, it is possible that someone, somewhere will have kept a copy. There are accounts which specialise in publishing deleted Tweets and Social Media entries. It’s always best to avoid publishing something which has the potential to embarrass you later, rather than being embarrassed by something before you accept that this is true.
Social Media options:
There are a range of Social Media options for you to use. I am going to focus on the ones that are more mainstream. That’s the ones which are more likely to reach the people who are likely to vote for you, or support you in some other way.
My best advice and suggestion would be to use all of them. That way, you will access a wider audience and find that they compliment each other.
Please follow the links to find out more.
One of the key aspects of becoming a good campaigner, councillor and politician is giving a voice to others who don’t have one – whatever the reason may be.
In it’s most literal interpretation, this means that you must be prepared to speak in public, or to groups of many people, and work to become an effective communicator when you do.
Before you are elected, public speaking opportunities may be limited to asking questions at meetings, giving an overview of yourself and why you are standing, or perhaps taking part in a hustings, if one has been organised in the area where you are seeking election.
The same principles apply to public speaking, no matter the circumstances – and this includes interviews.
So if you consider your approach and prepare yourself now, you will be ready when you know an opportunity to speak may be coming up, or when you find yourself asked to speak without any time to prepare.
Ideally, your aim should always be to speak to other people the same way. So whether you are talking to ten, a hundred, a thousand or many more people through a television camera, the very best you can be will be when you speak to them all as if they are alone and you are talking to them in a one-to-one.
I did say ideally. But reality is rarely ideal and when it comes to public speaking and interviews, just about everyone you can imagine suffers with nerves before they begin to talk.
If they don’t, it probably means that they don’t care about what they are about to say.
If you follow the principles of How to get Elected, you will always have the understanding and knowledge to answer questions appropriately off-the-cuff, even when you find them challenging.
In terms of writing a script, the only time you should really do this is when you are literally giving a speech, or providing a formal response or question in an environment where getting the form of words across accurately is the primary aim.
For example, when I was a Borough Councillor, writing a script to follow was what I would do if I was addressing the Planning Committee about a contentious issue, or talking to a large group of people about a subject where it was essential to cover all the details and not get any facts wrong.
When you know you are going to be in a situation where you might have the opportunity to speak or ask a question about a certain topic, you should always prepare by reading up and researching the topic I detail first.
Identify some key facts and numbers from a source or sources you can legitimately refer to.
Either try to remember them, or write yourself a small prompt note that is easy to see or you can keep on the top of your notes or in your hand. (But away from other peoples view)
If you should find yourself caught out with a question you cannot answer, don’t ever be tempted to lie. Be honest and tell people that you don’t know the answer, but will make it your priority to find out. (You can always use it as an excuse to follow up if it’s appropriate to do so).
REMEMBER that when you are in a room speaking or debating with other people, it is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that others are getting their messages across more effectively. They don’t even have to try. It’s just the way that listening to other people speaking about the same subject can affect you emotionally, when you are putting effort in to what you are doing.
The best way to deal with this kind of experience is to simply focus on what you are going to say yourself and make sure you say it. Even if it sounds like someone else has said it before.
Also, never be put off by the behaviour of other speakers who use ridicule of others as a way to try and enhance their own performance.
These are usually the worst offenders for having little to say of any value to anyone but themselves. This is a very important thing to bear in mind that will help you keep perspective.
At a time when we have so many TV and Radio stations to choose from that you can easily lose count, it is very easy to assume that you have got to be prominent in the media if you are going to be a success in politics.
Many existing politicians already mistake media relevance as a key priority. They focus their best efforts on policy announcements, events and making associations with others that will be considered ‘newsworthy’. They consider getting their picture, a story about them or even an interview with them in the news as being more important that achieving real results for the people who elected them.
In many ways it is because so much media chasing goes on in politics, that so little good work actually gets done. So when we consider that the news is probably more than 95% opinion, it is easy to see how coveting media attention can become a trap of a very special kind.
Locally, the rise of the Internet and Social Media has been a game changer in just about every respect, and it is sensible to see the change for what it really is.
The Regional Press has been decimated virtually overnight. Not because of news moving online. But because classified advertising and the massive profits that it once generated have.
Local, Evening or Regional news was for a long time subsidised by this advertising. But as news at a local level really doesn’t ‘sell’, this benefit has now gone, and so has the opportunity to get the same consistency of journalism at a local level.
This isn’t a ‘forget local media’ speech. It’s a ‘local media has its place’ approach, with the suggestion that you focus on doing what you have committed yourself to do – putting your community first before going up blind alleys, chasing the beginning of a media rainbow.
If you are doing your job in the best way that you can, the media will find their way to you without you ever having to chase them*.
- Focus your primary effort on connecting with the people you are going to ask to elect you. Do this through canvassing, questionnairesand attending local public meetings where you can and should take the opportunity to speak and/or ask questions.
- Utilise your Social Mediaaccounts at every turn. Blog about local issues, making sure you use and include words which are like labels for your area, such as street names, estate names, bus route names and numbers, the local council name etc. Make it a conversation and talk about things that matter to local people. Things that are real.
- Write, print and deliver a regular newsletter and put it through every door in the Ward or Division where you hope to get elected. It is easy to think that everyone has easy access to the Internet, Twitter and Facebook, but they don’t. Put your news in forms which are accessible to everyone, and you will pick up support from people who may not even read it that way!
- Comment on articles which are relevant to your campaign, which are published by the local papers online. Use your name and contact details, and talk positively about how things can be done differently, rather than focusing on why what you are reading may seem so wrong. Always link your comments to your Facebook and Twitter accounts so that your followers can see that you are active and also read what you have to say about issues as they arise.
- Facts are your friend. When you do have a story which isn’t just exciting for you, but has a genuine feel that it is going to be important to more people, along with some interesting and quantifiable facts to support it, drop the newsdesk at your local not-for-profit and smaller community focused Radio stations a line. (BBC Local Radio is as ambitious as you need be. They will pick up far more local news of the kind which matters in a local election than the commercial stations, who appear to behave like they are national stations with a local presence. If your story really ‘has legs’, a bigger news channel will soon pick it up from there)
REMEMBER: News is a consequence of what you do, not the reason for doing it. Focus on the important things and the unimportant things will take care of themselves.
* In 2007, I was a newly elected Councillor at Tewkesbury Borough, when Gloucestershire experienced an unprecedented flooding event one July Afternoon. In itself, the speed and nature of the flood which followed was something extraordinary in itself. But those very same floods inundated the Mythe Water Treatment Works on the banks of the River Severn at Tewkesbury, and polluted the supply of drinking water to massive parts of Gloucestershire. When supplies ran out that Sunday, I took to my Ward delivering bottled water to residents, then spending over two weeks coordinating and delivering supplies across the area. That same Monday, I was surprised to have a call from Radio 5 Live asking me if I could spare a few minutes to be interviewed live on air…