It’s very easy to overlook the role of your contact information when you begin working with your wider community and the general public.
It is an essential part of good communication that you keep your potential electors aware of what you are doing and why. It’s also vital that people you want to vote for you have the opportunity to contact and interact with you effectively.
Get both right, and the circle of good communication between you as a representative, and them as those you will represent, will be complete.
Becoming a politician isn’t about you, it is about the role that you will fulfil.
From this point of view, it is sensible to treat your campaigning and election activity, and then what you will ultimately do as a councillor as being like a job. You wouldn’t use your personal contact details to advertise the company you work for, and your political work should be no different.
There is no need for you to put your home address on the material you publish at any time outside of a formal election campaign period. However, you do need to provide people with a telephone number and an e-mail address to make the interactive process work.
Rather than use your own phone and the e-mail address that you use for things like your banking and online shopping, it is a very sensible idea to get yourself a pay as you go phone, and a free e-mail account with one of the well known platform providers.
A separate phone number
You may be thinking ‘I already have a phone… what’s wrong with using that’.
Well, in some respects absolutely nothing. But if you are out having a drink or a meal with friends, taking your children to school or on holiday with your family, you might not want to take a call from an angry resident who has just had his flowerbeds trashed by a car cutting across a verge or corner.
Keeping things separate is just a sensible and helps you to be professional with all the community work that you do.
Most of the main mobile phone networks and the well known supermarkets sell basic mobile phone packages with some airtime to get started for around £20 or even less. This is a very good investment and a cost effective way to add a simple layer of personal protection to what you are doing in public.
You wont need to make many calls, and those that you do can usually be made from your normal phone because they will be to formal or official contacts or people you know or have a developed relationship with – the people you will feel comfortable asking if its ok to call them back.
A separate e-mail address
Just like having a separate phone number, having a different e-mail address for your campaigning and election activity is really a must.
Even better, its very simple to get another e-mail address and you can set up an additional account for free with providers such as Google and Outlook, and can either use your name or as with social media, include a reference to your area or something like that in your new address.
By having a new e-mail address just for your campaigning, you can choose when you pick up the messages which come as a result of your political work, and keep your community work separate from every thing else that you do.
The most important thing – for practical reasons – is that a separate e-mail account will make keeping your records much easier.
It doesn’t matter what kind of communication, whether you sent or received it. Keeping copies of everything is essential to what you do.
You don’t know when you might need to return to conversations you had or information you were given in the present moment at a future time, and when I say future, I literally mean something you do now could only become relevant in a few years time.
To put it in perspective, when people get upset about something, they can quickly develop a long memory. Emotional upset and anger can lead anyone to remember events very differently to how they actually were. It may not be deliberate or intentional on the part of someone who might have a grievance with you, but all the same, you need to protect yourself against all eventualities.
Use your separate e-mail account to make sure you keep clear and documented evidence of everything which was written, sent and received, and can access at any time.
Records are most definitely one of a politicians best friends!