Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A family-oriented approach

It is easy to think of campaigning only taking place at the macro level, national strategy, party leaders, party websites etc are huge parts of a campaign and often taken as an indication of the nature of modern campaigning and any individual party (and so their candidates) strategy. But in many campaigns it is the micro level, the constituency, that is actually important and there are various dynamics at play here that can determine victory or defeat independent of the bigger picture. This is very true within the by-elections currently taking place in Malaysia, here the tactics are ones which have a different approach but we can learn much from them.

The governing party Barisan Nasional (BN) is playing down the notion of the by-elections being a referendum on its performance but is campaigning on a truth platform - basically they are holding meetings locally and saying yes there are problems, yes there is a lot of 'pain' around, but we can put it right.

But this is not a big national campaign but a very local approach. Their candidates are indigenous to each constituency and their strategy is "We will go down to the grassroots, meet the people and explain to them, why they need to vote for BN this time around, especially so because the constituency was neglected for almost a year after an independent candidate who later joined PKR, had won the seat". So their argument is similar to many parties - we are best for the job nationally - while also promoting constituency service locally.

How are they getting this message out? Gerakan President Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon says the party will organise small family gatherings to meet the people and listen to their views. These views will then be collected and used to determine the key solutions required for the area. Perhaps this reflects one of two things; either a more market-oriented approach as per the Lees-Marshment model; or a more organic bottom-up approach to politics that is consistent with smaller constituencies and MPs and candidates having a strong link to a local community. Of course this approach cannot reach everyone but any single family meeting may well be a talking point among the wider population of the constituency so not only serving a data collection function but also building a positive impression of the party.

Few MPs in the UK seem to adopt a localised approach, usually only those in marginal seats or those with a particularly proactive media strategy; perhaps this is changing or will change if the Internet offers MPs an easy way to reach a wider cross-section of the community than their mailbag or email can alone (a tactic that does not work in a Malay context). Perhaps if more constituencies are seen to be volatile this will also drive campaigns local, but largely, in the UK, even by-elections seem to be predominantly national affairs; but is this local, family-oriented approach more appropriate both for making a campaign relevant as well as understanding your electorate?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Narcissists or Communicators - Pt 2

Following yesterday's post following Holy Moly's post on celebrities followers and what percentage they are following on Twitter, and replication of this for MPs, I found another way of looking at it. Comedian Dave Gorman makes some interesting observations on a post about the following conundrum and introduced a further dimension; how often celebrities respond to other tweets. Now this is, as Dave suggests, does actually show interaction; as opposed to simply following but then ignoring by filtering out irrelevant or trivial tweets. Tweetstats allows you to look at your own Twitter interactivity and those of others. So how do MPs fare here.

Well actually, Susan Kramer who follows more than follows her, she has never ever replied to an incoming tweet. However John Prescott, with the highest differential, replies to 20.31% of his tweets (see graph featured right), Tom Watson (second narcissistic) 39.01%; Lynne Featherstone 25.68% and David Lammy 17.72%. I tried to run the same for George Galloway but it refused to play. I reply to 25.38%, just to even things up. So perhaps this shows that interactivity cannot be assumed by basic data but has to be measured in sophisticated ways that detects actual communication and not assumed communication. This seems particularly relevant when thinking of Obama. He is often seen as being interactive because he allowed comments on blogs, had thousands of friends and followers across social networks but his communications team Blue State Digital talk of aggressive message control; so perhaps we should think carefully about our definition of interactivity, not confuse communication with reach or set benchmarks without considering what they actually mean! By the way the rest of Dave Gorman's post is highly thought provoking also, refreshing to read something that is talking from a personal and not a corporate tool (promotional) perspective.


It is easy to criticise MPs, however for many there are various jobs they have to balance in order to do their job. A good MP will pay particular attention to the constituency, after all they are (as some state on Facebook profiles) their employer, but also because that is the fundamental purpose and justification for the British electoral system. However, being able to be a constituency MP can be a challenge. Talking to Jim Knight prior to the 2005 General Election about his promotion of the almost 6,000 pieces of casework he had dealt with since 2001 one got the sense of a very hard working MP but also that this was helped by the fairly easy journey between London and Weymouth (compared to many areas) and also his backbench status. The real challenge is for all MPs to find was to connect to their constituency and so represent their constituents fully.

Tom Brake may have found one solution that allows direct live contact from anywhere, the use of Facebook chat and messaging facilities. His first online Facebook surgery was held last night and he says it was a success and an experiment that will continue: "it was a great success and I'm delighted to speak to so many of you. People raised really interesting issues with me about parking, speed bumps, housing, disability services, care services, crime and schooling. I was delighted to be able to help answer you questions and will make online surgeries a regular thing". Tom brake is not a Minister but he is Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson and a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee so is required to be in Westminster more than a backbencher. His seat of Carshalton and Wallington is marginal (1,068 votes) so perhaps a driving force, though that is an entirely cynical view. But, if this was the success he suggests it perhaps offers a model of MPs; finding how to reach a section of constituents and using that to enhance their representative role. It can only be a supplement, not everyone is on Facebook, but it can also draw people to Facebook and so increase the amount of people he has access to. Of course in terms of his own personal standing, this additional level of accessibility cannot harm is reputation either. So, could this be a valuable addition to the communication tools of an MP?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Narcissists or Communicators?

Holy Moly developed a fun idea, determining how narcissistic celebrity twitter users are. The simple formula is this: 100-(100 divided by f1 multiplied by f2)=tool percentage when: f1=followers f2=following (for details on calculations see here). The most narcissistic are: 1. Russell Brand (quel surprise!) 2. Katy Perry 3. Lily Allen 4. Ashton Kutcher 5. Chris Moyles. Which made me wonder, what about those Twittering MPs? I looked only at MPs, and those who had tweeted more than 20 times, the rest may not have any real following or had just joined so a little unfair either way. What is interesting is the gap between the number of followers and those they choose to follow. So who is the most narcissistic MP?

Surprisingly, or maybe not, it is John Prescott, he follows only 36 users but 2,125 follow him (not sure which part of this surprised me most). Second, and this did surprise me, is Tom Watson the MP famous for leading the way in blogging; he follows 948, pretty respectable, but is followed by 2,802. Then it is George Galloway who follows only 2 but is followed by the wonderful symmetrical number of 1111 people. Then there is David Lammy (131 to 1211) and Lynne Featherstone (142 to 991); she leads a pack of many around the 7-800 differential mark. Hats off to the least narcissistic MP who is Liberal Democrat Susan Kramer who follows 193 and has 167 followers so a negative differential.

So looks negative, but I thought about this. Can you imagine your Twitter home page, or the various columns in Tweetdeck etc if you chose to follow around 2,000 people. If you are getting updates to a Blackberry there would be a permanent state of vibrating alerts. I only have 131 people to follow and that is unmanageable after a day away from a PC and so I miss out on a lot of both trivial and important tweets. So maybe there is a logic. More importantly also is whether Twitter can actually be used to build relationships as Holy Moly suggests in that article. Interact or 'don't bother' is maybe not the right option. Clearly you can maintain communication via Twitter but only if the list of those you follow is manageable so perhaps Watson's approach is best, he follows a lot of people but there are also about half he does not. One does wonder about Galloway or those who follow no-one - see Tweetminster as that is where the data came from. But this is not condemnation but observation, you can join the dots!

By the way, when I asked a colleague who the most narcissistic Twitter was, he suggested Derek Draper, wrong, his technique of following a lot of people to get them following him shows very little differential in reality.

Does this have any redeeming features?

So you take two Welsh Heroes: Aneurin Bevan and Owain Glyndwr. You mash their names together and create a website that purports to "uphold and assert the right to freedom of speech, especially to make fair comment on politics in Wales and the World" and be independent "We receive no money from the Labour party, or any political party, and are funded by advertising, sponsorship and donations from private individuals". It claims to have a mission that does not mention Labour but mentions all other parties, if not by name then by their stance. You then use said website to promote the Labour Party mainly by attacking all opponents. The bit of communication posted on this site and YouTube that has received wider attention is this video:

It uses Tom Jones' Delilah to 'engage with the Welsh people'; mmm! It talks of Thatcher turning Wales into a wasteland and Labour setting the nation free: will that have resonance given Thatcher has not been Prime Minister for almost 18 years? Given that Wales is a nation associated with great singers, why could they not find someone that could actually sing to support the video - I challenge anyone with any sense of tone to listen to it and not wince? The lyrics are by MEP Eluned Morgan according to the BBC. Overall the only bit of the video that had any resonance with me was the title: Why? Why? Why?... did anyone think this was a good idea?

Why don't I like it. It looks cheap, the attack is cheap and out of touch, I would imagine, with current opinion in Wales. It feigns independence when it is clearly a Labour site, funding is not the issue but like in the US I would like to see a statement 'I am Gordon Brown and I endorse this message' appended to such things. It also seems incredibly desperate and consistent with the tactics that were attempted in Crewe & Nantwich. Labour seem unable to make a credible attack on Conservative policy so Aneurin Glyndwr announces a series on Toff Dave and Boy George (pictured) to lampoon Cameron and Osborne. It may appeal to some Labour supporters but I feel that it tarnishes the image of the party itself and will have little impact on support for Labour or any other party in Wales.

Is there an alternative for Labour? What they need is an idea of what the Welsh voter thinks is an achievement, some way that Labour improved their lives. If it is the parliament and securing EU investment (as in the video) great; promote that and use it as a springboard to gain future support. Promise something perhaps that people want, though it must be deliverable. Find a way to connect the party to Wales in a way that suggests the government cares, that Welsh MEPs have striven to support the territory while in Brussels. These pseudo-independent attacks cannot be successful, or are they all that Labour's strategists can come up with. There is the famous quote that the first line of defence is attack; but is this really true for political campaigning?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Solution or Smokescreen?

Attended an interesting event on Tuesday organised by the Hansard Society, the purpose of which was to discuss the online campaign and models of its application to politics in terms of it offering a solution to questions of engagement, interest and involvement or was a smokescreen that, in my interpretation, makes parties and MPs appear to want to engage more but without actually doing so. The presenters were LibDem Head of Innovations and Editor of LibDem Voice Mark Pack, Conservative Home Editor Jonathan Isaby and Labourlist creator Derek Draper. It was not hugely insightful, but there were some gems that grabbed my interest and so I thought I would share them. This is what I took away from the event and not designed to be a definitive account in anyway - so no "cybershit" ( a term introduced to proceedings by Draper) if you disagree.

Firstly the answer to the overall question is it is neither! The Internet provides an additional method for communicating to certain audiences, and perhaps an optimum route to some audiences, but is not a solution to the wider problems identified with political engagement. However this may change, so hence it is not simply a too for perception management. Both Draper and Isaby hinted at a restructuring of the membership model that may be weaker but learned from foot in the door persuasion techniques - asking for small actions from joining a Facebook fan group up to working as an activist but with various level of exit points. However for Pack and Draper it appeared that the most powerful objective for using online communication tools was to feed the news agenda and that from this function there could be a reshaping of politics, possibly as the public begin to engage with strong and engaging party and MP presences across different parts of the WWW. Draper, however, went further to suggest that in a close contest a few hundred votes in a dozen seats could be decisive, hence it could be argued that an engaging presence, a persuasive message, third-party (voter) promotion, endorsement and amplification and highly targeted strategies of mobilisation then there could be an argument that it was 'the web wot won it'! Thus we may see a marginal seat strategy that employs the Internet far more ruthlessly at a local level than simply one national strategy as has been seen previously.

Much of this sounded a little Obama-esque, and a question posed by a representative of Hustings (on whose website all the presentations can be watched) asked if this 'may look like your dad dancing at a wedding'. Obama as an example was played down, and parties seem to recognise that it was the right candidate with the right message that was influential not his skills to adapt to Web 2.0. However it is clear that lessons have been learned and there will be techniques that worked for Obama that will be adapted to a UK context. YouTube may surpass television as a way of getting videos viewed for example (mine based on a comment of Ivor Gaber's in the queue to get in. But the local aspect is seen as important. Obama allowed social networking within his website via the http://www.mybarackobama.com/ area, this put supporters in touch with one another. Isaby suggested a similar technique that may be appropriate for the UK. Candidates should use Facebook, but not just as self-promotion tools but to identify active groups within an area and identify with their campaigns - perhaps this will surpass the old technique of reading the local newspaper or be a useful supplement.

Another interesting gem is the notion of the online active public being an elite. But Mark Pack made the interesting point that this is actually fairly open compared to many other ways in which the public can participate in politics. Draper agreed, reinforcing this by noting how few people attend any political event, yet still more may do so online. A fact sadly, I heard that one candidate selection meeting was attended by five people!

So overall food for thought, lots of titbits despite the sense that no-one wanted to reveal too many aces despite the fact that they are all probably the same cards. Two final things on this, innovation is driven by election failure, so whatever happens in online campaigning it will be determined by the goal of electioneering! Secondly, and more trivially, what ever some people have claimed Derek Draper publicly admits he does not have a monopoly of wisdom!

Interesting Project

Turnout at European Parliamentary Elections is fairly low, and particularly among young people. Sarah Russell, on behalf of Graham Watson MP, has decided to try to tackle this by "investigating ways in which young people can become more engaged within European political processes with the aim of inspiring them to be more pro-active in voting" to meet this aim she will be "travelling around with a handheld camera capturing these points of view and broadcasting them on my YouTube channel". To learn more you can also find her on Facebook and there is a blog to accompany the campaign. Her video explains this fully

It is a call to all those that think they never get the chance to have their say, as well as to think about a whole new parliamentary arena that has a huge impact on our lives but is often remote, misunderstood and does not really go out of its way to engage. One of Sarah's Youtube videos demonstrates some of the problems with understanding. If anyone out there has a burning desire to comment get in touch with Sarah and get involved, or also comment on the project here or directly to Sarah.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Gaining Views or Collecting Data

The Labour Party, and interestingly it is the party rather than the government or 10 Downing Street are inviting anyone "tell us what you want to say to the G20 world leaders before the summit and we’ll make sure we pass on as many of your comments as possible". The site asks for a question in no more than 200 words (though they state the optimum is 140 characters) and an email address, and this is the one bit that draws suspicion, they warn that "The Labour Party and its elected representatives may contact you using the data you supply". So clearly it is a device to collect emails and can be used for promotion, which is essentially a core rule of campaigning so understandable, and any contact from visitors may suggest wanting to start a conversation anyway. But the question is how many of the questions actually will be answered. You are able to view the questions, but there is nothing to say if these questions will be posed, how, or how any feedback will be given to those asking the question. An interesting idea though and gives the impression of listening to the 'market', however as with many of these things it requires some follow up to make people feel their views matter.

Just as an afterthought, whoever designed the picture did not think it through too well. Obama looks straight at the visitor smiling, this conveys the image of honesty and openness as well as him as a likeable person. Brown is staring into the distance looking serious but also slightly aloof (my impression) but it does kind of set them as being very different when Brown may well want a little of Obama's charisma to rub off on him. Perhaps it is intentional and serious Brown is felt to be the better image to convey but I wonder if the juxtapositioning of the two contrasting images is wise.

Is it good to be a little unprofessional?

Obama is really good at speeches, really good at set pieces and seems good with people face-to-face, but something he seems less good at is being 'off the cuff'. One imagines that advisers helped every television appearance prior to his victory, perhaps they need to now. On Jay Leno last night his first gaffe was to say that his bowling was: "It's like -- it was like Special Olympics, or something" - that got an instance response from the White House to reduce any damage. Then there was the dog question, on campaign he promised to buy his daughters a dog if he won, dog has not appeared yet. The joke: "Listen, this is Washington. That was a campaign promise," was ok, though perhaps not wise. But the vaguer "We're going to get a dog that is -- that I think the girls will have a great time -- I think I'm going to have a lot of fun with it. You know, they say if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog." does not inspire confidence. Now you can say it is normal to make a few gaffes and this just proves Obama is human; or you could worry that he makes similar (but more important) gaffes when doing is presidential diplomatic work. Whatever it could be a credibility issue and he may be encouraged to think about being more guarded and less unplanned if he wants to retain is good image.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The standard of debate we should expect....

... at the next election is negative. While there is an election due, though not that really you would notice as yet, it seems the parties are testing out a range of things that undermine their opponent far more than they promote themselves. Perhaps that is a little unfair, it is definitely Labour's tactic, and they are relying very much on things going viral and buzzing around the Internet (the example left is a case in point that I have been sent a number of links to). Equally the wonderful 'Tory Logo' tool.

But the Conservatives have been doing very similar things, from the demand for an election, the say sorry campaign to this one that has also on a number of blogs in the last couple of days (torybear for example). A recycling of a campaign back in 1979 and only a matter of time before it reappeared - especially pertinent given the news of unemployment rises yesterday. But there is a broader point to all of this. If it is simply going to be a tit for tat battle of attacks how can the parties expect the public to engage with the campaign. There is already evidence that voting is not for 'the best candidate' (Obama perhaps being the exception) but the 'least worst'; this simply promotes that.

Attacks only work if they stick and are believable, so we await what the mass of people decide on these messages. However blunt attack ads also are claimed to have a negative effect on public trust (they are all c**p), efficacy (voting is pointless because they are all c**p) and interest (they are not saying anything of relevance) and so voter turnout. The positives are they are memorable and, if amusing, repeated; but they are only attractive if they reinforce the beliefs of the reader - hence they go around the partisan blogs but seldom make the mainstream perhaps and are not as effective when viewed by the floating, non-partisan voter.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Are traditional news outlets becoming redundant?

There is a fire in the Breams Building, Chancery Lane in London, I have a picture, which is more than is available on the BBC apart from a long distance shot. I got these on Twitter and the news came through an hour ago, on the BBC it was only 18 minutes ago - it is a question of how we are, in the future going to receive news! More importantly, what are the implications for every organisation attempting to manage news and issues and information.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Errrr, interesting tweet

Interesting response to the question of where the fine line is between party politics and information provision, something a student passed on to me. Not sure if any comment is needed really.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Whose being googled the most?

Interestingly, while news references are about equal, it seems Labour are googled more in the UK than the Conservatives.
However, David Cameron seems to win between the party leaders with a spike, expectedly, around the sad death of his son Ivan. News seems to focus on Brown most, perhaps in his role as PM, but not sure if the old adage about any news being good is applicable as there seems little favourable news around for Gordon at present. Nick Clegg gets little coverage, as do the Liberal Demcorats generally, though perhaps he managed to punch above his usual rating after that GQ article
What surprises me is how close it is across them all. Equally, though is traffic is fairly low in reality; will it increase on the run up to the local and European Parliament elections? You would think hope so I guess! Not very scientific or indicative of much, but thought it was interestign all the same. More of the same, to an extent, but perhaps the really important statistic is unique daily visitors to party websites, traffic is miniscule it seems but the Conservatives get most, read into it what you like.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

What is hot in the twitter-sphere

Who is most talked about on Twitter - Labour but only just!

Guido Fawkes just beats Derek Draper

But Gordon beats David 3-1.

Does it matter, it depends what everyone is saying, how much is positive or negative, how influential the authors are and often the things that each would like to get read widely are re-tweeted. Go here if you want your own Tweetometer, its fun to play with!

Don't attack yourself, get others to do it for you

If you go to Labour's new campaign creation Torylogo.com you are given the chance to create a slogan that sits above the Conservative's name.
If you go to the gallery page you can see the tons of creations of the visitors (or perhaps the tons of logos created by party activists for the amusement of the friends who can tell). Not all attack the Conservatives but the majority do, I saw two that either put both Labour and the Conservatives or on on this shot that seems to attack the idea itself. My favourite is the coconuts logo!

I guess the idea is to allow people to create the logo, save it as a jpeg and then for users to add their own unique attack logo to their own website, blog or social network profile so rather than being labour everywhere there is an appearance of anti-Conservatives everywhere. Not sure I like it much, it is all a little bit cheap and childish; nothing on those great 'are you thinking what I'm thinking' slogans from 2005. What's anyone else think?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Twitter - Influence

Here is an interesting little tool, it is called twInfluence, and it measures the influence of any individual Twitter user. It works on number of followers and their followers and so the basically the degrees of separation between you and a larger network. Obama has a huge network, and it is argued an even larger 'horizon of communication' because his followers can re-tweet his messages. In the words of twInfluence, this is how it works: "Imagine Twitterer1, who has 10,000 followers - most of which are bots and inactives with no followers of their own. Now imagine Twitterer2, who only has 10 followers - but each of them has 5,000 followers. Who has the most real "influence?" Twitterer2, of course". So, based on the site's calculations, who is influential in British politics?

Well Downing Street have too many followers for a simple calculation to be made so hard to say with that one but we assume it is up there but not in the top 50 globally. Labour fare worse on the whole, Labourlist for example is 25,919th with only 317 followers; Labour Party have slightly more followers with 562 but are only 24,091st. The Conservative Party fare much better with 5,840 followers and so are 4,008th, Cameron though has only 551 followers but they are better networked than Labour as he ranks 15,486th. Party wise the Liberal Democrats come out in the middle, 10,624th with 1,078 followers. Interestingly the strategists and commentators do well, LibDem Mark Pack is 9,387th; Conservatives Craig Elder is 6,832nd and Iain Dale is 8,942nd. But here is the surprising one given interest in politics, Labour's Derek Draper has 50,431 followers and is 477th globally. Why, well it is suggested he has ruthlessly built a network, befriending (following) those with a large network and so gaining reciprocal relationships. And that is the way to make Twitter work, if you want to influence then you need people to get your Tweets, if no-one is listening then you are simply not influential. Derek has advantages of being more than just the Labour online guru, so potentially multiple audiences to draw to his tweets, also he had received a lot of media coverage, but so has David Cameron. Does this mean anything? Who knows, but it is interesting and lets face it everyone wants to know if there is any indication of their influence even if it means little. If you are interested, I have no idea why you would be, I am 11,177th, so I beat David Cameron. Labourlist, and Labour itself but who is counting?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bad PR

It is quite common for MPs across all parties, across every decade, and independent of the economic situation to talk of public restraint in pay demands but be perceived to be not following suit. While I have some sympathy with the comment made by Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party, Dame Angela Rumbold, in reply to an OAP's letter concerning MPs' £9,000 pay increase 'I am really rather fed up with people who complain about a rather modest increase. ... If pensioners were working 90 hours a week, as I am, maybe there would be more sympathy for your case', the way she said it did little for her case. This is equally the case with the fact that two Councillors in Poole, Dorset have been disciplined for voting against an increase of up to 67% in expenses for some councillors. The councillors, who may well be fighting an election soon perhaps won themselves more votes when one of those, Carol Deas (pictured), is quoted as saying “I’ve been thrown out for representing the residents.” but the image of the Conservative party does not look great if this goes unanswered and there is no more to it than simply that two councillors decided it was not a good move to increase their expenses in a time of economic crisis and when they represent wards full of elderly and less well-off individuals struggling to pay their council tax. They seem to have public support, their ward's resident's association minutes that "The Southern Poole Chairmens’ Group had issued a unanimous protest since these Councillors were respected for their support for Residents’ concerns". If politics is all about perception then this does the party no favours while enhancing the independent status of the councillors in question.

Monday, March 09, 2009

X-Factor or Z-list

Sir Paul Judge is described as a Tory grandee, on the basis he was DG during the early 1990s, but it seems he has become disillusioned with all the parties and has decided to start his own to 'clean up politics' (though his past is not unblemished himself). The plan is to finance 72 candidates for the forthcoming European Parliamentary election, each of whom will be selected 'X-Factor style' by public vote. This was tried once by ITV but was an abject failure. Anti-sleaze MEP Martin Bell supports it but Judge wants to attract candidates such as Shami Chakrabarti to his 'Jury Team' party. Personally it sounds like another Kilroy-Silk style Veritas experiment that will have similar success, and the whole Judge and Jury concept seems to be more of a pun than a serious attempt at having any impact apart from gaining coverage, possible for Judge or possibly simply highlighting sleaze as a political issue and so depressing turnout further. But I may be proven wrong, it wouldn't be the first time; after all Judge is president of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and may well know how to design and sell a party better than those who have spent a life in politics. However, there is no precedent for an anti-party party with no policies every making an impact so it seems doubtful - any thoughts?

People Power

This video is produced by Mitch Stewart who has taken over from David Plouffe as head, in a way, of Obama's campaign post election as President. the video pretty much says it all in terms of the strategy:

The last lines are perhaps the most interesting: "change comes to Washington and not from Washington", it is the people that Obama argues need to push for change. What this seems to aim to achieve is the firmly align the people with Obama against the system and vested interests. He remains in the strategic position of being the people's president acting on their behalf but fighting against a Congress and House of Representatives which contain those who represent corporations, themselves possibly but are against Obama led revolution - that is the implicit meaning of his campaign.

He presents his plan and asks his supporters, those who have shared their email with his campaign, to do all the same activities he asked of them to get him into the White House: campaigning among their neighbours, making phone calls and mobilising support behind the President. It could well be a powerful force to bring to bear against elected representatives if it works. I guess the question is will it, and can this be sustained?

Friday, March 06, 2009

Another viral!

To reinforce the message of blame (that Gordon Brown bears responsibility for the economic crisis) is the purpose of this little site created by the Conservatives. The site allows users to change the answers to questions, for example 'I claimed to have saved the world but that was... either 'certainly the case in a nice dream I had', 'a total fantasy' you get the idea. If an advert it would be a very blunt negative attack ad, however the intention for this is for it to be a viral. Any visitor can change 'Gordon's' answers, they can then email it to five people and so it will go around. It has some element of interactivity as it can be changed, customised within strict parameters and forwarded on; not the kind of engagement earning interactivity but will be popular with the more committed supporter. But will the message work, well only if people have a tendency to agree Brown is at fault and that he has misled the people and mismanaged the economy, if you do not believe that the reaction will be hostile and it will be seen as partisan propaganda. However it is not designed for Brown supporters, but for those disillusioned with Brown, ready to listen to the Conservatives and agree with some of the key points in their attack. More of this will appear as we run up towards the local, European Parliament and of course the General Election which at the latest must be May 2010.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

A New Era?

It would perhaps be fair comment that of all the things the new regime in Zimbabwe needs to do, providing a website is a low priority. However Morgan Tsvangirai knows he is talking to a range of audiences and that change is often as much about symbolism as it is about results (often it is purely symbolic as results take time). What makes the Tsvangirai website interesting is that it is not only the traditional information heavy, top-down communication tool common across most democracies. What it attempts to do is firstly inform, so the home page is dominated by Tsvangirai's inaugural speech, but alongside that (see below) is the opportunity to say what you think the top priority of the government should be: the question with that is who is it aimed at? Who has access to the Internet (as of March 2008 only 10.9% of the population) and who is most likely to respond?

Similar questions relate to the forum that has been created. It is entitled 'Your Forum' and the language suggests it is the hope that the people of Zimbabwe will get involved. There are a good amount of posts, a small amount of replies but views for the popular ones into the 200s, so perhaps it is getting some attention. Below is a shot of just one series of threads, ok the viewers may all be foreign correspondents and the four replies may be from emigres; it is perhaps a start.

Change in Zimbabwe is going to be a slow process. Perhaps currently Tsvangirai is in the process of trying to both symbolically and actually build the new brand for the government, one that fits his tag-line of 'A New Era of Democratic and Transparent Leadership'. If the government are bold enough to listen to those posting and to post ideas themselves, if conversations develop then more may be encouraged to take part, and if the people who have access are not too scared to share their personal information and log in perhaps word will get out that there is a new style of government. A lot of maybes and perhaps in that, but symbolically it says a new era, the question is whether this can help usher that new era in.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


The beauty and the danger of the Internet is that anyone can say anything and it can gain some element of credibility if enough people are willing to view it and then share it. Here is a prime example of a viral message that I have 14 links to this morning from a range of people within the PR industry, media as well as amused students and one anti-flying campaigner. The beauty is its simplicity, humour and believability; Ryanair's latest PR disaster is to suggest it may charge £1 to use the in-flight toilet on the basis that during a short flight there is no requirement to supply a free service - they did not get much good media coverage and the 'court of public opinion' was deemed to be unsupportive. The implications of the ability to create and share material are obvious and of course it does not have to be outraged customers or satirists. Who would benefit most from this: a competitor obviously. So if you want to 'dis' your opponent you need a viral Internet campaign - this may well be a feature of the forthcoming local and European Parliament election in June, after all all it takes is a little know-how, some cheap software, and a web user with access to a network. Anything could be influential in the new media age!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Just rhetoric

Harriet Harman made a very interesting statement this morning, in arguing that the now imfamous Sir Fred Goodwin £650 million pension was going to be stopped at any cost, Labour's deputy leader is quoted telling Andrew Marr: ""The Prime Minister has said it is not acceptable and therefore it will not be accepted. It might be enforceable in a court of law this contract but it's not enforceable in the court of public opinion and that's where the Government steps in." This surely has significant implications. What Ms Harman suggests is that it does not matter what laws exist, if the public is opposed then such laws will be over-ridden by the government. Perhaps actually it suggests that laws will be over-ridden if it does not suit the government's position of the time. Ok, one could ask why any law should exist that does not have broad public support and perhaps agree that a mandated government should be the highest arbiter of what should or should not be legal. All the same it is an interesting statement that could be simply rhetorical or reflect the Obama style of having the public put pressure on various bodies (in the US their representatives) to get the desired results or suggest the government seeks to be led rather than them leading.