Opinion: e-Campaigning in Kent

So I’m sitting in front of my laptop desperately trying to think of some new way to campaign that will complement shoving pieces of paper through letter boxes and isn’t just having yet another website.

I’m quite convinced, by the way, that only a limited percentage of even the best leaflets get read on their way to the recycling bin – and many local party websites only get visited by activists anyway.

And then my mind goes back to the lecture I attended at City University by the bloke who did Obama’s e-campaigning – and suddenly the brains clicked into gear and I’m off.

Three weeks later and my eyes hurt. WE HAVE A VIDEO ON YOUTUBE and it’s on the front page of our constituency website, our PPC’s website and the Kent Lib Dems website too.

It’s called 50 Million Reasons – a reference to the £50m quid Kent Tories blew in Icelandic banks. We also have a ’50MReasons’ Facebook profile, a Facebook campaign group, we’re on Twitter, Twitpic and MySpace, and our campaigning, as well as the campaign, are being written about in all of the local papers. Even better, the photos of our decaying city that I took just to advertise the film are getting hundreds of hits each on Twitpic AND are being used by many of the local papers in Kent as the back-drop to their election coverage. And hardest of all, I‘ve EVEN managed to lever the film onto the front-page of the Kent Lib Dems’ website AND got the film’s url (wee-address) printed in all our FOCUS leaflets.

So what happened?

Well essentially it all began when I rather craftily bet a friend (who I knew owned a video camera) that we couldn’t make a film and have it on YouTube in 12 hours. He took the bait. So I wrote the script based around some local issues, chose some locations and at the last minute remembered to tie-in the Kent Lib Dems 6toFix manifesto commitments.

We started filming at 3pm, and 3 pizzas, two chicken kebabs and a crate of beer later it was 5am and we had thrown £3.50 in loose change down a storm drain and had uploaded a film onto YouTube.

But how to get it watched? Well I started with a viral email campaign, contacting all our members (and all my friends) and asking them to watch the film and pass the url on to all their contacts. Mostly they didn’t. So I set up a Twitter account for the film and used a crafty App called Twitter Local to capture every Twitter user within 35 miles of Canterbury. I then started following them all. They had my attention – but how to get theirs?

I took hundreds of pics of pot-holes, graffiti, overgrown verges, broken stuff, urban decay and one lovely pic of my daughter standing in a very deep pot-hole. Then I started feeding them into Twitpic one at a time and ReTweeted the ‘50MReasons’ tweet that appeared with each posting onto my own Twitter page. Slowly but surely the whole thing took off.

I did the same with Facebook, and – once the Facebook, Twitter and Twitpic sites were starting to get populated with pics and followers – sent emails to the local press telling them all about it. I followed this up with calls to journalists, and found the less lazy ones were very interested.

They picked up on the pic of my daughter and decided they liked it so much they wanted to use it as the artwork for their election previews in several of their titles. I agreed, as long as our website (where the film could be viewed) got a clear credit and that they DID do the editorial piece about the film that we had discussed in all of the titles which go out in our constituency.

Then I just had to remember to get all our local FOCUS editors to include the correct url on all leaflets and on our target and ‘blue’ letters.

Job done – but next time we’re throwing someone else’s small change down the drain (and I STILL can’t convince Mark Pack to follow me on Twitter)!

* Alex Perkins is a Lib Dem city councillor in Canterbury.

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6 Comments

  • Herbert Brown 3rd Jun '09 - 11:52pm

    “It’s called 50 Million Reasons – a reference to the £50m quid Kent Tories blew in Icelandic banks.”

    I suppose that may be effective as a weapon to attack your local council with, but on the other hand we know that councils of all political complexions had money invested in Iceland. I know my local (Lib Dem) council did.

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