Opinion: What is with the Lib Dem love affair with leaflets?

FocusI’ve been thinking about this for a while, and am convinced that I am the only Liberal Democrat to feel this way.  Nonetheless, I have to share my feelings with a group of people that will understand, perhaps in the declining, yet desperate hope that I will find someone else who feels this way.  Therefore, I must ask exactly what is with the Liberal Democrat love affair with leaflets?

I haven’t always hated the things.  I remember happily putting yellow leaflets through doors as a 4 year old with my parents, but since growing up I’ve developed an intense hatred of the things.  From printing them, to pulling paper out of a jammed Riso, then folding them, and finally delivering them in the mist, and rain.

I often think that this pain wouldn’t be half as bad if voters actually wanted them; maybe even cherished them, and stuck them on their ‘fridge whilst admiring their beauty.  However, we’ve all heard the, ”You’ve got ten seconds to catch their attention between the door, and the bin…” quote.   Sadly this quote has been backed up not only by tonnes of academics (here, and here and here), but also by Experian who found that the only people likely to read these things are single, older people (£).  Call me a cynic, but that is a very niche group, albeit one that votes I suppose, so at least there’s some redemption in that…

As you can tell, like all good Liberal Democrats I like to find fault with things.  Fortunately, I haven’t also raised this issue right at the end of an hour long conference fringe session, and delayed everyone’s rush to the free wine, so I do hope that you will forgive me for continuing with my rant, and suggesting an alternative to shoving a leaflet through every letter box within sight.

Historically, the Lib Dems have actually been at the forefront of political campaigning; we were one of the first parties to use an intranet to train members, and distribute software (back in 1992 I think), and Paddy Ashdown has always encouraged us to be open to new advancements in campaigning.  I did even hear a rumour that leaflets were once cutting edge.  In keeping with this fine tradition, we finally have that clever software package used by Obama, and his Democrat friends; Connect, or VAN, as they like to call it across the pond.

I would like to make the revolutionary suggestion that we stop using Connect to help us plan the routes that we will use to distribute our Focus leaflets, and start to use it to segment the electorate.  We already do this in the run-up to Polling Day by dividing everyone up into groups according to their political allegiance.  But how about we spend less time engaging in the mass distribution of leaflets, and a bit more time talking to voters, and finding out about their interests?  Have they got children?  How old are they?  Are they pensioners?  Are they at University?

We can then add this information to Connect, and send special leaflets to them.  Targeted leaflets about stuff that they actually care about.  That nice income tax reduction many of us low-earners love, that pupil premium which benefits parents, the Green Deal for those that are into sustainability, and so on.  Yes, we’ll only be able to deliver fewer leaflets, but at least people might be able to learn a bit about how the Lib Dems in Government have helped them, as opposed to throwing that piece of paper in the bin because they don’t have a car, and aren’t interested in pot-holes, or are infertile, and couldn’t care less about the pupil premium’s impact within their local community.

I’m not convinced it’d make the Riso sales rep that visits our constituency office happy, but it’d certainly make me a more cheerful person, and potentially a few of our candidates when voters begin to see precisely how the Lib Dems in Government have helped them.


* The author is known to the Liberal Democrat Voice team and worked as an activist and organiser for the Liberal Democrats.

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  • Oh god Yes. This.

  • Liberal Neil 29th Oct '13 - 11:21am

    As a long in the tooth campaigner who has been producing Focus leaflets for possibly longer than Rebecca has been alive, I think her post raises some very good questions, and that it is incumbent on those of us who still think general delivery leaflets should remain part of our campaigning to have good arguments as to why.

    I would start, though, by challenging some of her assumptions.

    Firstly I don’t have a ‘love affair’ with delivering leaflets. I think that delivering general leaflets should be a part of our campaigning because of the evidence that it works. The most regular leaflet we get through our front door is from Domino’s Pizza. Do you think they deliver these because of a ‘love affair’, or because the commercial reality is that it is still the single most effective way to drive traffic to their website and phone line? (Hint: It’s the latter.)

    Secondly I don’t think it’s an either/or. I don’t know many campaigners in the party who think we should only deliver lots of general delivery leaflets, I certainly don’t, and I absolutely agree that we should all spend a lot of time and effort gathering data so that we can target specific messages. Our most successful campaigns combine some general delivery leaflets, some targeted letters and leaflets, door-knocking and telephoning to gather data and pitch messages, alongside good use of media, email and social media. (@Tim Oliver – The first set of target letters I helped produce was in the 1989 County Council elections in Leicester, where we did three different rounds of target letters based on different types of data – and based on the then best practice manual ‘Winning Local Elections’.)

    The important thing is that campaigners work out the best balance for their campaign and that they fit the tactic to the current situation.

    Here’s one example of where a general delivery leaflet was the most effective use of resources:

    Last weekend we delivered a ‘Focus special’ to about 4,000 homes in the wards around a particular local development which included a petition form backing a motion to the district council from two of our councillors. We backed up the leaflet with social media promotion and emails to all the contacts we already had.To date we have had around 300 petition slips back and just under 400 signatures on the online petition. As a result we’ve massively increased the number of email addresses we hold in that area and have a very large list of who supports that campaign. We will go on to use that data for targeted campaigning by email and target mailing in the future, but we’ll also report back in the next ‘Focus’.

    It’s also just about practicalities. It is actually much quicker and easier overall to produce a simple general delivery leaflet and get it bundled up to take to local deliverers than doing more sophisticated mailings.

    So it’s about horses for courses, not one form of literature trumping another. Anyone who says you should only produce general delivery leaflets is wrong, but so is anyone who says they don’t have a part to play.

    The final point I’d make is that older single people are a very large proportion of those who routinely vote, far from a ‘niche’ group.

    Sadly I suspect this response will soon be inundated by people who will belittle the author on account of his age and say that we should tear up the way we’ve previously done things regardless of whether we’ve done them because they work. That seems to be all too common in this party.

  • Top post, well said. I’m sure many elections have been lost to over-leafleting groups who could never be persuaded of anything that way, let alone by the half-baked nonsense that some candidates/agents think acceptable. Many campaigns become too concerned with alleged statistical facts regarding the efficacy of leaflets, but I think those rules are often overtly simplistic and hide much of the complex psychology/behaviour of the electorate.

  • I think there is much merit to what you say. The only thing stopping it would be the practical implications. As a party, we will to be seen to maintain constant communication with the voters (sort of a, we are not just around for your election, we are around for life, view).

    This would be almost impossible to do if we were targeting out campaigning to such a niche and personal level.

    Therefore, I think a balance is needed. Some spam leaflets to show we are around (but not too many) – and many more target leaflets and much more face-to-face communication.

  • Andy Boddington 29th Oct '13 - 11:29am

    Spot on. Let’s segment and target. And design our communications scheme around that, not an obsession with orange leaflets.

  • Could we turn Neil’s responce into an article as it would be of far more use to those of us who are actually interested in winning elections than this article is?

  • Michael Berridge 29th Oct '13 - 11:46am

    There is a great love of leaflets, that’s true. It was all I could do as a ward councillor in Canterbury to stop fellow activists delivering to houses not on the electoral register. The argument was: simpler to deliver to every address; non-voters might still get the message. There’s some point in that, but Canterbury is Student City and there were streets where up to half the households were non-electors – and of the rest, many were student lets where the ER was out of date. So in those neighbourhoods, I definitely targeted – particularly when it was too late to get on the register for the forthcoming election.

  • Bill le Breton 29th Oct '13 - 11:47am

    Only Connect.

    If people don’t like your leaflets, why would they like your emails? If they don’t know you, why would they share what they know with you? Support your campaigns? GIve you time on the doorstep?

    Content,. Relationship, Learning. Informing. Leading. Campaigning as opposed to exploiting.

    And if you want to take a lead in your community and campaign along with that community on the issues that matter to them and there aren’t many of you (to start with) you use the most effective media available.

    But then there are too many here who are talking about ‘how do we get people to vote for us’ – that’s way down the track of the relationship you need to build between you and your community IMHO.

  • Fundamentally, what we’re struggling with here is the “information” explosion, or should I say the marketing explosion. We are all bombarded with marketing information – internet, email, TV, junk mail and junk news (ie Daily Mail). We all try to develop filters to minimise its adverse effect. Anything from a political party falls into the semi-spam category to be filtered out.

    The Domino’s Pizza strategy, which works, is to beat the filter by overwhelming force, hundreds of leaflets a year, which you can’t help noticing. The Daily Mail strategy is similar, a daily diet of slanted junk news, which also works and in much the same way. The typical Mail reader has met two or three nice immigrants and read about hundreds of nasty ones. So, immigrants overwhelmingly are nasty, aren’t they?

    Faced with this fundamental problem, simply finding all the green people and telling them we are very green may not help a lot. For one thing, it’s only one leaflet (else it costs to much), but it needs 50 to get attention. The Focus on genuine local news used to work better, but now that councils have been emasculated and their activities bureaucratised to eliminate democratic input, there are fewer opportunities there, too.

    What might work would be to make the news. Do good things. Think of exciting policies. Grab the headlines with thought-provoking comments, as John Major just did. Get the media to do the job for us. Otherwise we’ll lose by a landslide – To Domino’s Pizzas.

  • Matthew Huntbach 29th Oct '13 - 1:05pm

    One thing that used to be a strong recommendation with Focus, but now seems to have got lost, is that it shouldn’t be just a sales pitch for our party. It should be something which people read because they find it interesting and informative. That was why the recommended name was what it is rather than a name which makes reference to the party. In the early days of Focus the whole idea was that it should NOT come splattered with the party logo or pictures of the national party leader, or any of that. Neither should it look like glossy commercial advertising material. The amateurish look of early Focuses, which was often criticised by those who thought they knew better, was all about creating something people would pick up because it was different, not conventional politics, not produced by some slick remote organisation trying to sell them something. It worked very well – it was at the core of our rebuilding the party from the historical base of the old Liberal Party. There has always been a conflict between those who could see that and appreciated it, and those who thought we would do better with glossy centralised campaigns produced using the knowledge and techniques of professional public relationship and advertising , which were all about us being serious people who wanted to be part of the establishment “in government”. Whenever the latter sort has dominated in our party, as now, we’ve dropped in support.

    I appreciate Rebecca is not calling for that, but old timers like me get defensive because in our experience critics of Focus are often those who think the glossy ad-man’s centrally produced stuff will work better, and we may have gone several rounds of seeing such people trying to prove they know better and falling flat on their faces, then we have to pick it all up again. As we will have to do post 2015.

    Targetted leaflets – sure. But the overhead of collecting the information used for targetting and organising selective delivery can be high, sometimes the universal leaflet is just cheaper in person-hours. Like a lot of advertising stuff (because we aren’t really amateurs at this), it works by repetition – even if people aren’t looking at it, if they see it regularly they know it exists. Also, be aware that even if people see the detailed stuff but read only the headlines, it has an impact. With politics it’s often the case that people ignore it or dismiss it until something hits them and they find actually this stuff is very relevant. If you’ve been there all the time, they’ll appreciate that.

  • Take the point of the article, but when funds and activists are limited leafleting is a perfect way to get some sort of message out. Take the Euro elections for example. How can we possibly communicate with 250,000 voters in the north west with the activists and resources we have? A quick 3 minute conversation with each of them would take 12,500 hours. A leaflet deliverer can do about 100 leaflets an hour, so in an afternoon can cover a small village or a pretty large part of a town.

    A well designed, simple leaflet can have massive feedback. We delivered 800 leaflets about a local housing development in my village and got 140 responses back.

  • Peter Reisdorf 29th Oct '13 - 1:34pm

    Focus leaflets are the bedrock that everything else is built on. I think Experian’s data is faulty, that simply isn’t my experience. If we are going into a new area it’s the way people find out we exist and could be taken seriously. But it’s no longer enough. It’s our alternative to the bias of the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror and, in many areas, the local press (on Merseyside the Liverpool Echo backs Labour), so it makes us credible, but it’s not enough to win. The thing that I’ve been hearing from trainers and which rings true with me is that we have to do Focuses and all the other targetted stuff AS WELL! Most of the information that goes into Connect comes from talking to people, without Focus they wouldn’t talk to us.

  • I don’t think anyone who has been delivering leaflets for thousands of years would disagree that we need to target more effectively, knock on lots of doors and use that information well to have a proper conversation with people about the issues they care about. Elections should not be just about Focus leaflets.

    – if you have a large ward you will be lucky to speak to each voter once a year, never mind several times.
    – Focus deliverers are often different people from canvassers. If we’ve got people who will get our message out regularly on paper why would we not do it?
    – if you are starting from scratch or have done little canvassing, getting to a point where you have enough data to be able to target properly is very hard. Focus at least means you can show you exist to people who you don’t know anything about you yet or know who they want to vote for.
    – people often care about more than one or two issues. Focus allows you talk about several issues, get across our messages and ask for feedback etc.
    – Focus is part of what makes us distinctive as a party. In many areas it’s a trusted brand and they are more favourable to things that are contained within it. Once you’ve established that trust then doing special Focus leaflets on other issues, helps associate those other issues with the existing Lib Dem Focus team that they know and like.
    – I’ve heard far more people say “I like the way you keep in touch regularly through Focus” than have said “I won’t vote for you because you’ve delivered too many leaflets”.
    – a large percentage of the voters vote for us in local elections because of local issues and Focus is the easiest way of talking to them about those issues. As anyone whose dealt with a controversial planning application knows, people often only get interested in local issues when there’s something they don’t like happening in their area that they know about. If they know through Focus that we care then they come to us first. This is part of what community politics is about, which is something we believe in.
    – risoing a leaflet, bundling it and delivering it to every house , is often quicker than printing a letter, stuffing it in to envelopes, then bundling it and then having to deliver it to only certain houses (and if you aren’t delivering it to many houses that means most people don’t even know we exist locally).
    – people aren’t necessarily bored by too many leaflets, but they’re often bored by too many boring leaflets. Often the issue is that we need to write and design them better.

    That’s a few things I’ve thought of off the top of my head, but there are many more.

  • @ Anders

    – I’ve heard far more people say “I like the way you keep in touch regularly through Focus” than have said “I won’t vote for you because you’ve delivered too many leaflets”.

    This is a really good point. Combine this with the Domino’s pizza argument and you could say we’re not doing enough leafleting.

  • My thought about leaflets is that they may be a second best compared with direct face-to-face voter contact, but they are about the only way of busting through the downright hostility and bias of national press, where we almost never get to put our side of things.

    We need to use them more imaginatively to communicate on national issues, not just on local ones. That is a big part of the problem. A major tool that could be employed to help create awareness of the good things we Lib Dems are doing at national level is currently dedicated almost entirely to local themes.

    We need a national sub-brand to run alongside Focus to start communicating our national message on the doorstep because at the moment it’s being drowned out by all the press bias.

  • We need to tackle really basic questions like:
    – How do we fix our economy?
    – How do we make society fairer?
    – How do we get better governments?

    The Liberal Democrats have really good ideas and policies on these things, yet we are being drowned out. Only 6% of the voters think we’ve got the best ideas for managing the economy. This has got to change and for want of any fair chance at communicating them through the national media, we’ve got to use all possible ways of getting them out there.

  • Paul Holmes 29th Oct '13 - 2:03pm

    Agree with every word that Liberal Neil, Bill le Breton and Matthew Huntbach said,especially the last paragraph of Liberal Neil’s observations.

    I only part with Liberal Neil in noting that I wrote/printed/collated and delivered my first set of three way segmented Target Letters in Chesterfield’s 1987 Borough elections not in 1989 Leicester as he did. They were based on information I (and one helper) had collected from one full Ward doorstep canvass in April 1987 and a street by street Residents Survey I conducted over the previous 18 months. Do you know we even conducted a polling day knock up operation based on progressively reducing numbers of target supporters (utilising Tellers and triple carbonated, hand written Shuttleworth pads laid out on a paste table). Something that if you believe some of the last years postings on Lib Dem Voice is only possible now that CONNECT and smart phones have been introduced!

    Of course techniques have moved on. I first ran a computerised election in the 1992 General Election -yes computerised election programmes existed back in the’ stone age’, they were not revealed to an unsuspecting world just 2 years ago when CONNECT was rolled out. Like Neil I ‘even’ used Mosaic data and lots of canvass data to produce more and more variation in target mail and addressed leaflets -in the exactly the way Rebecca suggests we should ‘start’ to do now.

    But the principles of campaigning are the same. As Neil said it should be based on what works according to the evidence. The sort of analysis of the evidence I was previously interested to see in some of Rebeccas earlier postings where she used research from her academic work to show how the impact of social media on election results has been grossly exaggerated!

  • I have to admit I get furious with the amount of focus leaflets that we receive around election time.

    We never get leaflets “unless” there is a local election or general election coming up.

    When it is election time we get inundated with leaflets and focus leaflets.

    I have been furious when someone has shoved leaflets through my letter box before 7am in the morning causing my dogs to bark their heads off.
    Have received exactly the same focus leaflet on a couple of day’s during the same week. Receiving the same recycled message in a slightly different format, repeated over and over again over the course of the weeks running up to an election.

    It drives me bonkers if I am honest and has a far more negative effect on my decision on who I shall vote for.

    We do not get anything from the Tories here {Thankfully}
    Labour Sends out a couple of Newspaper like correspondence which do get read albeit usually in the lavatory.
    And I am afraid Liberal Democrats focus leaflets do not tend to even make it past the kitchen bin due to the sheer volume received and repeated/recycled message.

    I would have thought face to face canvassing was far more effective just as long as it was not done only around the 2 weeks before an election, because I think even that is very off putting for some of the electorate, as it just seems you only care during election time. And by that time there is so much spin and repetition going on people become increasingly disengaged.
    It would be far better and much more well received I would think to have built up a rapport with the people your canvassing over the course of parliament /Term

    I would welcome that kind of canvassing from either a Liberal Democrat or Labour but def not a Tory lol

    I would much prefer

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 29th Oct '13 - 2:43pm

    Paul, the memories of sorting out target letters in your house, of the sweary words that were said as EARS screwed up again, all come flooding back. Yes, you were always doing every possible thing you could do to target people and get the local messages bang on. You were never far from the cutting edge of campaigning and quite often were advancing it. BTW, do you remember going back to the pasting table and written shuttleworths in the Bolsover by-election? It was a bit of a shock, to the system after doing it with EARS in 92 and subsequent council by-elections.

    Modern technology does give us a whole load more opportunities, though and I do think Connect kicks EARS’ backside in that regard. I find it easier and much more intuitive to use and it’s great for phone banking.

    My main point at the moment is that we need to do more knocking on doors and phoning. People who are sore with us cos of the coalition can be talked round if we listen to them and explain things to them – then the next time they get a leaflet they are less likely to put it straight in the bin. Neil Fawcett is rarely wrong and he says we need to do more of both literature and canvassing and building the capacity to do that – but to do that we’re going to have to do a lot more talking to people than we are doing at present.

  • Matthew Huntbach “those who think the glossy ad-man’s centrally produced stuff will work better”

    Absolutely right. In my business (teaching English abroad) I am in the position of being able to ask new students how they got to us, to get hard numbers on what works, in a way a political party (or washing powder company) isn’t really able to. My experience is that glossy leaflets don’t get the same response as ones that look like they were done on someone’s computer, because people don’t relate to that kind of polished product, they see it as something that belongs on the other side of the TV screen and not something that’s relevant to them personally coming down to the town centre to learn English. If that is the case for a paid product like mine, then it surely must be the case when we are “selling” participation in local politics.

    I actually think a lot of what the advertising industry does is a con on the businesses who pay for it (particularly because it is aimed at the client who pays for the advert and making him feel good, not his clients) and it is a shame that politicians are falling for it too.

  • Tony Dawson 29th Oct '13 - 4:26pm

    I am trying to think of how any serious member of ANY political party would want to make a serious discussion about effective campaigning methodology on ANY public forum. Unless, of course, al the contributions to this discussion here are cunningly crafted in a dishonest fashion in order to peddle false methodology to our opponents. 😉

    Surely the readership of ANY political material depends on (a) whether it attracts the reader to pick it up (b) whether the headline content ‘grabs’ their interest to make them start reading and (c) whether the content sustains their interest. Anyone doing any ‘research’ on ‘leaflets’ which doesn’t take variation in these factors into account is no scientist,

  • @Tony Dawson – but the other parties are already aware that the Lib Dems deliver a lot of leaflets and have done so for a long time, so they already know that the Lib Dems think it works. The reasons why they don’t do this themselves aren’t going to change after reading this forum.

  • I also think leaflets are so “century before last”. Frankly you may as well send me a telegram, a parchment sealed with wax or a stone tablet. That said I dont read Cleggs emails either.

  • Matt (Bristol) 29th Oct '13 - 9:33pm

    I think the thing that has most repulsed me about local campaigning over the years isn’t so much the volume (it’s nice someone knows you’re there and wants you to vote for them) as when parties go negative or when multiple parties all try desperately to claim credit for the same thing. I don’t know whether the people responsible are reading this, but I almost didn’t vote LD in Bristol South at the last election as I was so annoyed by a leaflet targeting our sitting Labour MP (and now Deputy Speaker) as an ‘absentee’ who ‘spends too much time in London’; this was cheap and crass and felt (to me at least) somewhat desperate. At that election too (iirc), pretty much all the prospective MPs got themselves photographed outside the local hospice which was closing – as this was a) a charitable, not a government body and b) closed anyway and was always going to close anyway as the hospice had purchased a nice purpose built building in the North of Bristol, this too, smacked of desperation.

  • Caron, yes going back to handwriting Shuttleworths for the Clowne and Barlborough by election because Bolsover didn’t have EARS all those years ago was ‘interesting’. Mind you we didn’t have that much canvassing to write up. Little canvassing, no EARS, no CONNECT -but we won on the strength of a good literature campaign!

    Like Neil I have always been in favour of BOTH more canvassing and plenty of varied literature and target mail. As I said -when I first got elected in 1987, gaining a Council seat that Labour had never ever before lost, I did two full door knocks as well as the varied literature campaign. What worries me is the number of people these days looking for an easy option as if a website, twitter or a street stall is an alternative to campaigning rather than a minor supplement. It’s not a question of canvassing instead of delivering or vice versa its a question of doing both.

  • 100% agree with the article. When I talk to my “normal” friends i.e. the 90+% that do vote and follow the news, watch Question Time and/or read the Economist but are not otherwise that into politics, they are mystified as to who exactly picks this stuff off the doormat and gives it any real attention. They ask why we are not using Facebook and Twitter instead. Isn’t it a waste of paper and volunteers’ time, they wonder, and anyway it’s not very green, is it?

    The pizza leaflet argument is utter nonsense. Paper through the door works for takeaways because people pin the menu to their kitchen door or rifle through the recycling for the latest offer if they fancy a pizza. That simply doesn’t wash as an argument in favour of political leaflets.

  • A few years ago I delivered a leaflet in a by-election to a voting household of five people.. I was told this was the sixth leaflet delivered by the Lib Dems. They thought it wasteful and so had determined NOT to vote Lib Dem. They had prevously done so.
    More recently I delivered two leaflets in 3 days. At the same time there had been a card sent by post. Overkill!
    The only reason I was given for delivering a confetti of leaflets was that ONE of them might be read.

  • Bill le Breton 30th Oct '13 - 9:36am

    Ann, (and Rebecca), what kind of campaigner are you? What are you trying to achieve? For whom? Why are you communicating?

    These are genuine questions because it seems that your desire to communicate and therefore your choice of media has a specialist purpose.

  • Bill le Breton 30th Oct '13 - 9:58am

    acgn, the reason you were given for delivering those leaflets is nonsense. There is a very good reason, which I am not going to share here, why that happens ‘during an election campaign’, If you want to help in a by-election, just do what you are asked to do.

  • There are actually two debates going on here. One is about targeting, the other is about Focus (and leaflets more generally). You can have targeted Focuses and you can use other routes to contact everyone. Both have their place and serve different purposes. Different types of literature (and different types of media) appeal to and reach different types of person. The Focus leaflet has generally been successful because it appeals to community minded people who are also those who tend to vote in local elections. Any local party that’s made the step up to getting an MP elected will know that Focus alone is not enough for that. Of course, campaigning must evolve and more targeted activity is generally a better use of resources (and is also nothing new as others have pointed out), but a good regular Focus leaflet remains important because it is our USP. Just as a small shop has to work hard to be part of the local community in order to survive against Tesco, so do we have to be part of the community because we can’t rely on historical voting behaviour to get us elected. It’s not an either / or, it’s all a question of balance.

  • @Ann K.

    Can you tell me how to send an explanation of my views to everyone who lives in a certain town using facebook or twitter?

  • Tony Dawson 30th Oct '13 - 1:40pm

    @ Alistair:

    “I also think leaflets are so “century before last”.”

    Which presumably means that any leaflets which you write would be?

    Just remind me when you gained a ward in elections recently off Labour when your Party was floundering nationally in the polls.

  • Matthew Huntbach 30th Oct '13 - 1:46pm

    Ann K.

    When I talk to my “normal” friends i.e. the 90+% that do vote and follow the news, watch Question Time and/or read the Economist but are not otherwise that into politics, they are mystified as to who exactly picks this stuff off the doormat and gives it any real attention. They ask why we are not using Facebook and Twitter instead.

    So do your normal friends go to look at Facebook pages set up by their local Liberal Democrats, or subscribe to Twitter feeds from them? Why would they make a special effort to do this, but throw a bit of paper with the same info on it into the bin?

    Much of the criticism of leaflets in this thread is not on the mode of delivery, but on the content, which is a separate issue. As I pointed out earlier on, the original idea of Focus was that it should NOT look and feel like standard party political literature, and should get people to read it because it was genuinely useful to them. Much of what is being said here seems to come down to that original ideal having been forgotten.

  • Matthew Huntbach 30th Oct '13 - 1:55pm

    I’ve been using internet communication since the early 1980s, which I suspect is longer than most people. But I don’t subscribe to Twitter or Facebook, and I resent the suggestion that I have to otherwise I am some Luddite.

    Why should I become reliant on a service provided by some private corporation which runs that service not just to force adverts on me (as newspapers do) but also to collect information about me and make use of that? Facebook from what I gather about how it works just provides some convenient templates for setting up web accessible information and communication. But why do I need Facebook to do this? Why can’t I just acquire some web space and write my own stuff? Twitter just sounds to me like subscribing to more junk email. I get enough junk email already. Why should I subscribe to a service which is all about delivering more such stuff?

  • @Matthew
    I don’t know about Twitter either, if you have effectively a mailing list of fans/sympathisers, then you would actually want to send them slightly longer messages than 128 characters.
    The point of having a Facebook home page that people can “like” (this fact is then shown on that person’s own homepage) is similar to your generation giving out metal pin badges for people to wear to show that they support the Liberal Party, believe in God or oppose Apartheid or whatever – it is an easy way for someone to be “out” as believing in something without requiring the person to take the step of sitting down with their friends in the pub and saying “let’s talk about God”. It’s not meant to be an election/soul winner on its own.Also if a well-known candidate is standing in his local community the “likes” can go viral and the message gets round.
    In terms of using it to actually communicate with people, it is possible to put something up, but as I understand it, it won’t necessarily be seen by everyone who has ever “liked” the party/candidate – but you don’t lose much time if you cut and paste the headlines of a leaflet on there (or link to the PDFs?)

  • Dave G Fawcett 30th Oct '13 - 3:04pm

    As a disabled candidate in a non-target ward I am limited in the choices I have in getting information, petitions and surveys out to ‘my’ voters and I am able to choose to pay for friends (who are now party members, if inly in a token way) to deliver for me. I would love to be able to canvass but my friends refuse to do so because they feel uncomfortable with the idea. So for me it’s a case of ‘horses for courses’.

  • Simon Banks 30th Oct '13 - 9:26pm

    The problem with research like Experian’s is that it can’t distinguish the best from the worst leaflets or ones delivered regularly from two issues a year.

    I take it we’re not talking about election leaflets here. It’s not just us put out lots of those in serious contests.

    First of all, let’s try to work out why we put the things out. Once upon a time, at least, it wasn’t just to win votes, but to inform people – for example, that a consultation was taking place, what it was about and how to join in. It was also to get people actively involved – what we called community politics. The people who got involved were inevitably a minority, but, for example, including a petition in the leaflet could get some people involved in the campaign and some might become our activists.

    Those who use leaflets cleverly as PART of their campaigning generally find people on the doorstep respond to them: “I saw you got that overgrown footpath cleared…” or “You’re the people going on about not enough plastic being recycled, aren’t you? I couldn’t agree more…” (or, “what rubbish!”) If all you do is put out leaflets, they will be ignored, but if you also fix things, they will have some impact, and not just, I’m convinced, among single older people, though it’s true older people may have more time to read them. Some people will internalise messages or information from the leaflets and forget where it came from.

    Why don’t we use Facebook or Twitter instead? Why on earth “instead”? Some people pay attention to social media and not to leaflets. Some are the other way around, or use social media but won’t follow political campaigners there. E-mail can be very effective, but you need to get people’s e-mail addresses (for example, by a residents’ survey) and check they don’t mind getting political e-mails (for some reason many people are more sensitive about getting electronic messages than paper ones, seeing it as an invasion of privacy).

    Leafleting isn’t an alternative to canvassing or other face-to-face contact, but it isn’t often in conflict with that. There are many people willing to deliver some leaflets but not to canvass. Where we’re genuinely active, regular Focus deliveries are part of the evidence that we’re active and not just at election time.

  • Matthew Huntbach 31st Oct '13 - 11:18pm

    Richard S

    The point of having a Facebook home page that people can “like” (this fact is then shown on that person’s own homepage) is similar to your generation giving out metal pin badges for people to wear to show that they support the Liberal Party,

    Er, yes, but perhaps Ann K can inform me how this replaces door-to-door leaflets, because it seems to me this page is only going to be looked at by those who seek it out to look at it. So if people are not going to look al leaflets which come through their letterbox, why are they going to seek out a Facebook page which says the same things?

  • Matthew Huntbach 31st Oct '13 - 11:23pm

    On canvassing, why are people writing here as if that is about trying to get information across about the party? That’s NOT the purpose of canvassing. The purpose of canvassing is to identify voters who are already committed to supporting you. Any canvasser who thinks it’s their job to argue with the electors and try and convert them should be sent out Focus delivering, because someone who doesn’t understand what the job is about is a danger.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 3rd Nov '13 - 9:48am

    Paul, of course you are right – but I stand by saying that conversations on doorsteps or on the phone are more important than ever. And as for Twitter, etc, I agree – social media is a very poor foundation for a campaign. However, if you look at the people who do it most successfully, Jo Swinson and Willie Rennie, for example, it supplements their extensive door-knocking rather than replaces it. It has its place in the strategy but it’s only a relatively small part of the process.

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