Browse Category: Political Online Marketing

Will Social Media Win the Scottish Referendum?

IndyCampaign Social MediaWill social media win the Scottish referendum? Facebook says that there have been over 10 million comments, posts, likes and shares about Scottish independence in the month of August. The Yes campaign has nearly 300,000 Facebook likes and nearly 100,000 followers on Twitter. In comparison the No campaign is trailing behind with over 200,000 Facebook likes and only 40,000 followers on Twitter.

But how far do these figures go to predict the outcome of the referendum? Does chatter on social media encourage people to head to the polling station? Do Twitter followers and Facebook likes mean votes? How many are voters and how many are Brits without a vote or media?

The independence campaign is unique in the way that 16 and 17 year olds are able to vote. This age group is more receptive to social media activity than their elders. Young people are less swayed by politicians making grand speeches on the 10 o clock news – they are influenced by being appealed to through digestible information, easily accessible through social media. Is social media a silver bullet for middle-aged politicos like Alistair Darling or Alex Salmond who have to court these young voters and persuade them to come out and vote?

But will social media win the Scottish referendum when it comes down to it?

In the final week of the campaign the SNP announced that they would be targeting pensioners through the post. In the most important week of the campaign it is clear where the SNP believe that the campaign comes down to – not the tech-savvy youth but the reliable elderly who can be counted on to get out and vote.

Unlike most campaigns, in this campaign social media is not needed to encourage people to go to the polling station because a staggering 97 per cent of Scottish adults have already registered to vote. Nor is social media being used to keep the issue relevant and in the news – the traditional media have no choice but to cover it.

But it is possible that social media is being used by each side to have a slight advantage over the other. In a campaign as close as this one, both sides need any advantage they can get. Social media may just be enough to push one side above the other.


Image courtesy of creativedoxfoto /



American Politics

white houseI am writing this post from Washington. Home of American Politics. Named after George Washington. President of the United States Number One. #1POTUS. This place reeks of politics – and that was just the drive here. Up until a few
months ago, when I was doing a speaking gig in Aix-en-Provence and I met someone who lived there, Watergate meant to me Nixon and impeachment. Period. But it is actually a posh apartment building where Condoleeza Rice lives. We drove past that. We drove past the Kennedy Centre. Today I am visiting the Abraham Lincoln and the FDR memorial and tomorrow I  am on a private tour of the White House. On Friday, I am Best Man to Matthew Elliott on George Washington’s Estate in Mount Vernon. I am a political geek – West Wing, House of Cards US, House of Cards UK, Newsroom and Yes Minister are all on my “favourite” lists. For me this is like a film fan going to Hollywood – except the sets are real and the people really exist. Except for Freddy’s BBQ rib “joint” which doesn’t! #SadFace

The places are iconic but the people are what matter. We don’t love House of Cards because of the scenery or the film-making although that is wonderful. We watch because of Frank Underwood. We don’t watch the West Wing because of Sorkin’s brilliant dialogue. We watch because of Josh and Donna and Toby.

We also watch them both because we suspect the reality is often far too similar to aspects of House of Cards and because we wish our elected representatives were grown-ups like Leo and Jed Bartlett advised by people like Fitz and Babish. Because as private citizens we wish the former one wasn’t real and the latter was. But as politicos we also love them because in our own little political lives we wish we were like the roles we see on screen.

I am meeting some wonderful people including a friend, John Shosky, who wrote speeches for 3 White House administrations. I am staying with Denise Graveline who worked in the Clinton administration. I have insider tour guides to Washington who give texture and anecdotes and colour to this wonderful set. I am a lucky guy.

Others. like Dan Hamilton, have taught me what little, and how little, I know about US politics including the false comparisons between “Conservatives” in the UK and in the US. And between Democrats and UK Labour. Last night Denise and I discussed, between drinks of course, the differences between Liberal Conservatives (UK) and Libertarians (US).

To be honest, I don’t know much about US politics. At all. I love the fact that I am here. I am lapping it all up. There will be annoying amounts of photos on my Facebook page very soon. Sign up here if you want to see them.


Image courtesy of Damian Brandon /

5 Worst Political Campaign Ads

American politics is a very different beast to British politics. Everything in the US political scene is bigger, brasher, louder. In campaigns money is thrown around like confetti and candidates attack each other personally and politically in a way that makes the UK Parliament look genteel and restrained.

Then there are the political campaign ads. US political ads are unique. Nowhere in the world does political ads quite like the Americans. They symptomise everything which makes American politics into the special soap opera it is: they are expensive, often offensive, brazen, and occasionally ridiculous.

One of the things that I do admire about them is their brevity – I love the 30 second message format. But the agency, donor, candidate, media and campaign pressure sometimes conspire to produce truly ridiculous ads.

What I, and friends of mine in UK politics, sometimes wonder is how some of these political ads ever get approved by campaign teams that should know better and by candidates who should be mindful of what they put their name to. Ad agencies are supposed to “think outside the box” and be creative, compelling etc… but the responsibility lies with the campaign team.

  1. Ron Paul

This advert can be firmly placed under the ridiculous category. Though not void of policy details (“Trillion with a ‘T’”), you would be forgiven if you did not realise that this is an advert for a man trying to run for President of the United States.

  1. Hillary Clinton

This Hillary Clinton campaign ad from 2008 is a perfect example of how you can have a campaign ad without a hint of policy. The advert suggests that Clinton would be a safe pair of hands in the White House, as she is able to deal with ‘something happening in the world’. Seriously? I understand the messaging of “grownups vs. kids” etc… and I understand the value of personal relationships between international leaders but the thought that “somewhere in the world” someone wouldn’t take a call from POTUS because they hadn’t met them before?


  1. Peter ‘Spend it Not’ Hoekstra

This advert is especially awful with racist undertones and bad grammar. The broken English is senseless and offensive and the message is unclear. Any candidate who is willing to put their name to this is undeserving of running in any election.

  1. Rick Santorum

This advert has the feel that it was made with Windows Movie Maker twenty years ago by a campaign intern. The ‘humour’ is painful to watch and the message is unclear. But worst of all, the advert is boring. Voters can tolerate a ridiculous advert but will not watch a dull advert.

  1. Herman Cain

This is an example of a campaign running out of money and ideas, an absentee/mute candidate, a chief of staff who wants some fame, and a bad choice of music. Have you ever seen a car advert without the car or a washing powder ad without the washing powder? The un-famous, paid-on-the-payroll-so-he-would-say-that-wouldnt-he? campaign chief of staff endorses his employer. Who would have thunk that?

Then Cain enters from the right (geddit?) with a creepy smile at the end – and again I ask: Seriously? This advert is especially impressive as not only are no policies offered but also very little is said about the quality of the candidate. Everyone I show this advert to says “What’s with the cigarette?!!!!”

I am sure there are other reasons/excuses why all these candidates lost. But their political ads didn’t help them.  The list above is by no means exhaustive and the ranking is dubious – they are just five rubbish campaign ads. Fun to watch and lampoon. But rubbish.

Or. These ads do their job with the audience they are targeted at which is patently not me or my friends who just look at these adverts from our English, politico perspective and there is some decent at data that proves us wrong and that these were effective. I wonder what my US readers will think of this post?


Also check out my 5 BEST Political Campaign Ads


which words to use

Merton Conservatives Campaign Video

A great campaign video from Merton Conservatives outlining their manifesto pledges and entitled: “Unlocking Merton’s Potential 2014”

It is fun, snappy, tangible and specific. It speaks about real issues and uses short words – like normal people do. I like it.

You can visit their website here.

The Democrats’ strong ground war – winning elections

Ground wars win elections

Election campaigns used to be split between ground wars and air wars. Then the debate turned to offline vs. online campaigning debate and the advent of the digital election.

Actually, the key to winning elections are, and stay, the same. Online, offline, digital or analog – these are just the how. The key to winning elections, the most basic element of winning elections – is the Ground War.

Of course, the messaging matters and so does the authenticity and likability of the messenger. Clients of mine know all about the other M’s of MessageCraft® that contribute to successful elections. One of these is the Machinery – the network of trained people on the ground who do the hard work of elections.

Obama had superior messaging (on several key criteria) and was arguably a better messenger. But the Democrats  had a high quality and comprehensive ground war with a network of trained volunteers all over the country who understood the “how” behind the three key parts of their job descriptions: – find, persuade and turn out voters.

So what are some of the key criteria for a good ground war? Why did Obama win and what did the Democrats do that was so good?

  1. They listened to people. Listening to people outscores talking to or at people every time.
  2. They were trained –  they understood their job and were taught the best way to do it.
  3. They covered the whole country – or at least more of it than the Republicans.
  4. They started early which gave them the time needed to do the job properly. (When is the best time to start canvassing and campaigning? Generally, the week after you get elected.)
  5.  They focused on high quality contact with voters rather than volume contact – asking more questions – getting more feedback, not just voting intentions.
  6.  All their work was captured on a daily basis in a database that could store verbatim comments and feedback. They knew their audience better.

Selectorate vs Electorate – Winning Elections 101

The Selectorate – The Real Reason that the Republicans lost.

Why did the Republicans lose? There are thousands of articles and thousands of commentators going into minute and US specific detail about why the Republicans lost the election. Republicans seem to have a list of reasons that include Governor Christie, Sandy, Hispanics and Romney. Many things impact on election results – often, however, the real reason for losing elections is closer to home. Focusing on the selectorate instead of the electorate is a generic issue that translates across the Atlantic. And one where the Conservatives have been at least 10 years ahead of the Republicans.

The difference between the Selectorate and the Electorate.

If the selectorate’s criteria does not match the electorate’s criteria – at least to some extent – the selectorate will select candidates that the electorate simply will not elect. Many people, including me, talk about the need for “conviction politicians” and that idealism needs a place in politics. But if your politics and your policies only appeal to a minority –  you are not going to win. Elections are about words and maths after all.

This was an issue that the Conservative Party understood and dealt with to some extent over 10 years ago. I was hired by the Conservative Party to coach candidates who could win with the electorate to help them get selected. 10 years later and my Getting Selected courses are still being run by the party – helping to equip people with potential to navigate the internal difficulties and hoops of Getting Selected and understanding how to Get Elected.

Romney lost and lost big among young people, African-Americans and Hispanics. This was a jolt and a reminder to the Republicans who care to listen that their party is out of sync with the future of their country.

If the Republicans do not listen, their economic agenda will lose its volume and risk losing its voice.





Getting Selected CCHQ criteria for Conservative candidates.

Getting Selected CCHQ criteria for wannabe candidates

Getting Selected is the second barrier for wannabe MPs. The first is the PAB or Parliamentary Assessment Board. The Conservative Party take this selection very seriously and have established key criteria. These are skills and attributes that need to be evidenced by wannabe candidates during the 5-6 stages of the PAB.

The PAB is now a 6-7 hour, one day, event. I preferred the old format of 2 days with a stay over. This  was very useful as it used to weed out (some of) the future bad headlines. It is always very educational to see people after they have had a drink or four!

However the PAB does still have bear traps for those who are unprepared. I know experienced campaigners who have failed the PAB – although I know that they are good people and decent campaigners.

Often those who fail the PAB complain that it was because they do not tick the right boxes – blaming their failure on some sort of positive discrimination. I am not so sure. Yes, there are criteria that CCHQ has set out, but they are not based on sexuality, colour or age. It is possible that these rebuffed candidates have not adequately and convincingly shown that they possess the skills and characteristics and attributes that CCHQ have set out.

So for the sake of those doing their PAB in October or November, I have set out the new and old criteria for wannabe candidates. The two lists are very similar and you have pretty much a whole day to show that you possess them.

The old criteria to be evidenced were:

  • Intellectual skill
  • Campaigning
  • Conviction
  • Communication
  • Relating to people
  • Resilience and Drive
  • Leadership and Motivation

Apparently the new criteria that must be evidenced are:

  • Energy and Commitment
  • Campaign leadership and motivation
  • Conviction
  • Manner and attitude
  • Depth and Intellect
  • Communication and ability to relate to people
  • Commitment to inclusion and diversity

If you would like to enquire about my Getting Selected or Getting Elected courses or would like to prepare for your PAB – please do give me a call. These courses are only open to those who can evidence that they have already been accepted for a PAB or are already on the candidates list.

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