I’ve talked before about how slow and steady progress is usually the way to successful online politics (as in The secret to getting 1,000 ward residents to follow you on Twitter), but slow and steady progress often runs into a problem: where do you get the content from?
Whether it’s building up an email list, getting a decent readership for your blog or accumulating a good network of residents on Facebook, as you steadily build up towards large audiences you need a regular supply of content, and all the more so once you have got your large audience. Being seen to be regularly providing interesting, useful and occasionally fun news in itself helps build the audience.
The supply of potential information is not normally the issue – just try asking a councillor whether they think they get too few emails from the council with lengthy documents. But what often stops the information becoming online content is a feeling that this has to be a big job that takes time, and with pressures from too much else to do and the sense of having a blank sheet of paper to start with, often nothing happens.
The solution? Go for little and often, adding details and summaries as you move from the brief to the more substantive communications.
So your Tweets or Facebook status updates are the most frequent form of communication, and the shortest. They may be up to several times a day but are always short – and relying on links to content elsewhere if a story is more complicated or details than 140 characters allows. Letting people know about a planning application, for example, becomes a simple tweet with a link to the online documents.
Then for the blog post every few days, you pick the tweet that was on the most important topic, expand further on the topic in a few sentences and put the story on the blog. Perhaps one of the planning applications has turned out to be controversial – so that becomes a fuller story, following up the response you got on Twitter to mentioning it.Then for the email newsletter once a fortnight or once a month, you look through the blog posts, pick out the most important stories and expand on them a little further. Now perhaps you add in an account of a discussion you have had with the Planning Officer about that controversial application.
And then for the Focus leaflet? You go through the email newsletters, pick out the most important stories once again and expand on them yet again. Time to head off to a local meeting to gather petition signatures about that planning application and get a campaigning action photograph, perhaps.
In other words, rather than being put off by having to write a long story from scratch and never starting, kick off the process with a brief tweet, whose very brevity makes it much easier to do. Each time as you move up through blog and email to leaflets through doors, and you need longer content, expand on what you’ve done before. That way there’s never a blank sheet of paper staring at you and expanding what has already been written is often much easier to do.
If you are consistently selecting and expanding on the best stories as you reuse ideas, you avoid any risk of annoying people by duplicating messages because even if someone gets all your messages via all the different routes, each time there is something more for them.
Not all stories fit this formula. Sometimes you may want a longer, more detailed story on your blog than can fit in a leaflet, for example. But as a basic template to follow that turns your good intentions into effective online campaign, it is a very good one to use.
Thanks to Jake Holland for helping to crystallise the thoughts in the original version of this post. For more about successful campaigning, see 101 Ways To Win An Election.