The Digital Election
And we’re off! Well actually, we‘re well into General Election 2016, heralded by many as the first real digital election in Ireland.
Although most of the political parties used digital communication tactics in 2011, the scale and use of digital technologies by the electorate since then means online is now the only show in town for anyone interested in communicating widely with their constituents.
Similarly, for those media outlets seeking to capture, analyse, interpret and translate the many and varied aspects of the election trail to the masses, a robust and effective multi-platform digital strategy is essential.
The Irish chapter of the Online News Association recently hosted their inaugural event at the NDRC Annex, where the great and the good from the world of Irish journalism shared aspects of their organisation’s digital strategy in covering #GE2016.
He brought the audience through the campaign planning stage, how the team wanted to build on the success of their 2011 election coverage with more structured data, real time results and bodies in every count centre.
Paddy spoke about the Times’ “constituency cards” replacing the more traditional electoral area maps. You can check out each candidate in your constituency, and can even take a test to identify which candidate most closely shares your views – a partnership with UL which mirrors the efforts of the website SmartVote.ie. He urged everyone to sign up to the IT “Inside Politics” digest, to tune into Mary Minihan’s periscope and to seek out the oracle that is Miriam Lord, who they have managed to coerce onto Facebook!
Paraic Gallagher, Political Correspondent with Newstalk 106 spoke about the importance of “just in” live streaming, and the potential of Snapchat and Periscope to maximise same. Periscope will be deployed as a tool in NT through which all journalists can share content across shows, while he felt Snapchat would also be an effective way to capture the immediate reactions of the electorate in short and concise 10 minute broadcasts. All Newstalk election news, analyses and features can be tracked on their dedicated twitter handle @electionNT and the hashtag #realitycheck
Their 2016 election programme is less about what politicians are saying, and more about what the public wants them to hear. They too have constituency maps and a “high table election debate” forum, which kicked off with a face-off between the McGraths, Mattie and Finian. Not content with placidly accepting the orations of candidates, The Journal have also unveiled an innovative GE16 “FactCheck series” where they “test the truth” of claims made on the election trail. They even have a dedicated email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) where members of the public can confirm the veracity of candidate claims!
Another noteworthy address came from Gavan Reilly, Political Correspondent with Today FM who spoke about the many ways that the benefits of Twitter can be maximised through platforms such as Tweetdeck.
He illustrated how he can have three columns following one hashtag simultaneously, but each with additional filters (for example, one column might only show a tweet that’s been retweeted three times) to ensure he’s able to sort breaking stories of significance from the deafening noise and traffic that can fill up twitter streams.
Gavan also expounded on the virtues of Twitter lists, calling out for particular note the @StoryfulIEOD list, a database of every candidate in the country and their associated contact details including social media accounts.
Joe Galvin, News Editor with Storyful spoke of how this was the first Irish election to be covered by the social media news agency. He explained how social media allows us to know more about candidates, and using discovery tools the agency can ascertain which party is the most active, which is the most interactive, the online behaviour of candidates and even their work ethic “who gets up earliest and who stays up latest”!
One contributor said that “gaffes will happen early, often and on social media” and given the endless space and sharing features online, it’s hard to argue with that.
Research conducted on behalf of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland last year showed that 86% of Irish people access news every day. With 52% of Irish people using their smartphones to access news content, politicians need to be ever more vigilant, coiffed and word perfect in the race to convince the ‘great unwashed’ of their merit during General Election 2016.