Have we reached a tipping point on community videos in election campaigns?
65 videos in five weeks – not bad going is it? With my filming of local council meetings in and around Cambridge, I aim to bring local democracy to your desktop. Please consider supporting my work if you can afford it and haven’t donated already. Click on the button below:
I’ve broken them down into a series of playlists as follows:
- Introducing 17 candidates standing for election to Cambs County Council
- Detailed policy interviews with the four Newnham candidates
- Petersfield Division hustings
- Sawston and Shelfords hustings
- Queen Edith’s Division hustings
The mayoral hustings are as follows:
- Cambridge Network hustings
- Cambridge Carbon Footprint environmental hustings
- Centre for Cities hustings
- Sawston mayoral hustings for South Cambridgeshire
Cambridgeshire County Council elections – and the mayoral ones too
34 local councils – mainly the shire county councils – are up for election on 04 May 2017. The county councils – covering large rural areas are traditionally Conservative-voting councils so even though the results are likely to be strong for the Conservatives, they won’t necessarily translate directly to the general election. Furthermore there are the controversial (in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough) mayoral elections.
Irrespective of my personal political views, I’ve taken on the (self-appointed) role of filming as many hustings and community debates in and around South Cambridge in the run up to both the mayoral and the Cambridgeshire County Council elections. I generally leave meetings in North Cambridge to Richard Taylor as that’s the side of the city where he lives and is far more familiar with than I am. See his video channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/RTaylorUK/videos
Have we reached a tipping point with community video and local elections?
Not yet – but there is now clearly some momentum. In and around Cambridge, it is the Green Party collectively, followed by the Liberal Democrats with a handful of individual notable pioneers who have struck out creating their own short video clips for sharing on Facebook. Videos uploaded to FB directly are much more likely to appear in people’s news feeds than links to external sites such as Youtube and Vimeo.
Stats: Data from DemocracyCambridge indicating a greater use of Facebook by the Greens.
Now, I’m not about to say that on the basis of the videos alone that the election results will follow accordingly. What it might indicate in future is how local political parties and candidates might be able to influence the political agenda and what people discuss whether online, at public debates or in general conversation.
Feedback from candidates filmed
The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Note that on my part I have done a fair amount of preparation and planning – along with about three years of learning that goes with it. It’s not simply a case of turning up, pointing a camera at people and saying:
If you go through the candidate intro videos one after the other, you’ll notice a common theme.
“Hi! My name is Dave and I’m standing for my party in my local ward at my local council elections on the 1st of April”
What is the essential information that people need to know about the individual speaking before a social media notification distracts them? It’s the above. You know that ‘stat-you-read-on-the-internet-so-it-must-be-true’ you heard about interviewers making a decision to hire someone in the first 90 seconds? You can sort of apply similar principles here. The average viewing time for my videos anyway is around the two minute mark. Not long at all. That means the candidates have 60 seconds max to explain why they are standing for election – before a final reminder on when polling day is.
Principles behind the videos
My simple principle is this: I want all candidates I film intro videos for to be at their best when delivering their lines. I want the viewer to see all of the candidates at their best. That way everyone has had an equal chance to put their case, and the voter & viewer can make as an informed choice as possible given otherwise very little time. Because let’s face it: how many of you are going to read through and fact check all of the local manifestos of the parties standing in your area? How many of you are going to do background research on the candidates for local council elections? How many of you will be putting a cross in a box for someone you’ve never met, don’t know what they look like and have no idea about other than they are a given party’s candidate?
Watching previous first time candidates grow in confidence
This is possibly the bit I get the most satisfaction from – watching camera-shy first-time candidates growing in confidence as they appear in more videos and as they come face-to-face with the public more frequently. I
It’s a doddle to tear politicians to pieces. Even more so for me because I’m familiar with the internal workings of the system at a level that most candidates are not. The much harder task is working across the parties to make them all appear in the best light possible to the voters so that at least they might make a judgement call to find out more about the candidates – and even initiate their own conversations following. If that happens, I’ve more than fulfilled my role and met my aims. What happens between candidates and voters after that is none of my business – it’s in their hands.
Future videos over the next few years?
At the moment, the videos fall into three categories:
- Short head-and-shoulder intro pieces to camera
- Short-to-medium length interview pieces
- Speeches and exchanges at hustings or events
What we are yet to see is anything that is artistically and musically creative. Understandable given the infancy that this field is in, and also given the expense incurred at commissioning high quality videos for as yet unquantified returns where total election spending is (quite rightly) limited by law.
One reason why I’m a little surprised that local parties haven’t gone beyond the basics is because over 2 years ago I made the video below for my ‘Be the change – Cambridge’ project.
“Many bridges, one Cambridge – it’s your city. Be. The. Change.”
The concepts I used in this video could easily be applied to a local party election broadcast. Clips of the issues the election is being fought on – eg housing and transport, short vox-pop comments from party supporters, statements from the candidates standing, and an upbeat musical soundtrack underneath to give a subliminal message of hope and inspiration.
It can be done.