How should I organise my time during the campaign period?

That depends on how much time you have got to dedicate to campaigning. A lot of candidates will still be working during the campaign period, and will be trying to juggle family responsibilities as well – it’s a lot!

I think you need a blend of face-to-face contact with voters and virtual campaigning (answering emails, being active on social media, responding to media enquiries – activities which reach a broader audience, but with less of a human connection). If you don’t have a lot of time to spare, then door-knocking is probably not much of a realistic option, but you can still manage face-to-face contact by going along to hustings, or even by standing in a public place with a banner identifying you as a candidate, and talking to people as they pass by.

Be careful with social media – it can really draw you in, and you can find you’re spending a lot of time on there, but only actually talking to a small pool of people. Be reasonably strict with yourself about how much time you’re going to give to social media, and how much time to answering emails and other virtual campaign activities.

Where you don’t have control over the timing of an event (hustings or presentations, for example) do get those in your diary nice and early.

Aside from that, I think it helps to have a plan for how you’re going to spend your time during the week ahead. You probably don’t want to plan much more than a week at a time, because it’s a really intense period and you want to give yourself enough flexibility to respond as things change! A plan isn’t a promise – don’t beat yourself up if you don’t stick to schedule – but it helps you to think through how much time you want to give to different campaign activities, and to make sure you’re balancing your time sensibly.

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What kind of help am I likely to need?

That depends entirely on you, and your circumstances, and how you want to run your campaign!

For example, if you’ve got your own printed manifesto or leaflet, and you want to get it out to all Islanders, you might need an army of friends and family to help you distribute it. Or, if you’ve decided to use social media for the first time for this Election, you might need someone who can help you to find your way around it.

Or, possibly, the kind of help you’ll find most useful may have nothing directly to do with your campaign. If you have children to look after, then the most important thing might be friends or family who are willing to provide childcare while you go out canvassing or attend hustings.

The next few weeks are going to be intense and your schedule will be all over the place – if you have lovely friends who can drop in with a meal you can warm up in the microwave, or who might be happy to do something as simple as washing a sink full of dishes or passing a hoover for you, then lean on them. Your friends are likely to be cheering you on, and wanting to support you – if you’re not sure how best to ask them for help, feel free just to leave this blog post somewhere they might see it!

Finally, sometimes you just need moral support. You’ll get a lot of that from your fellow candidates – you’re all going through something extraordinary together and, although you are competitors, you can also be friends. Lean on your existing support networks as well, and make sure you take time out of campaigning to be with people who refresh you, who make you feel good about yourself and the world, and who fill you with the energy you need to go out and campaign once more.

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Should I try to walk the whole Island?

No. It will be physically impossible to canvass the whole Island on foot (or even by bike or car) in the time you have available.

If you try to do that, you will have no time left for other methods of campaigning, which are likely to have a more substantial impact, and that will put you at a real disadvantage – as well as leaving you exhausted!

But I think it is worth doing some door-to-door work if you can fit in the time, and if you are able to do so. I’ve written about how you might want to approach that, here.

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Should I knock on people’s doors?

Yes – if you can afford the time. (And obviously, so long as you respect any “no knocking” signs – whether people are worried about the pandemic, or for any other reason.)

In past elections, door-to-door canvassing was a central part of almost every candidate’s election strategy. When you were only trying to reach one-seventh of the Island, you could just about plan to knock on every door in your district during the campaign period.

That’s not going to be possible this time – you will not be able to get around the Island in the time you have available. So if you plan for door-knocking to be the only, or the central, way you reach voters, you are probably going to put yourself at a disadvantage. You need to think about how else you can get your message out there.

On the other hand, if you can fit in some door-knocking, you will probably differentiate yourself positively from other candidates, in the eyes of the few voters who you meet face-to-face. Voters will be pleased that you’ve taken the time and made the effort to show up in person.

I am enthusiastic about door-knocking because I found it such a positive experience myself. When you canvass from door to door, you discover that, on the whole, most people are fairly friendly, fairly moderate in their views, and pretty supportive and respectful of the fact that you’re doing a job they would never want to do.

That’s completely different from the picture you get on social media (after all, social media is a place where people go to let off steam when they’re angry or dismayed). You genuinely do meet the “silent majority”, and they’re pretty nice, reasonable people. You don’t agree with them on everything, but (to borrow Jo Cox’ words) you have far more in with each other than the things which divide you.

And, of course, you’re out and about, walking along the streets of this beautiful Island, and more often than not, seeing Guernsey at its natural – and human – best.

I remember thinking, at the time, how much I wished I could bottle that experience and keep it with me for the difficult times ahead. I think in the end I did, metaphorically speaking. I tend to remind myself of what I learnt by going door-to-door, when things are politically hard, or when media or social media debates show the bitter side of our community, and I feel disillusioned about it all.

Before I sound too rose-tinted, a couple of notes of caution:

It isn’t quite the same for returning candidates. Once you’ve been in the States a while, you can be blamed for all sorts of things you’ve done (and plenty of things that were nothing to do with you, too!). I know that if I were canvassing again this time, I wouldn’t be painting such a sunny picture of it.

And it’s hard work. Physically and mentally. Physically, you could be covering miles a day, on foot or by bike. If you’re not used to that, it’s going to take a toll. Make sure to rest, and if you’re injured or unwell, give yourself time to recover. If you push it, you risk putting yourself out of action completely, and you don’t want that.

As for the mental side: like a surprising number of politicians, I’m pretty shy on a personal level. I’ve got no problem standing up and speaking in front of crowds of people – the part of this job I find the hardest is the schmoozing and small talk. So you can imagine, knocking on strangers’ doors did not come naturally to me. I had to take a deep breath (or several), psych myself up, then put on my Friendly Politician Face and knock on that door. If you’re like me, you might also find it heavy-going; but if you can find the courage to do it, it really is well worth it.

That leaves the question of – if you can’t canvass everywhere, how do you decide where to canvass in an island-wide election?

As I see it, there are basically 3 options:

If your friends and family are willing to volunteer to be part of Team You, you might be able to cover the whole Island between you. This would require a huge amount of time and dedication on their part, though; and it would probably have quite limited impact, because they won’t be able to answer every question a voter might have on your behalf. However, this might work if your main aim is to drop off a manifesto or a postcard at every house.

Or you might feel that island-wide voting is, ironically, a great time to adopt a parish, and focus all your canvassing on that parish – whether it’s the place you live, or another parish you have a particular link with. It’s not necessarily as silly as it sounds. A lot of people regret the loss of parish Deputies as a result of island-wide voting: you could make a favourable impression with those voters by trying to maintain some form of link. But it is a bit of a gamble – will you alienate voters from other parishes by doing so?

Or, finally, you might pick a few streets at random from each parish, and try to canvass those. Randomness is important – consider picking addresses from the Electoral Roll, rather than defaulting to streets you already know. Door-knocking opens your eyes to ways people live, often very different from your own experience (or your immediate social circle). It’s likely you will see extremes of deprivation and ill-health, and of luxury and comfort, that you were oblivious to beforehand. When you face policy issues in the years ahead, you’ll be better placed to think about their consequences for the lives of people, from all different walks of life, that you have met.

This last approach is the method I’d probably choose, if I were standing again. It gives you a snapshot of island life – far from a complete picture, but something useful. And it allows you to make face-to-face contact with voters from across the Island, and hopefully make a favourable impression by doing so. If you have the time and ability to fit in any door-knocking, it is a powerful experience, and one I have always valued immensely.

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How do I know who is on the Electoral Roll?

Only people who have signed up to the Electoral Roll will be allowed to vote in this Election.

(Voters – even if you have voted in past Elections, you need to sign up again this time! You have until Friday 21 August to do so. You can do so online via the Elections website.)

You only have a limited amount of time to get your message across to people in the month between nominations opening and Election Day, so you will probably want to concentrate your efforts on people who are actually able to vote.

This matters less if the majority of your campaigning happens online. If you’re putting information out in a public forum, it’ll be accessed by people who aren’t voters and people who are, and that’s fine – it doesn’t cost you anything extra in terms of time or effort.

If you are answering emails, I would just take people at face value and assume they are potential voters. You’ll waste more time in a back-and-forth email exchange – “can you tell me if you’re on the Electoral Roll before I answer your questions?” – than if you just get on with it and answer them.

(If it turns out they’re not on the role, just chalk it up as useful practice! Other voters will have the same kind of questions, and you’ll have spent a bit of time knocking your thoughts into shape in order to reply to this person.)

Knowing whether or not someone is on the Electoral Roll matters most if you’re planning on going door-to-door. Canvassing this way can be very time-consuming, so it matters that you focus the limited time you have on households that are actually signed up to vote.

You can do this by requesting a copy of the Electoral Roll when you submit your nomination. There’s more information in the official candidates’ guide. If you do this, you will essentially be receiving a set of 30,000 people’s contact details, and you will be responsible for keeping that safe in accordance with Data Protection requirements. (You mustn’t pass it on to anyone else, you mustn’t use it for anything other than canvassing, and you’re not entitled to keep it after the Election.)

If you are planning to canvass a particular street, you can use the Electoral Roll to check which of the houses on that street are home to a potential voter (or voters). You can then focus your time on knocking on those doors, rather than stopping at every door and just hoping for the best!

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Will I have the chance to meet voters face to face?

Yes! And I think it’s worth taking every chance you get to do so. This will be much more of an online Election than any of our past Elections, but there is a human connection that comes with meeting people face-to-face, which can build trust far more quickly than any amount of online campaigning.

According to the official candidates’ guide, there will be a Meet the Candidates event at Beau Sejour on Sunday 20 September at Beau Sejour. Get that date in your diary now, and watch the Elections website for more information.

You might be invited to various hustings events. These will probably take a very different format to previous hustings – it isn’t going to be possible to have a hundred candidates sitting at a table, taking turns to be quizzed by voters. But it will still provide an opportunity for you to engage with voters on a subject of interest.

I think the only hustings being advertised so far is the GDA’s Disability Hustings, which will take place on the evening of 16 September. Look out in the media (traditional and social) for other hustings being announced over the next couple of weeks. When you have formally submitted your nomination, you will probably receive formal invitations to all sorts of things, but if you can spot them coming up sooner, you can plan that time into your diary.

There has been a general assumption that parties might also organise their own events for voters and candidates to meet, which you’ll probably take part in if you belong to a party.

Even if you are standing as an independent, there is no reason why you shouldn’t consider organising events of your own (if you have the time and budget to do so), or grouping together with a few other candidates to do so.

(If you can’t fit in a face-to-face event of your own, but you want to do something, what about doing some kind of Q&A session for voters via livestream, and recording it so other people can access it later?)

Finally, there is always the option of going door-to-door. I don’t think that can be the main part of your campaign this time around – there just isn’t time to reach enough voters that way – but it can be a really positive part of it, if you’re able to fit it in.

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Do I need to worry about data protection?

You need to know what your data protection responsibilities are as an Election candidate. These are explained in the official candidates’ guidance (page 19).

At this stage, it’s fairly straightforward. If you want to get a copy of the Electoral Roll – which is a list of all voters’ names and addresses – you will need to register with the Data Protection office (ODPA). You will be responsible for keeping your copy of the Electoral Roll safe, and for returning it at the end of the campaign period.

Once you are elected, the data protection responsibilities are much more wide-ranging and serious, and you will want to get your head around these early on. But for now, the message is, make sure you register with the ODPA if you want a copy of the Electoral Roll – this should be explained when you submit your nomination, in any event – and don’t misuse people’s contact details or pass them on to people who shouldn’t have them.

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How much time will online campaigning take?

As much time as you’re prepared to give it!

This is especially true of social media, which just consumes time. Be careful with that one.

Online campaigning will be a much bigger part of this Election than it was in previous Elections. In district-based Elections, you prioritised door-knocking and face-to-face events, and dealt with emails and social media in the corners of the day (or on the bus). I think that will be basically flipped for this Election.

I would recommend making time for any face-to-face events that will bring you into contact with multiple voters – hustings, ‘meet the candidate’ events, and so on. If you have time, I would still try to do some door-knocking, but that is a lot of time for quite little return, so it can’t be what you prioritise.

Apart from that, I think most of your contact with voters will be mediated by a computer. It won’t necessarily all be “online” – in the sense that, for example, you might be asked to complete questions for a Press supplement. You’ll probably receive those by email, and sit at your computer to answer them; but the supplement (if there is one) will be printed and arrive in voters’ home in hard copy.

But there will no doubt also be a range of online surveys, voters’ questions, and social media engagement which will be purely online. This will be your main way of reaching the majority of voters, so I would make sure that you prioritise your time so that you can do it justice; and then fit in other things depending on the time you still have available.

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Do I need a dedicated email address?

I think it would be sensible to have a dedicated email address for your Election campaign.

This means that voters’ emails won’t get lost in among the emails in your regular account. It will probably make it easier for you to keep track of things. It will mean that, when you sit down to check those emails, you have got your campaign hat on, and you’re not going to get distracted by other things.

The one warning is – if you have a campaign email address, you have to make it easy for yourself to form the habit of checking it regularly. If you are used to checking your emails on your phone or tablet, for example, make sure that you can link to this account as well as your main account. If you only notice emails when you receive an alert, make sure you set up alerts for this one.

I think one-to-one email exchanges with voters will replace a lot of the one-to-one contact you get from door-knocking. I might be completely wrong, but if I were standing now, that’s what I’d be preparing for. I’d make sure I had a campaign email address, and I would also make sure to set aside a decent chunk of time each day to deal with emails.

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How important will social media be at this Election?

I have mixed views on this.

If I were standing again, I would definitely make sure I had a presence on social media. I used Facebook and Twitter at the last Election. I would certainly add Instagram, and possibly Youtube too (on the basis that I would try to do a few audio pieces, if not videos, and would need somewhere to put them).

But I think social media can be misleading, too. The people you engage with on social media tend to be people who are more-than-usually interested in local politics. In absolute terms, the number of people you engage with may not actually be all that high. You can be fooled into thinking social media is representative, when it really is not. (That was what door-to-door canvassing taught me in the last Election. That’s why I’d still encourage some door-to-door work, if you can fit it in.)

Also, social media eats up time that you could be using on other campaign activities, and I’m not convinced the impact is necessarily that great. If you are going to use it, be strict with yourself about how much time you’ll give it, compared to other things.

There is no doubt that this Election campaign is going to happen online, to a much greater extent than previous Elections. But how much of that is going to be social media, as opposed to, say, checking the Election website or media websites for candidates’ answers to key questions? Voters will have a lot more candidates to consider this time than they’ve ever had before, and I think that, as a voter – especially if I’m not the kind of person who uses social media regularly – I might prioritise the places where I can evaluate candidates side-by-side.

I guess what I’m saying is, I wouldn’t be bold enough to run a campaign without a social media element (I use social media out of habit, anyway) – but that’s hedging my bets. Even under island-wide voting, I think it might well be possible to make an impression without social media. Just make sure to be accessible to your voters in plenty of other ways.

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