This is island-wide voting. There are about 30,000 people on the electoral roll. Every candidate is trying to reach every one of those 30,000 people and trying to make a good enough impression to win their vote.
How do you do it?
In truth, you probably can’t. But here are some things to think about, in terms of making an impact:
You have the opportunity to include a two-page manifesto in the States manifesto booklet. This will be delivered to all households on the electoral roll. I reckon that many voters will use this as their one-stop-shop for finding out about candidates. So:
- Don’t miss out
- Make an impression
- Use it as a springboard
If you want to be in the combined manifesto, you will need to use one of the five templates set out in the candidates’ guide (pages 42-46). Choose which one you want to use now. Think about text and graphics. It’ll be a big book – what are you going to do to catch people’s eye?
You’re going to need to have your manifesto submission ready on the day you put in your nomination, and – trust me – writing a good, short piece is much harder than writing a long piece. So make this a priority for now.
Keener voters will want to find out more about you, so give them the opportunity to do so. Include links to your website and/or social media accounts in that combined manifesto. You won’t fit everything into two pages, but you can use it to stir people’s interest, so that they want to discover more about what you stand for.
Use the other States-provided services, too – the 3-minute video, and the dedicated web page. The content for the web page is much the same as for your short manifesto, so don’t worry about that.
The video is harder – 3 minutes is not a long time. You need to plan what you want to say, so you don’t fumble and lose the chance to communicate. But you don’t want to be reading from a script, either – you’ll come across as wooden and unsure. You’ve got a slightly longer deadline there, according to the candidates’ guide: recording slots will be available on 5-8 September. But that’ll be upon us soon, so don’t leave it to the last minute!
If I were standing, I would take every opportunity available for face-to-face contact with voters. It’ll be different to previous elections – no traditional hustings, little if any door-knocking. But there is a human connection you make when you see someone, which isn’t quite the same as just engaging with their words. So use the opportunities that do exist – go to the “Meet the Candidates” event, take part in any hustings that are set up, and so on.
And if you have the time, I would always say it’s worthwhile to do a bit of door-knocking. As much for what you learn from it, as for the voters. I’ll come to that later. But if you are short on time during the campaign period, then you need to know that door-knocking is a big investment of time for a very small return, so it’s probably the least efficient thing you can do.
I have a sneaking suspicion that, if you’re not seeing many people face-to-face, online videos might be the next best thing. Video-recording is an art (and not one I know very much about, so take my recommendation with a pinch of salt), but I think that at least being able to see you while you speak might help you to make a connection with some voters. You could put these on your website, if you have one, or share them through your social media account.
Another, similar alternative might be to offer a livestream event where voters can listen in and ask you questions. At the very least, you’d probably want to do this with a friend, who could read out questions for you, and screen out the trollish ones. And you’d probably want to have some pre-prepared material – “lots of people are worried about X. Let me tell you my views about X!” – in case the questions run dry.
As you might guess, if I were standing, I would definitely have a website. You need somewhere to put more information about what you stand for, than you can fit in the two-page manifesto. For me, a website is the obvious thing. You can keep it updated throughout the campaign period, and you can have it ready to go live from the very beginning.
An alternative is to write and print your own physical manifesto and post it through people’s doors. It’s an option, but it’s expensive and slow, and I reckon most people will just recycle it. Maybe I’m wrong. But if I were re-standing, I’d have a lot less than £6,000 to spend on my campaign, and I don’t think that would be how I would choose to spend it.
You will probably want to be present on social media, but I would suggest being strict about the amount of time you’re prepared to spend in social media discussions, and be upfront about that. Although social media feels like you’re reaching a broad audience, I have usually found that, in fact, a disproportionate amount of time is spent in discussions with the same small group of people. In terms of efficiency, it may not be all that much better than door-knocking!
Part of the reason why I suggest being strict with yourself about social media is because I think you will have to allocate a fair amount of campaign time to answering questions, and I think that could be a far more effective use of time. You’ll be asked to complete surveys by the media, by various interest groups, by individual constituents. You’ll probably receive significantly more emails than we did, and we received quite a lot. (You might want a dedicated election email address, so you can easily keep track of things, by the way.) I’m guessing this will be the main substitute for what parish door-knocking used to do – that is, let you have conversations with lots of different people about their main areas of interest – so I’d make plenty of time for it in your day.
Of course, these are just my predictions. The reality might be quite different. Within a day or two of submitting your nomination, you’ll already have a better sense of that than I do! Don’t be afraid to adapt your strategy to match your experience. Good luck!