Inbetween MCAP and PDM are Montserrat’s Real Needs

The date has been set for Montserrat’s elections – September 11, 2014. I won’t get into a discussion of the date and whether it is a good or bad omen as that is neither here nor there. What is clear is that both the incumbent government, the Movement for Change and Prosperity (MCAP) and the upstart People’s Democratic Movement Montserrat (PDM) have about four weeks to help a critical group make a decision.

The social media and barber shop noise would make you believe that the election is already decided but that is far from the truth. There is a group of undecided voters who can shift this election in a major way. They are educated, employed and empowered with the right to vote and a passion to see Montserrat do well. The lives of their children depend on it.

Neither party has yet been able to convince this group that they can get the job done. I don’t have exact numbers on this group but from discussions online and within the community, I recognize it is more than either party would care to admit.

PDM is presenting a campaign which is grand on plans but short on an execution strategy. In my mind’s eye I see them with constant outstretched hands to the British in the same way they’ve shown us Montserratians with hands outstretched wanting more but without an idea of how they can do more for themselves. Their messaging sounds as if they’ve got a direct line to the UK’s purse and blank checks will be handed over to spend at will.

There is no acknowledgement that the UK has consistently been speaking out of both sides of its mouth and we’ve got to make a decision as a nation of how we will deal with it.

“We want to help you be self-sufficient,” their officials say.

“Great we need a new port about this wide,which can help us attract increased cruise tourism and cargo shipping so we can be on our own faster.”

“Oh no, no. It won’t take all that…How about one yay high? Not as many boats but it will be better than what you have now,” is the suggestion/recommendation/edict.

“But sir, great sir that would mean you would have to keep sending us money. Aren’t we supposed to be working to be on our own?

And this back and forth continues on every project. Every time we say this is what we need, they say it “doesn’t take all of that.” Every time they say do it this way, next year a new policy and strategy with the compulsory consultations and economic impact assessments take us back to the drawing board.

The years go by and we can’t see progress because we are constantly on the drawing board and shifting people and money around, neither of which is adequate for the job at hand. We are fearful of breaking the rules which they keep changing and so we stay trapped. Wanting freedom but without the courage to make the tough decisions which will get us to a tomorrow where we can fly solo.

PDM’s strategy sounds like it will have us breastfeeding for years to come. We are almost 20-years-old post volcano and still the overwhelming message is to keep sucking for as long as they will let us.

MCAP has been assertive in its push to be more self-sufficient. They authorized the taking down of a mountain as a symbol of future intentions to build a port despite the fact no investors had come on board. The intention seems to wean the nation from milk but they haven’t presented an alternative to the milk.

They call for patience for that great day when the port is built, new town is open and we have a major hotel property. But what about now when even civil servants are asking for one-off support from social services? Is it alright for a few to benefit now, while everyone else waits for the Sweet By-and-By? That can never be right. Some may not live to see this bright future. Others may opt for the bright lights of a city if it means they can have the benefits now.

So,how do we get from here to there?

How do we get to walking and running on our own from the current position of being carried?

How do you shift a nation of people who live as if shell-shocked and unwilling to shine, to one which is proudly offering its gifts to the world?

Do we invest large sums of a very limited resource to buy medical equipment which we may not need more than three times a year or uplevel our visiting specialists program so that more people can benefit from the regular visits of doctors giving their services at little or no cost to Montserrat?

Do we settle for a miniscule port which limits us in the way our airport does now?

Do we keep engorging a civil service which has no enforced penalties and benefits for unsatisfactory work or exemplary performance?

Do we increase our social benefits to encourage more government dependency or provide more ways to empower our people to create jobs? Is it as simple as either or?

Do we add a new round of public policies which contradict each other when it comes to execution?

Is it possible to have a local government that truly looks after the needs of each physical community while considering the cultural dynamics of the various nationals now resident here?

Which party is offering solutions which show innovation and understanding of how we can get what we need while fully participating in a global marketplace?

Somewhere in the middle of MCAP’s plans and PDM’s dreams lies the needs of the people who have the power to decide on the next government for Montserrat.

Caribbean elections will be won or lost with Social Media, says Media Strategists

MONTSERRAT/UK – Two digital media strategists believe that how Caribbean political parties use social media in the coming years will impact their chances at the polls come Election Day. Nerissa Golden of Goldenmedia and Ursula Barzey of Moxee Marketing say over the next 18 months more than 10 Caribbean countries and Overseas Territories will be heading to the polls to elect new governments, and not including a definitive social media strategy in their campaign could mean a loss of power for incumbents to parties prepared to win by any means necessary.

Nerissa Golden is a media strategist and business coach based on Montserrat.
Nerissa Golden is a media strategist and business coach based on Montserrat.

“Social media has become the most immediate and affordable means of communicating. While Caribbean governments have initiated the use of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, there is this sense that it is to follow a trend without understanding it is the space in which the electorate will deliberate on whether they want to reelect the same team or put new people in power. The present governments have been in power for four or more years and within that time, the power and influence of social media in the region has been amplified significantly. This means you can’t use it on the fly hoping for the best but be very intentional about the goal,” explained Golden, the author of Like. Follow. Lead: Mastering Social Media for Small Business.

According to Internet World Stats, the Caribbean has an estimated 13,480,693 Internet users as of June 2012, with 6,674,100 using Facebook – the most dominant social platform with over 1.15 billion active members. Facebook remains the most popular platform for Caribbean nationals with Twitter in second place. The nation of St. Kitts & Nevis was found to have the highest internet usage for the region with more than 79% of residents online, according to World Development Indicators.

Ursula Barzey, who recently launched the luxury brand portal Caribbean & Co., said in 2004 Barack Obama, then a long shot candidate for the US Presidency, developed an effective online/digital campaign which made heavy use of social media. They repeated and expanded their social media campaign with his second run for office, which was again successful.

However, as most candidates won’t have the financial backing or extended team like President Obama, they should consider a few things before campaigning on social media.

Ursula Barzey heads Moxee Marketing, a digital media company based in the UK.
Ursula Barzey heads Moxee Marketing, a digital media company based in the UK.The strategists suggest that political parties should ask and answer the following questions:

1. Do we have the required expertise to launch an effective social media campaign?

“A poorly executed social media campaign can do more harm than good,” says Barzey. “Having someone on their team who actually understands how to use online/digital marketing tools effectively is critical. With that person in place, two things should then happen. First, the entire team should be briefed/trained on what’s required to effectively implement social media as part of the campaign. With that training complete, the online strategy should be enhanced to include social media.”

“Being on social media doesn’t preclude maintaining a traditional website and other communication mediums, adds Barzey. “As the campaign trail heats up, all related content should be curated on the website, and then shared via social media. Curating on the candidates own website ensures that potential voters and donors can easily learn more about the candidate and their positions on the issues. Also journalists and bloggers covering the campaign have a reference point for background information.”

2. Which social media sites should we be on?

“Maintaining a successful presence on social media sites means being an active participant. It’s not just about pushing the candidates’ message out but being responsive to queries from voters and journalists,” notes Golden. “To ensure that it doesn’t become overwhelming, the social media manager should launch on the two main social media sites: Facebook and Twitter which are massive hangouts for potential voters, donors, journalists, and bloggers. Add YouTube to the mix for showcasing video recordings of political speeches, statements, campaign rallies and campaign advertisements. With an expanded team, candidates can consider establishing on other social media sites like Instagram and Flickr for images.”

The more platforms you add, the more support you will need, the strategists agreed.

3. What is the message to be communicated and how often?

“It’s important that the social media presence for candidates remain active throughout the campaign. So don’t just build up to the launch and then go quiet. Create a content/social media calendar for distributing the campaign message consistently via social media channels. Also, be part of the conversation and remember that once you place something on social media, you really can’t take it back even if you delete. This means, the person assigned to communicating the campaign message must be polished but also personable,” Barzey says.

4. How will the campaign handle a crisis?

“In an ideal world, things will go smoothly with the campaign and there will be no gaffes or scandals to speak of. However, social media can sometimes make a mountain out of a mole hill, so candidates need to be ready with a plan of action to move the conversation along and ideally back on message. That all starts with being empathetic and responsive,” says Golden. “You don’t ignore a negative comment, see it as an opportunity to engage in positive dialogue to clarify your position as the problem solver.”

Golden also recommends that politicians not overlook the Diaspora Effect. “Although they cannot vote in local elections, family and friends in the Diaspora can be a major influence in deciding who will win. The Diaspora use social media consistently to search, share and celebrate what is happening at home, often before many on the ground are aware. If they are able to grab the passion and purpose of a candidate and share that message within their network, the result is that those at home will give consideration to the officials whose names and images come up more consistently and effectively in the spaces where they spend the most time, which is online.”

Both strategists recommend that campaigns should have both a party platform as well as social accounts for each candidate. The individual pages should reflect the brand and message of the party but present a more personal look at the candidate running for office. These personal pages should then follow the politician into office.

Follow Nerissa Golden @trulygolden and Ursula Barzey @MoxeeMarketing on Twitter for social media tips.

Senator Obama Has Already Won

Many people are waiting for the final voting results to decide on the winner but in my book, Senator Barack Obama has already won.

He won the moment he could even get a picture in his mind of himself as leader of the USA. 

He won the moment he could look in the mirror and see himself being the president.

He won again when he could open his mouth and share the vision with his wife.

He won when he didn’t stop there and shared it with other friends and advisors.

He won when he declared it to the world.

He won when he entered the race.

He won when he didn’t quit at the first sign of a stagger.

He won despite all of the criticism and challenges to his personal intergrity, race, religion, family, et al.

He keeps winning every day he stays in the race.

Who wins in November are all of the people who decide they want to win too.

We each have to claim victory every day. It is not a one time event. When we choose to believe, choose to fight, choose not to quit, choose to keep living, we win.