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.
“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.
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.
You would be amazed the difference it makes to the success of your training or speaking event when the atmosphere in the room is just right by the time your attendees walk in. That may be a bit of a challenge if you are not the organiser and only the trainer or speaker but it is in your best interest to know what the space looks and feels like.
A few years back I took a protocol course and the instructor suggested that we set the room right with incense. I hadn’t noticed until she said it that the room, which I’d been in many times before, was now lightly scented and always felt very welcoming. We don’t always notice when things are right but we definitely know when they are wrong.
She made sure that although only teaching a workshop, the room was inviting. This included, the positioning of tables and chairs so everyone could have good visibility to view the presentation.
- Upon accepting the invite to speak, let the organises know your seating requirements and ask if they can be facilitated. If they are unable to accommodate you then you have time to adjust your presentation to suit.
- When speaking at someone’s event, ask that you be allowed to see the space a day before where possible or at least a few hours before the event, with enough time to ask for changes to the room set up.
- If it is your event and you are using someone’s space, do a walk through at least a week before to check line of sight to the podium and screens.
- If you are recording the event, ask the videographer to view the space with you and guide you on where the cameras will be set up to make sure that your event is captured in the best way. Know the best places to stand for lighting and visual impact.
- Do a sound check and test out the Projector the day of your event.
- Ensure that your laptop or device can integrate with their equipment.
- Get to the event space at least 30 minutes before to do a last check and to be ready to welcome your attendees. This will give you a chance to learn about a few of them and it may give you ideas of how you can refer to what they do within your presentation.
Public speaking and training can be more enjoyable for you and have a greater impact for your audience when you set the right atmosphere.
I wish you success.
Antigua & Barbuda – This August, the Antigua & Barbuda International Literary Festival will proudly host Beyond the Screen an event in collaboration with HAMAfilms and goldenmedia. Legendary and award-winning director Neema Barnette and her husband screen actor Reed McCants will share their wisdom and experience of filmmaking at a series of workshops and special events around Antigua from August 14th to 17th, 2013.
Throughout the four-day event, there will be workshops aimed at writers and novelist who would like to turn their work into viable screenplays. Acting for Film, Digital Filmmaking and Distribution through New Media will be conducted by actor Reed McCants a 20-year veteran of the art form.
Neema Barnette will facilitate From Script to Screen on Wednesday, August 14th and host a special dinner and discussion event on Friday, August 16th. One of the highlights of Beyond the Screen will be a special screening of Barnette’s most recent film T.D. Jakes Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the Seventh Day starring Blair Underwood. Reed McCants is also featured in the film.
Organiser of the Antigua & Barbuda International Film Festival Pam Arthurton welcomed the creation of this new event, which will allow for a smaller version of the ABIFF to be held this year.
“Apart from the financial constraints, what held us back in previous years was that the film festival did not have enough volunteers and collaborations. I think if we had more volunteers we could have made the 2012 festival happen, which is why we are very happy to collaborate with HAMA and goldenmedia. This is the rebirth of the Antigua & Barbuda Literary Festival and Beyond the Screen will be a component of this event for the foreseeable future,” Arthurton stated.
HAMAFilms Director Howard Allen said the creation of Beyond the Screen is one of the ways his company has always envisioned giving back to Antigua & Barbuda and also the wider Caribbean.
“Telling our Caribbean stories remains the focus of HAMAFilms and this new event will allow us to work with Neema who has become one of our mentors. This is an opportune time for aspiring filmmakers and writers to learn how to make that transition from a story to a screenplay and the process of making their own film,” Allen said.
Neema Barnette is an American film director, and the first African-American female sitcom director. Barnette was the first African-American woman to get a three-picture deal with Sony. Her work includes a mixture of film and television. She has directed television programmes as such as The Cosby Show, A Different World, Gilmore Girls, 7th Heaven, Diagnosis Murder, China Beach to name a few.
She has won numerous awards, honours, and nominations, among them an Emmy Award for her after school special To Be a Man, two NAACP Image Awards, and a Sundance Film Festival Award for her film Civil Brand. She owns her own production company Hope Entertainment and is also a professor of film at the UCLA School of Film & Television.
Beyond the Screen is being supported by Carib World Travel and the Antigua & Barbuda Tourism Authority. To get the full schedule of activities, fees and venues for Beyond the Screen, visit www.trulycaribbean/events .