Election night is almost upon us. Time to start planning if you are local government communications... or interested in your local result.
by Dan Slee
Yet again, the most important night of the year for local government comms is almost upon us… election night.
Get it wrong and the whole world sees.
Get it right you can breathe a deep sigh of relief and the politicians will be impressed.
It’s also a night where you can push the boat out a little and try new things. Facebook made its debut in 2009 as an upstart. Now results on social media is expected. Lately, there’s been experiments with whatsapp and other channels.
If you want to experiment with a channel this is the night to do it.
What you need to know about live video
Live streaming has taken a massive leap forward in recent months. A fifth of Facebook users have used Facebook Live. An audience of 102,000 watched themulti-faith vigil in Manchester in the wake of the city’s bomb attack. More than 200,000 watched while bomb disposal experts worked to explode a 500 lb Second World War bomb. Another 9,000 watched the Birmingham City Council Leader talk about budget proposals. All of those are local government issues.
Anyone can broadcast live. All you need is the Periscope app for Twitter or a Facebook account, a smartphone or a PC with a webcam. This could be a journalist, a political campaigner or a council media officer.
If you’re NOT thinking of live video… others are
One time, a broadcast journalist turned up at the count I was working at as a comms officer. He demanded to take pictures for his website too. Blindsided, the Returning Officer refused and a heated row took place. The journalist was within their rights to ask. The Returning Officer was entitled to point the individual to the spot where he could take the pictures.
The incident taught me that forward planning on election night can be invaluable.
You may not be planning on using a live video. Bet your bottom dollar a journalist will be. Only they’ll turn up on the night and want to start filming.
Here’s what they’ll want to know:
· Where will they be allowed to film?
· Is there a WiFi signal?
· What are the acoustics like?
So, forward plan. Do this ahead of time not on the night. You’ll talking to journalists for accreditation. Talk to the elections team. Check out the venue. Have the answers to the questions. Invite journalists to arrange a test broadcast ahead of time to check a few things out.
If you are thinking of live video…. Plan ahead
We’ve started to offer Live Video skills training with Steven Davies and Sophie Edwards and its got me thinking about how local government can use it.
Don’t make election night the first time you use a live broadcast. Try it out at something vanilla. A library author visit. A guided walk around a beauty spot.
Pick which channel you’ll use. Where are your audience? If you have a massive Twitter following and only a handful on Facebook think about the channel. How can you best reach people?
Get the tech right. You’ll need at least one fully charged smartphone that’s logged into your channel of choice. You’ll need to rely on robust WiFi and I’d be tempted to take your own. A phone hotspot or a MiFi can do the job. Don’t trust the venue WiFi. The world and their dog will be trying to get on it. Take a power bank too just to be on the safe side.
Talk to elections. Where can you physically stand to broadcast yourself? At the back of an echoey hall? Or at the front next to people shouting? Negotiate a place where the sound quality works.
Test it out. Take your phone and your WiFi hotspot and try it out a few days beforehand. Does it work? Is there a data blackspot which kills phone signals? You can broadcast live to yourself. Set the audience you want to reach before you go live.
Sound will make or break it. Poor sound and people will be confused and irritated. Sound is even more important than pictures. See if there’s a place you can sand that can be the best it can be. Next to a speaker? Can you use an audio jack from the venue sound system?
Have someone covering your back. As this politician found out to their cost, an organised group of trolls who each complained there was no sound scuppered a Periscope broadcast. Have someone trusted watching to give you the thumbs up. Or let you know if your thumb is over the lense.
Be clear on what you’ll do and won’t do. If you go for it, brilliant. But set out ahead of time what you’ll do and won’t do. Yes, you’ll live broadcast the result and acceptance speeches. No, you won’t be doing one-to-one interviews with candidates who can use the platform to take down / praise the Government. Set this out ahead of time. In writing. Plan for this.
One long broadcast or individual ones? At a General Election its straight forward. There’s often just the one result. But local elections are more complicated. Me? I’d be interested in the ward where I live. Other wards? Less so. Multiple clips would work for me. What do your residents think?
Tell people you are going live. One tip from Facebook and Twitter is to tell people and big-up the broadcast. Tricky in an election when there’s a third recount. But see if you can give a broad estimated window. Check our Facebook from 2am onwards is fine.
Think safety and security. The BBC have guidelines for live broadcasts which takes account the safety of its staff and security. Here, may you face the risk of an uninvited person going on an unscheduled tirade at your camera? It’s possible. Would having a colleague with you as you film help? Be prepared to stop the broadcast if you are cornered.
Live lives after you’ve been live. Once you’ve finished, promote the heck out of it in the morning to catch those people not awake. The audience after the event is often bigger than watching it live.
Live is going to be an important part of how election results are communicated. The technology is there. The audience too. It’s worth learning the lessons early.
We're running SKILLS YOU NEED FOR LIVE VIDEO in Leeds on June 20. For more information and to book a place click here.
Dan Slee is co-founder of comms2point0.
Picture credit: State Archives of North Carolina / Flickr