The Lib Dems could have beaten Roger Gale
The Liberal Democrats missed the opportunity to snipe a Conservative safe seat this election
A guide for low budget Liberal Democrats fighting seats they are unlikely to win. Just because you have little or no budget does not mean that you shouldn't give the safe seat's margins a sound thrashing. This is your guide to some of the things you could and should be doing.
This is how.
Talking to a friend (Mike Beckett) who has been selected to stand as a Liberal Democrat candidate I rightly or wrongly get the idea that the limited budget of the Lib Dems is going only on seats they feel they might win. All other candidates are on their own. (I might be wrong on this but the rest of this guide assumes that you have very little cash).
Looking at the compleate lack of Lib Dem candidates that live in Thanet I am guessing that the party has drawn from where it can and stood people where-ever they need to be seen to be "having a go". This leaves the candidate with a handicap equivalent to still being in the changing rooms when the match starts. Laura Murphy, for example, is in Herne Bay.
It is possible to recover from that but the Lib Dems are going to have to work damn hard to do so.
Use The InternetRoger Gale has made it clear in a letter to me that a basic website and email are all the modern technologies he needs. So this leaves Thanet North wide open to a cunning Internet campaign.
First set your privacy settings to a level you are comfortable with. Be aware that just because most people can't see it does not mean it will not leak out. So keep even the private stuff clean. In the about you section mention that this is your private account and you don't mean to offend anyone by not adding people that you do not know personally.
Start a Facebook fan page such as "Let's all vote for Laura Murphy (Lib Dem)". I would take the time to deck it out with some good photographs and some witty content. Push it out to everyone you know. Buy some targeted Facebook adverts to get the fan level started. Even £50 would go a long way.
But don't stop there, Laura, have your geek (if you don't have one, hire one - you'll thank me later) also create a "I'm voting for Roger Gale (Tory)" page. Add the least flattering picture you can legally use and then leave the page without any content or any promotion.
Do the same for the other candidates that probably don't have a fan page.
What you now have is a place on Facebook where those that support you can get others to support you. What is more you can demonstrate that voting for Laura Murphy as MP for Thanet North is not a wasted vote.
You will be able to use the page for more leverage alter too. Not least of which when you announce that you have hundreds more fans than the rest combined. It's not your fault that they failed to promote their pages - you even helped them get started.
Take the time to set your mobile up so that you can text updates to your Facebook page.
Go back to your personal settings on Facebook and point people to your page. When you get random friend requests have a pre-written message thank them and pointing them to your page. Explain that this is the best way to be fair and even and protect friends and family that are not standing for election.
BloggingGet a typepad.com, wordpress (free) or blogger (also free) blog and write every single day. Call it something simple like "Laura Murphy's Blog".
Put up 400 to 600 words explaining a single Thanet North need. Use images if you can get them - a digital camera and a trip to Margate should help. When you can explain what you and your party would do to fix the problem. If there is nothing that can be said simply then just share our sadness and move on.
Examples include - The empty shops in Margate, the lack of tourists coming to Margate, the dissatisfaction with the local council or the fact that our grade 2 listed roller-coaster burned down.
Also include short posts which might be no more than a few words and a picture. For example you could put a photo of yourself in front of "Godden Gap" on the sea front and give 150 words about the fire.
This will not win you the election but it will show a lot of interested people that you know what you are talking about. It will make up your lost ground and show you care about the local issues.
Once a week you could even address a national issue.
Next make sure that you fill out the profile information. Take time to do a good job. Link to your blog when you are given the option of adding a link.
Use the Selective Tweets Facebook application to add some tweets back to your Facebook page. You will notice that tweets that you end #FB will post to your page. Good, that's half the work for twice the result and still you have not spent any real money.
Test that it all works by posting a few more interesting things.
Then go and find 100 to 250 people from Thanet and follow them all. I would do this in sets of about 25 taking the time to look at your home page and @Reply to anything interesting. Use your Facebook page to promote the new twitter account.
Between bouts of adding compile some useful lists like all the Lib Dems with twitter accounts. Keep an eye out for people @replying to you. Answer them all.
You may need to log on a few times a day to make sure that you answer everyone. You will also want to check your DMs (Direct Messages).
Have your geek recommend a good twitter client for your mobile phone so that you can tweet on the go.
FlickRYou have been taking lots of photographs around the area you are campaigning for election in right? Good here is a review of the best three on the market. Use this pocket camera to make short videos of you talking about things, of you out and about in the area and of you meeting people and asking them for their vote.
Even if you "totally suck" edit them as best you can and make sure that the end credits link to your blog and Facebook page. Post the video on youtube and post the youtube video on your blog. Also add the videos to your Facebook page. If you have lots add different videos to your Facebook page.
Combine mediaUse something like the Networked Blogs application to take your blog's web feed and pass the stories directly into your Facebook page. If you have been using pictures properly these posts to your page will look great.
Add a Facebook widget from the fan page to your blog to encourage people to become your fan (also called "liking" now). Do the same with your networked blogs widget once the number of followers is more than 10.
Do the same with a twitter widget too.
Go to friendfeed.com and make sure that you add your blog feed, twitter account and Facebook (fan page) as a minimum. Tweak this so that every blog post, YouTube and FlickR post updates your twitter account.
Go to www.Facebook.com/twitter/ and set your page to update your twitter account too. Now when you text an update to your page you also tweet it at the same time at no extra cost.
Do your homeworkThere are 125 to 140 blogs about Thanet. About half are North Thanet and half south Thanet. Read them all.
Find out whot he top bloggers are and dip into the archives for the last three or four years. Nothing will give you the "everyman" feel for an area faster than reading what people feel compelled to tell the world.
On the newer posts try to leave a good comment. A good comment would be one that includes your name (Laura Murphy in the case of our example) and a link to your blog. Most importantly a good comment adds value.
Let me say that again: A good comment adds value!
Adding value means that the post is richer for your contribution. If you are unable to say something that contributes and enhances the page then you have not got anything to say.
Suiqdoo yourselfCreate a squidoo account (if you don't have one). Make a lens (a page) about yourself. Include the feed from your blog, your youtube content, flickR images and your twitter account.
Try to get a link like Squidoo.com/LauraMurphy or Squidoo.com/Laura-Murphy in fact "make" enough lenses that you get every combination you can think of even if you only publish one or two.
Link to the page from your blog and fan page on Facebook. Squidoo makes posting it to your twitter account dead easy.
The aim of the page is to be insightful and interesting. Try to share things that people might not know.
Consider adding the guest book or debate module.
If you realy get into making lenses consider making one for each main issue. Invite lots of people to join you for the debate. It'll be lively but high profile and may get you into the news. (This is good).
Use your carThe chances are you have a car. So get yourself down to North Thanet.
Visit everywherePut a map somewhere and mark a dot, or add a pin to show "Laura Murphy was here". What you are trying to do is go to every part of the area you are standing for. Take a photograph to show that you have been there.
If there is a sure start centre drop in and ask people what you can do for them. If there is a pub pop in for a cold drink and ask the locals what you can do for them. Don't just visit the "nice places" but the rough ones too. Don't try to defend anything or make promises just make sure that you have fully understood the things you are being told and say it back in different words to be clear so that good communication has happened.
When you get back write about what you have learned and put it on your blog. Use your mobile to update Facebook (and thus twitter) about where you are and what you have learned.
Create EventsWith the pull on Facebook, twitter and your blog you should be able to pull a crowd if you need to. Plan some higher profile visits and use your Facebook page to make an "event" which you can invite people to - such as a lunch, a gathering or a meeting you want to go to. Make sure that you tell the press and let it be seen that you have a large following, are popular and pull a crowd.
If Laura Murphy shows up to places and so do 200 people then it is going to say to the undecided voters that Laura Murphy is not a wasted vote.
Later, when it is over, ad the images and video you captured during the event to the event page itself. Add the best to flickR and point back to the event. This creates a "web" of information. That's the point oft he world wide web.
Meet the local bloggersInvite the local bloggers (but not the press) to have lunch with you at a cafe of your choice on a certain day. Email, phone and write to as many as yiu can get hold of. We will forgive you for skipping local politicians with blogs.
Make sure that your Facebook page fans know of the meeting and invite them too. Make sure you publish an "event" so everyone can RSVP, post images and share video.
Let one or two local journalists know in time to show up but be clear that they are not there to ask questions. This is questions from the people only. They might ask questions but be clear with them that any journalists have to wait until he end to ask their questions. Play it buy ear and use your own expert judgement as to what the crowd want from you.
Structure it so that there is time for questions. Provide information packs (like press packs but for the bloggers) with lots of things that they can quote from, CDs of images they can use when blogging and and badges and pens that you might have available to give away.
Be ready for some of the toughest and most satisfyingly real questions you have ever faced.
When it is all over send a press release to the newspapers letting them know what they missed.
Link out (in a blog post) to the bloggers who have told you the blog they write (some are very secret) and thank them for coming. For each blogger that writes about you as a result write a very short blog post letting readers know that you have been written about and link to the blog article itself. This is a very important thing to do - linking tot he blog front page means that later people will not be able to find the post you were talking about.
If the blogger raises good points try to address them. Engage in some two (or three) way conversation accross blog posts and reply posts. It's good for your blog and good for the readers too.
Find the local issuesDid you know that ina recent Thanet council by-election Lib-Dems came darn close to winning their first seat?
The candidate in question, aside from being the best first choice for a local candidate raised issues that people responded well to. Namely rubbish not being clearer up by the current council.
Use that to your advantage "Laura Murphy will clean up Millmead" would have been a good ellection promise.
Did you know that people are worried about the Water Supply here in Thanet? Did you know that there are a lot of threats to local water?
"Laura Murphy will insist on a public inquiry into the state of Thanet's water" would have people rallying to your cause.
Embrace hyper-local politicsAgain did you know that the local council has no Lib Dem members. Did you also know that the local population have a very low veiw of the council?
"Laura Murphy will reform Thanet District Council" would win a lot of votes. As might "Laura Murphy will push for a directly ellected mayer as leader of TDC".
Margate has the highest number of empty shops of any town in the UK. Many blame the local council for allowing Westwood Cross to be built. Could you make an election promise that would satisfy people on this issue? Even the suggestion of subsidised parking for traditional high-streets as a private member's bill could make a huge difference.
What of your party's policies would fix Margate town centre?
What of your party's policies would raise employment in Thanet specifically?
What that you stand for, Laura Murphy and friends, would address the issue of noise pollution from the airport or get more tourists onto the beaches here?
These are the issues that you need to push in Thanet.
Make it countAll of this is so much hot air if you have nothing to say and nothing to back your words up with. But assuming that you have something worthwhile to say just showing that you understand the area you hope to represent would help win votes.
You might not be Laura Murphy, you might not be standing for North Thanet but if you are hoping to win a seat this plan can and will help you take on safe seats and win them.
As far as North Thanet is concerned it is a one horse race. Michael Britton, does not seem to have even bothered to have posted so much as his own image to the official Labour Party website. Laura Murphy you still could displace Gale but you are going to have to spend time in Thanet and reaching the people that mater.
Since writing this and before I got to publish it Michael pointed out that in South Thanet the Lib Dem candidate has at least tried to start a blog