Are your political news releases from the radio era?

franklin-d-roosevelt-makes political news releaseWe have a message to get out to our voters.

Eighty year ago we would have written a news release then sent it out by teletype for two daily newspaper editions and lots of radio stations.

Thirty years ago we would have written a news release then sent it out by fax for morning newspapers, a local TV channels and some radio stations.

Fifteen years ago we would have written a news release then sent it out by email to the weekly paper, a regional TV station and few radio stations.

Today we write a news release then send it out by email to a couple of regional chain papers and local radio stations.  Then we take that news release and post it to the website. Then we share the news release on Facebook and Twitter, often without even changing the title. Sometimes we might even email it out to our supporters.

The future is amazing.

Technology has enabled us to spend more time duplicating the work of publishing a news release in a format that hasn’t changed much since the Radio Era.

This strikes me as backwards.

Maybe we should stop writing a news release first. Maybe we should write out our message first, and then let technology do the formatting for us.

Or maybe I have gone crazy following to many politicians on Twitter.

If you think that’s the case, that news releases rock and I’m crazy, then don’t visit

Don’t use the Political Content Creator. It’s still in beta, so it won’t even save you that much time. Yes, it will auto crop your picture for the best sizes to share on Facebook, Twitter, and email, but really, who needs that.

But, if you are curious and want to see a really bad infographic, check out

The Best Photo Sizes for Sharing on Twitter and Facebook

The social media sites are constantly changing the best photo dimensions but we seem to be approaching a general rule of thumb of about a 2:1 aspect ratio.

For Facebook it is a bit larger, Google+ a bit longer and Twitter is in between.

You can easily build your own header for Twitter or pick up some pre-made backgrounds so your backgrounds and headers always look great, but what about your day to day activities and news releases?

Get More Likes for News Releases

When sharing stories or news release from your website to Facebook make sure your first image or featured image is at least 600px by 315px, but for the best look on iPad’s and other retina display devices your picture or photo should be 1200px by 630px.


Click on the picture to view the full size or right click to save the image for future reference


(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); = id; js.src = “//”; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, ‘script’, ‘facebook-jssdk’));


Get More Retweets for your Photos

For for twitter stream photos, the preview screen is about 2:1, and for the best result on on devices use a photo at least 1024px by 512px.


Click on the picture to view the full size or right click to save a copy

For example:

Quick Cover Guide

Google+ recently updated their cover photos bringing them more into line with dimensions you’d find for Facebook and Twitter.





Have a question about how to look your best? Send a tweet, or contact me anytime.



GUEST POST: How to Connect the with Most Voters

Your Campaign’s Challenge

You have a good candidate. She performs well in debates and interviews, convinces people at the door, the more people meet her the better she will do. You have a problem though.  She will only get to so many doors, a few quotes in the local paper will only get you so far, and the people who show up at all candidates debates are not really the target voter.

How do you get your message out? How can you introduce her to voters in a more in depth fashion than a flyer or a voice broadcast or a radio ad? Maybe hold a meet and greet? So 50 people show up and half are already friends and supporters, it goes well but it’s not enough. How do you scale that up to talk to thousands of people rather than dozens?

Your Campaign’s Solution

Simple: hold a telephone town hall. Allow voters from the comfort of their own homes to spend up to an hour listening to your candidate and asking her questions. Reach out to people directly on the phone, get them where they live and get them listening.

It’s pretty simple, we have the technology to call everyone in your riding at once, and invite them to listen in and ask questions. Your candidate spends some time talking about herself, and her message, and then takes questions from the audience. She can ask questions and conduct polls within the call “Press one if you agree that taxes are too high, press two if you disagree”, and she can spend most of her time answering audience questions, while the rest of the audience gets to listen to both the question and the answer.

You’re In Control

It’s not a free for all though, it’s more like a call in radio show. Your volunteers get to talk to each questioner before they go live, so you get more good solid policy questions and fewer questions about how she was involved in faking the moon landings. Your candidate can communicate with her volunteers and my team using our web interface, which lets you know what’s going on, and allows you to take questions.

Telephone town hall technology allows your candidate to reach out to voters by the thousands, to truly let them get a sense of what she’s like and her stances on the issues. If you have a good candidate, someone who comes across well, you need to be using teleforums to reach out to your voters. If you have an elected official who wants to communicate more regularly with the people he represents, you need to be using teleforums.

For more information, to set up a free demo, or to book a teleforum, feel free to send me an email. I can usually get them set up pretty quickly, and the rates are reasonable. Our staff will make sure you are trained and ready to go before we start dialling numbers.

Jim Ross

Follow at @JimRossStrategy

4 Ways To Improve Your Political About Page

About that About Page

improve your political about page

The About page on your political website is one of the most important pages on your website. It has to be more than just a CV in paragraph format. With the amount of traffic the page gets, it is a critical voter-identification page.

If you haven’t identified any voters with your About page then it is time to improve it.

#4 – Add some sub headings

Sub headings help break up the content for the reader and let them decide quickly whether to keep reading. Pages with sub headings help readers get to the bottom of the post. That is critical to making the conversion.

Here is a brief video from Carleton University that provides additional tips on creating headers.

The additional benefit of adding headers is for you to structure your narrative.

#3 – Add some links

The internet was built on the simple hyperlink yet most political About Pages are devoid of links. Adding a few key links to your other profiles on the internet, your legislative page, and positive media coverage will help those pages in search ranks when people are searching for you.

I like to add stories about election victories, but any articles that provide a fuller account of you can be boosted by linking to them on your About page.

Links to other sites should not be the only ones. Be sure to link to articles on your site when you are writing about your current work.

#2 – Add contextual pictures

insert-image-300At the top of the page include your official portrait with links to the higher resolution versions.

Now that you have broken up the page with sub headings, ensure there is at least one picture in each section to reflect the theme or content in the subsection.

After the first picture, ensure the rest of the pictures are not portraits, but pictures of you with voters.

Bonus points if you link the pictures to your photo galleries.

#1 – Add a Signup Form

At the bottom of your page, add the signup form for your newsletter or website. If they have made it this far they are much more likely to want to hear more from you.

Don’t miss this key opportunity to engage the visitor and convert them to an identified voter.

Here are a couple of samples that use at least 3 of the 4 recommendations above. Larry Maguire, MLA & The Hon. Greg Rickford, M.P., P.C.

Want more tips on digital politics?

Signup for our newsletter!

[gravityform id=”4″ name=”Subscribe to DigiTory” title=”false” description=”false” ajax=”true”]


Back To School

While the House might be delayed in returning, it is still back to school season. The “end of summer” also means a higher percentage of people are monitoring their inboxes.

Now is the perfect time to engage them with a right track / wrong track email! So, to help you out, I have made a complete template you can copy from start to finish.

For this tutorial , I would encourage you to open up C-Vote, C-Source, Your Email Website, and your MP EDA Website.

For your additional convinience I have put some of the pieces in a single file you can download. [ilink url=”” style=”download”]Download the Back To School Kit[/ilink]

Show Some Initiative

The first step is to prepare your initiative in C-Vote. Because we are creating a right track wrong track email we can attach a survey to our initiative.

I won’t be providing a tutorial on how to create a survey and initiative here but you can use mine, or copy the examples to create your own.

First I created the survey, you can search for it as Survey #3853. Next step is to create your initaitive, build a run and attach the survey.

I have built a template initiative you should be able to create runs under. Search for it as #8871 or by my last name “Mulvihill” then make a copy of Run #13010.

search initiative brendan

This will provide you with a list to import into your MP Host Email Account.

Drag and Drop It

Go to your main list and click the big green button that says Add New Subscribers.

Just drag the file over and it will import it automatically.

The software will ask you if you’d like to add additional custom fields for the content you are importing.

As a general rule, don’t import data you don’t need into the software. You will never need their street address, but sorting based on City or Postal Code may come in handy.

What you definitely want to add is Constituent Number and Coupon Number. This will make it easier for importing the results into C-Vote.

If you already have the email address in C-Vote, then it will automatically add the new details it didn’t have before.

Now that your list is updated with the most recent data we are going to jump over to our website.

An Engaging Form

The next step is to create your Poll Form. This is fairly straightforward, just remember these four steps to awesome forms.

  1. Fields – Make sure you have all your fields you’d need.
  2. Confirmation – Make sure you edit and personalize the confirmation message
  3. Notification – Make sure you tell the form who to send the submissions to,
  4. Feeds – Make sure your form is talking back to the other websites (Email, PayPal, C-Vote someday) through the feeds

For this form I have already made the template but since it is relatively simple

Below is a quick reference table to the fields used. There are two basic types, visible and hidden. The hidden fields are filled in based on the values you set in the email, but we’ll come back to that in a second.

Field Visibility Parameter Query
Poll Question Yes poll poll=
First Name Yes firstname firstname=[firstname]
Last Name Yes lastname lastname=[lastname]
Email Yes email email=[email]
Postal Yes postal postal=[PostalCode]
Page Source No
URL Source No
Constituent No cv cv=[ConstituentID]
Coupon No coupon coupon=[Coupon]
Campaign No utm_campaign Your Subject Line

It took me a bit to understand these terms “parameter” and “query” and I am sure we could figure out a better way to name and explain them, but the best way to learn is by practice.

If you would like to add or make your own parameters, you can edit it under the advanced settings of individual fields.

field properties advanced fields edits

The parameters are the names of the fields you want to put information into using a custom link. Below is an example of the links as you would put them into an email for this form. Once you have set this up once, the only values you have to change is the “poll=gpoll” It will always be unique to your question.

Right Track

Right Track –[firstname]&lastname=[lastname]&postal=K1A0A6&email=[email]&cv=[Constituent]&coupon=[Coupon]

<a href="[firstname]&lastname=[lastname]&postal=K1A0A6&email=[email]&cv=[Constituent]&coupon=[Coupon]">Right Track</a>

Wrong Track

Wrong Track –[firstname]&lastname=[lastname]&postal=K1A0A6&email=[email]&cv=[Constituent]&coupon=[Coupon]

<a href="[firstname]&lastname=[lastname]&postal=K1A0A6&email=[email]&cv=[Constituent]&coupon=[Coupon]">Right Track</a>

Assembling Your Email

You have your initiative set-up, a fresh list, and you have your form ready. Now you just need to assemble your email. I say assemble, because you are busy and you don’t need to duplicate work already done.

First you’ll need some text to go before the question but a long editorial will never get the reader to the bottom of the email.

I like C-Source’s new Proactive Letters to the editors section. Short and timely, they act as a great template for your email. Simply search for “HELPING STUDENTS SUCCEED” or go add this to the url when you are logged in ?p=21476

Now you need a good picture to go with it, ideally 600px wide.

Here is one I think you can safely use from the Prime Minister’s website that I have scaled down to 600px wide.

Back to School


After they Vote

I hope this template initiative provides you with a good overview and a head start in creating a regular schedule and system of asking for input then following up to thank them for their input.

Because that is where the real value happens.

Everybody who takes the time to respond should get a personalized follow-up and a proper thank you. It will increase the likelihood of them answering your next call to action.

[ilink url=”” style=”download”]Download the Back To School Kit[/ilink]

If you have any suggestions or questions, please, feel free to leave a comment below.

Excel At Work

Excel sheets can drive you crazyDo you share this pet peeve?

I go a little nuts when I have to prepare a large mailing list and a bunch of the names all start in lower case.

With the increase in online petitions and surveys the problem is only getting worse.

Nothing says form letter like “Dear brendan”, but can you think of anything more tedious than scrolling down an excel sheet fixing names?

So here is a short cut.

You can use the text formulas in Excel to find and replace the first letters of a name field with a capital letter, then recombine them into the proper names.

(Hit the picture to enlarge)

Save Those Names

You can grab a copy of the excel sheet I made here and use the formulas to clean your next mailing list.

Political Post Formats

[box size=”large” border=”full”]UPDATE: The WordPress development team has pulled the improved post format user interface from the next update, but the additional post formats will still be available in WordPress 3.6[/box]

With the 3.6 update for WordPress coming , it’s time I put to pixel an idea I have been developing, Political Post Formats.

If you’re not familiar with WordPress, or the CRG WebProgram, this post may be lost on you; but, in the simplest terms, you’re reading a post right now. Your MP/MLA/MPP website likely uses the classic format of having a news page with a list of entries of news releases.

Currently, 95% of CPC MP websites use this classic model of being a basic “blog” of news releases. The videos go in a video section and the photo albums go in the photo album section.

The classic model seems entirely sensible until you examine the traffic data and reflect on the purpose of your website.

There are three key challenges with the classic model in a digital age:

  1. Hiding the message
  2. Using a non web format
  3. Duplicating work by working backwards

Hiding Your Message

After the Contact page and About page, the content most regularly being viewed is the Photo Gallery and Video Gallery; but, the content you want them to read is in your news releases. By sectioning off your written content from your visual content visitors are missing out.

If you are using WordPress in the classic political model, all your posts are using the standard post format.

By utilizing all the post formats you can locate all your political digital communications in one place. If you still want a distinct Video and Photo Gallery you just need a post format page template to display only those posts.

[unordered_list style=”arrow”]

Post Formats in 3.6: Now, let’s politicize them:
News Releases
Twitter sized update
Long Facebook Post / Short Email Update
Photo Albums
Your Own YouTube Channel
Committee meetings
Links like
Have you hear of Reddit?
“Our Senate, as it stands today, must either change or be abolished.”



By using the different post formats you can bring all your content items into one stream on your website.

The Wrong Format

Putting all your content into one stream on the website should also encourage you to abandon the practice of putting “news releases” on the website.

The second challenge to the classic model of political websites is the use of a “News Release” to populate your content.

The News Release format is formatted that way for the benefit of radio era journalists; although it has experienced some updates since then.

A political website should tell users where you stand, why you stand there, and then ask them what they think.

When the voter has to read through a news release written in the third person, on your own website, it re-enforces the perception of the authenticity gap people feel from their politicians.


By thinking about political post-formats you can improve your workflow.

All political communication should include the who, what, when, where, and most importantly why.

Instead of writing the draft news release try this first :

  1. Write the draft email to your supporters.
  2. Add some background detail with links and then draft post it to your website.
  3. Add some quote marks and change it into the third person news release format.

All political communication also includes variations of title, description, body, theme (tags), and category. Whether a single picture, a YouTube Video, e-newsletter, or News Release the content you have drafted will dictate where and how you use it, and re-use it for all your communication vehicles.

[ilink url=”” style=”download” title=”Download The Content Item”]This .pdf called “The Content Item” illustrates how you re-use all the pieces I have described above.[/ilink]


Enabling Post Formats

Since WordPress 3.6 isn’t out yet there is still time to start thinking about how to harness a Post Format Political WordPress Theme. If you have any ideas, please share them in the comments below.

[gravityform id=”17″ name=”Building a better WordPress Theme”]