Online Political Rally Draws Massive “Virtual Crowd”

With a federal election coming up in Canada and another soon in the United States, it worth looking at how video is changing campaigns. Canada’s Liberal Party scored a “first” in 2011 with a live and interactive “Town Hall” webcast. The event, designed to unveil the Party’s platform, reportedly drew a crowd of over 9,300 unique viewers and elicited nearly 1,000 questions through Facebook, Twitter and the Party’s website. The Party believes online webcasts can reverse the trend toward declining voter turnout.

Couldn’t agree more. We saw the power of the Internet to rally voters in the 2008 U.S. presidential election and we will see it in Canada as more politicos recognize that most people would prefer to spend time sitting in front of their computer screens than answering the door bell and politely listening to campaigners ineffectively chat them up.

Webcasting can be a highly effective tool for political parties, as well as anyone else with key messages to communicate. It is amazingly cost-effective (imagine the costs and logistics of hosting a crowd of 9,000 in a public hall or hotel). You control the messaging and questions you choose to answer, you can track viewership, you likely get some press coverage, and the event can also be recorded for playback on-demand.

There are plenty of other options for politicos interested in leveraging video. Imagine launching a series of YouTube 4-5 minute clips with your candidate talking heart-to-heart about why the constituency is near and dear, why he or she feels a connection to their issues and what the Party can do differently. Or, imagine a candidate hosting a webcast interactive “fireside chat” regularly or throughout a campaign from the local constituency office, fielding online or emailed questions. After the event, it’s loaded onto YouTube.

Video and webcasting are not the be-all-to-end-all of communications methods, but they do offer a highly personal way to inexpensively engage thousands of people at once.

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