An influential blog created by experts from the School of Politics & International Relations and the University’s Communications Team to track the 2010 General Election has won a national award.
Professors Philip Cowley and Paul Heywood, and Dr Matthew Goodwin accepted the Some Comms Award for Best Low Budget Campaign at the Deansgate Hilton in Manchester last Thursday night.
This social media campaign featured original expert opinion and analysis written by School of Politics academics and published online by Communications and Marketing at the University. For a cost of little more than £1,400, it reached an estimated audience of 46m people worldwide — coverage valued at over £4m — raising the profile of Politics at The University of Nottingham.
“We’re delighted to have won this award,” said Professor Philip Cowley, Professor of Parliamentary Government, who edited the blog, “both because of the combined effort so many academics in the School put in to making this work, as well as Andrew Burden’s technical know-how, and because it shows that it is possible to make politics and political science accessible to the wider public.”
This communications campaign was designed to harness interest in the UK Election to promote the School of Politics and International Relations and its Centre for British Politics as a definitive source of expertise. The project tested a new approach combining traditional and online PR, focusing on social media and online ‘chatter’ to attract followers.
The concept was created in conversation with academics. Content was written, chosen and edited by Philip Cowley, Steven Fielding and other colleagues, and the project was run by Andrew Burden in Communications. Original research, such as Professor Fielding’s ‘Lambrini Ladies’ blog piece on voting behaviour and engagement among young women, helped capture readers’ imagination in new ways.
Nottingham’s blog was soon noticed by Guardian and ConservativeHome blogs as well as by John Rentoul (Chief Political Commentator for the Independent on Sunday). As a result, there was high quality take-up including interviews with the BBC and Jeff Randall on Sky, articles in the Guardian and London Evening Standard, and international coverage in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today.
Articles swiftly moved from online into print and back again, multiplying as election fever escalated and opening the doors for the roll-out of opinion, commentary and thought-leadership pieces. Many of these, especially online, linked back to earlier pieces written by each author and helped position Nottingham’s academics as definitive sources of expertise on election politics.
The British Library felt the blog had a major social impact and has inducted it into their UK Web Archive for future research — an academic outcome that demonstrates clear influence alongside mainstream media coverage.
Using a blog approach worked well, alongside Twitter and some traditional placement activity. The often-amusing expert voices of Nottingham academics attracted the media and lay readers alike, prompting interaction and featuring regularly in the Top Five Google searches for the relevant term.
As of May 23rd it was — and still is — the number one Google search result for the phrase “election 2010 blog”. During the General Election, the term generated 106,000,000 results in 0.20 seconds.
“The strategy was clear and simple,” said Emma Leech, Director of Communications and Marketing at The University of Nottingham. “This project tested a new approach combining traditional and online PR, focusing on social media and online chatter to drive reach and pick-up.
“We set out to map media and influencers, and then developed an issues-led politics blog offering interesting, provocative, cutting-edge commentary as the 2010 Election campaign developed. The site provided material, anchor points and ‘experts’ for traditional media, plus exposure through coverage of the blog. Activity generated new readers, commentary and material, re-inventing itself daily.”
Pat Freeland-Small, Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Director (Marketing & Communications) at The University of Melbourne in Australia, emulated Nottingham’s Election 2010 campaign for the Australian General Election during the summer.
Professor Cowley, Professor Heywood and Dr Goodwin received the award from David Holdstock representing category sponsor LGcommunications.
The blog was also ‘highly commended’ in the category ‘Most Innovative Use of New Media’ at the How-Do Public Services Communications Awards at the beginning of November. It was shortlisted in not one but two categories: Most Innovative use of New Media and Best Low Budget Campaign. Separately, it was shortlisted for Best Use of Digital PR in the CIPR PRide Awards (Midlands) 2010.
See the Election 2010 blog at: http://electionblog2010.blogspot.com/. For more information on the Some Comms Awards, visit the event website at: http://tiny.cc/wt5lm
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