Wednesday, 21 January 2009

MySociety and MPs expenses: how they won

MySociety is claiming victory in their battle over the transparency of Members' of Parliament expenses - rightly so. The Prime Minister declared at PMQs today that the motion to conceal the expenses would be withdrawn - when only hours later journalists thought that Labour MPs would have a three line whip to vote in favour. The campaign took about five days.

What the campaign involved

The campaign had all the essential ingredients of an online campaign: a blog, an email group, a Facebook group, a shared database, easy individual action backed up by some entrepreneurial moves on Twitter and on their own sites. Each of these elements were successful in their own right.

The blog was successful with 1829 links to it and 53 comments - even though there was 2 days before the second comment was posted

The email group was lively - I think I counted more than 100 emails over the last five days, focussed on producing and logging activity but allowing people to post ideas as well.

The Facebook Group recruited over 7000 members

The coverage on Twitter reached over 50,000 people - thanks in part to Stephen Fry's intervention and the core message was re-tweated over 25 times.

Why it was successful

1. There was a clear community of people, used to taking action
The MySociety email group is significant. I've no idea of its size but know that there are more than 30 active contributors and many people on the list are used to taking action as a result of emails they receive.

2. The campaign was timely, with a clear call to action
The campaign only had 6 days to succeed so there was little opportunity for possible activists to think 'I will do that next week'.

3. The call to action was clear
MySociety repeated the three point call to action in all of the communication. It was clear and easy to achieve.

4. It was high profile but only dependent on their own profile
That's a clumsy way of saying that the message reached thousands of people - thanks also to the popup boxes on the MySociety websites. But that it didn't depend on others (like newspapers) to spread the story. They could do it themselves.

5. They knew their audience - and knew who to motivate
The audience was clear - MPs - and there is already an established community of interest in political blogs that could help spread the message. This would have been hard to build from scratch and impossible in just 6 days. Using well established blogs like Iain Dale's certainly got the message out to a wider group of people.

I hope that people more closely involved in the campaign will also record their thoughts (and we'll keep an index of those) so that critical lessons can be learned by others who also want to run successful campaigns online.


revinkevin said...

That is a very good round up of the campaign.

Mark Pack said...

Good post. The other factor I would add is that people expected that other people would agree with the campaign, and so weren't reluctant to publicise their views.

One of the big, but often unmentioned, differences in political use of the internet between the US and the UK is the greater reticence over here when it comes to talking in public about your political views. But if you expect lots of people to agree with you, that's no longer a reason to hold back from publicising your opinion.

Richard Rothwell said...

Excellent summary - I've published my own slant on my blog, with a link to here.


Richard Rothwell

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