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Tories Reach Out To Manchester Bloggeratti - Mark Hanson [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Mark Hanson

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Tories Reach Out To Manchester Bloggeratti [Sep. 9th, 2009|10:13 am]
Mark Hanson
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The Conservative Party new media team are involved in an interesting initiative to reach out to the Northern bloggeratti to coincide with their annual conference, which this year is in Manchester. Craig Elder, the Party's Head of Online Communities, is identifying social media mavens in the locality and is using Manchester's Social Media Cafe, an informal grouping of social media enthusiasts that meets each month to talk all things web 2.0, to reach out. Interesting that Craig is taking advice on the approach from Lloyd Davis, one of the founders of London's version of the Social Media Cafe.

They tried something similar around their Birmingham conference last year by working with
Screen West Midlands to gather together a group of local bloggers and give them ‘VIP access’. There was supposed to be access to politicians although I think Rishi Saha, Tory head of new media, struggled to get specific shadow ministers.

This is a small but positive move and reflects the approach in the US, where for example the McCain campaign has
daily conference calls with bloggers, including UK Tory bloggers! Loic le Meur also used this on the Sarkozy campaign.

What’s fascinating here is that they have chosen non-political blogs to take part in this. The guests are blogging in the arts, culture and entertainment spheres. The aim is to build a groundswell of support amongst general opinion formers who may be persuaded to engage and debate Tory policies as opposed to rabidly backing or attacking.

It’s a laudable aim but my experience of the Northern blogsphere is that it is as resistant to Tory ideology as, well, the North in general. There is now an active Northern Labour blogging group, the Northern bloc, that is starting to meet, share ideas and work together on projects as well as being plugged in to the new media team at HQ.

The whole thing also needs to be thought through well. The danger with this kind of initiative in isolation is that the bemused bloggers are hurded into a backroom in Manchester for tea and biscuits, have an awkward Q&A with a bemused shadow cabinet member and then having ticked a box forget all about it. I followed up with the Brummie bloggers who attended last year and the feeling was it was a little bit of a damp squib for them DESPITE the best efforts of the Tory new media team.