Media relations and social media strategies help Elections Ontario make voting easy

We Make Voting Easy

Issue/Challenge:  Elections Ontario hired Thornley Fallis to develop and execute a proactive media relations program to tell Ontario’s 8.5 million voters about the new ways and days they could vote in the 2011 Provincial General Election. This included a mail-in special ballot, assistive voting technology, 10 days of advanced polls and 29 days to cast a ballot. Most importantly, Elections Ontario wanted help to improve the tone of media coverage it received in prior elections.

Strategic Approach: Election Ontario’s goal is to ensure that any Ontario elector who chooses to vote knows how, where and when to vote and can do so in a way that is accessible to them. Based on this goal we set these communication objectives:

  • Inform Ontario’s voters about how, where and when to vote as measured by:
    • Earn a MRP (Media Relations Rating Points) score of 75%
    • Improve the overall tone of coverage about Elections Ontario as compared to coverage in 2007 with a tone score greater than 50% positive or balanced.

We used the pre-writ period to inform electors about the changes in electoral process since once the writ dropped the media’s focus would shift to the candidates and their election promises. We then built on goodwill with the media during this period to improve the tone of Elections Ontario coverage once Elections Ontario began to respond to inevitable issues with voting mechanics. We also recommended the use of social media channels to educate and engage with voters and respond to potential issues before they could be covered by the media.

Solution: We created and executed these media relations activities to get the word out about the changes to voting and to change the conversation about Elections Ontario:

  • Proactive pitches to regional media about the new ways to vote and to target audiences such as new Canadians and students.
  • Chief Electoral Officer media road tour to five key cities for CEO Essensa and DCEO Wells to meet with editorial boards at major print publications in each market to explain the voting changes to editors that would set the tone for future coverage about the execution of the election. We also booked interviews at other media outlets (local broadcast and community newspapers) in the five markets.
  • We Make Voting Easy Media Briefing where CEO Essensa discussed all the new ways and days a person could vote, showcased the new wemakevotingeasy.ca website and the Twitter, Facebook and YouTube opportunities electors (and media) had for engagement with Elections Ontario.  The briefing was available by webcast and a French translator and an ASL interpreter were also present.

We also encouraged Elections Ontario to use social media channels to communicate with its audiences. We conducted an extensive social media audit and developed a social media strategy and action plan. We created the terms of use and trained an eight-person social media team to ensure timely response to questions from voters and to maintain promotion of More Days, More Ways. We also created the “skins” for the YouTube bilingual channel, Facebook and Twitter pages in both French and English (@ElectionsON and @ElectionsONFR). Elections Ontario reported that the social media channels allowed for many potential issues to be addressed immediately before they became “newsworthy.”

Finally, Thornley Fallis was responsible for delivering strategic issues management support throughout the election. Monitoring of both social and traditional media was reviewed every morning and a response strategy was discussed and acted upon when serious concerns were identified. Action in this period included communicating a strike at Ontario college campuses requiring the removal of polls.

Results/Outcomes: Inform Ontario’s voters about how, where and when to vote during the pre-writ period as measured by:

  • ROI of 2 cents or less per contact
    • ROI less than one cent ($0.005/contact). Exceeded goal by 75%.
    • 206 media mentions: Total audience reach: 29,870,920
    • Coverage in 41 Ontario communities
    • Earn a MRP (Media Relations Rating Points) score of 75%
      • 78.4% MRP quality score. Exceeded goal by 3%.

As further evidence of meeting objectives, five days before election day 624,958 electors had voted through an advanced voting option (advanced polls, Special ballot or home visit) representing a 38% increase in the number of voters who voted at an advanced poll compared to the 2007 election (451,949 votes).

Improve the overall tone of coverage about Elections Ontario:

  • Tone score greater than 50% positive or balanced.
    • 83% positive or balanced. Exceeded goal by 33%
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