7 steps to great communications

Today we got called out for sensationalist opinion pieces, which is partially true, we’re excitable creatures here at ViveEcosse. Where we aim to platform as many diverse voices across the independence movement as we can. 

However, it’s a good point, we’ve been a little mental recently due to the carnage in the news. So tonight, it’s a little bit softer, we’re going to do a piece on something we’ve discussed endlessly – how to make good campaigning messages. It’s not thrilling but we’re going to make the guide. 

First up, you need to have a rather good policy or campaign in mind, running absolute drivel, or copying a national campaign and adding your local area name doesn’t generally work. This needs to be an important topic for your locale. 

Secondly, write it up in full, have a full explanation and briefing document for the whole plan, exhaustively written out to its full extent. Share this with your campaign team and ask them specifically, poke holes, find questions, play dumb and work out the oddities. 

Thirdly, take your massive campaign document and summarise it, as 100 words, then as 50 words, then as one sentence, and finally as a three/four word ‘sting’. This is where we take a policy and make it a soundbite. The closer to natural language or common phrases it is, the better it will do. 

Fourthly, it’s time to format that large document, give it a nice set of headings, give it a front cover, including an upfront summary, and your three short versions of it, on the first page. 

Fifthly, create a video – around 2 minutes, explaining what this campaign is, what it aims to do, and what the ‘call to action’ is – such as what you want the viewer to do. 

Sixthly, you need to make some square images for social media, such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. You use these as your promotional tools. 

Lastly, you need to find some ‘first followers’, these people will like/share/support your work. They will comment and break the initial ice that stops others from interacting with it. 

You may notice something, at ViveEcosse we try to follow this format with almost every post! 

First, we write our draft, then we cross-check each other’s work, we then format it properly, we take that article and add a short title, plus add some tags as our short sting on topic, we jazz it up for social media with a link and an image for every article in our house style (you’ll have seen our images on social media – vibrant purple). We then talk about the articles we cover on our podcast to ensure we have a full circle of content. We post the images to social media with links back, before posting to our Signal group of supporters to ask them to assist with the sharing (there’s a link at the bottom of the page to join). 

While we do this for our blog, we wanted to share the 7 key steps to making a successful campaign or shareable item. This piece needs your critical opinions as it will feature in a nicer format in our upcoming book and magazine. 

Articles Vive Updates

November was impressive

Taking a brief moment to pause and look back at November’s figures for the site, where we finally got round to giving it the full attention it rightly deserves, and the output it generates.

The purpose of ViveEcosse is to give a blogging platform relating to Scottish Independence to those who don’t really blog but have a voice or a topic they want to talk about. We hope first time contributors will jump back in and regularly contribute but sometimes it is a ‘message in a bottle’. Thank you to this months contributors.

While I’m in Paris on holiday, in a city and culture of holding government to account, with strong preservation of political and speech freedoms – it seems apt to share how successful November has been.

On the ‘Voices for Independence’ most popular list, we managed to crack into the top 10, placing 8th on the list for the last four weeks:

We also are sharing our internal stats, which have slightly different ways of recording, so we’re going to go with our server level ones. One set for our secure site (the vast majority come in this way) and our non secure site (older devices, some vpns) – we attempt to push all to the secure.

Secure Site
Non secure site

WordPress throws them all together for us.

WP Statistics

Thanks for joining us folks! More great content in December.


Time for Scotland to Reactivate YES!

Independence Rally – Glasgow Nov 2019

Whatever the decision by the Supreme Court on Wednesday, the real result will be a reactivation of the Yes movement and a new understanding that we must be visible or folk around the world will think there’s no passionate (and rational!) support for independence in Scotland. There is, of course. But if it isn’t on display when Scotland’s future is making headlines, they will fairly conclude we don’t care that much. And so will that most important constituency – fellow Scots. So it’s up to all of us to turn out on Wednesday – regardless of differences of opinion or party affiliations.

Check the website

Come on folks!

Lesley  Riddoch 

Where? Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh and all across Scotland

When? 5pm-7.30pmWed 23rd Nov 2022 (see local event timings)

Why? UK Supreme Court sharing their judgement so we’ll share ours

Who? You, your family, pals and whoever you meet on the way


Shuffling the deckchairs

Every few years the political boundaries for elections are redrawn in an effort to ensure the voting pools are mostly equal. This ensures the grid of people you goto vote with is approximately the same size as everyone else.

Political parties dislike it as it will favour one or other opponent. MP’s dislike it because they like the stability. People dislike it because it often comes as an attack to their sense of place.

However much bureaucracy is spent on consistently updating the lines drawn on the ground.

The 2018 reviews of boundaries were ignored.

The 2013 reviews of boundaries were ignored.

It was around 2004 we last bothered to follow them. Amusingly we actually have two quangos, or commissions, who specifically look at Scotland. (Arguably there is a third when you include councils).

The Boundary Commission for Scotland

Scottish Boundary Commission

I am not kidding. There is plenty overlap between the people involved. The websites. The formats. It’s all very similar. One handles Westminster and one handles Holyrood.

However the real star of the boundary show is Allan from BallotBox Scotland who actually makes sense of it and produces wonderful graphics. Sadly his work is not funded by government, so donate if you can.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you, but here is the point. The perceived inequality of variance in population density of each seat is of absolutely no significance compared to the inadequacy of our voting system.

‘Linlithgow and East Falkirk’ is our largest capita constituency at 88,506 and will therefore have the lowest ‘strength per person’ vs ‘Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross’ at 46,924 which is our smallest capita constituency. A full 41,582 difference. The mean difference between all the non protected constituencies is about 12,000 people.

However have you ever heard anyone arguing about the disparity in power of vote? Probably not.

Let’s look though at how many people voted in each constituency but got no Westminster representation.

In Linlithgow and Falkirk East – 32,224 people did not get a representative they voted for despite being the majority of voters.

In Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross – 19,752 people did not get a representative they voted for despite being the majority of voters.

Even with the most extreme example of difference in voter attribution between areas. More people, who actually went and voted, are lost – 51,976. Or rather their vote was then useless after the result.

This is remedied in the Scottish Parliament with the Additional Member System equalising out those who voted for parties that did not win a constituency, so that representation is correct.

Now, this blog doesn’t call for the abolition of the boundary commissions, as they carry out essential and good work, even if they could really be one unit.

It does however point out, it is somewhat pointless to do the boundary reviews without considering whether the voting system isn’t actually a bigger elephant in the room when it comes to a fair electoral system. First Past The Post has had its day and needs replaced.

It isn’t a horse race, its democracy.

The myth of ‘strong, stable government’ from FPTP has been busted.

Usefully Allan at BallotBox Scotland has considered replacement in much more depth than I’d ever do.


How to talk so the electorate will listen and listen so the electorate will vote

As the Politerati and their entourages pick over the celebrations and commiserations of last week’s Scottish Local elections, it’s a good time for those of us who value retrospectives to think about what have we actually learned from the electorate. Given the drastic changes and events since the 2017 election, incredibly not much changed electorally but why no shockwave results in Scotland?

Why do parties with policies that seem to resonate with public opinion, not translate into votes? Why isn’t voter registration & turnout at record highs? What are the barriers to overcome to get people to listen to policies that could improve their lives? How long can even ‘successful’ election results be relied on, just by being the ‘least worst’ option?

This all made me think of a book that did the rounds among mum friends at Toddlers group years ago when we tried to make sense of navigating communication with the wee people in our charge. Mealtimes were particularly challenging with visual indicators of dissatisfaction. Thrown plates of food, tears and clamped-shut jaws were common. Literal ‘fingers in ears’ to pleas to eat the healthy vegetables. Too often roundly rejected, even with the best airplane noises of encouragement deployed to ‘land the broccoli’.

What were we missing? We turned to this book, ‘How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk.

The book’s advice is really pretty straightforward, it’s all about communication. To get them to listen to you, you first have to listen to them. Just building trust through strong two-way communication: simple.

Worth exploring to connect with voters?

Given voters are just older versions of these wee broccoli-refusing people, could this also be the simple ‘trick’ to get voters to sit at our table, engage and respond positively? Forget the plastic gimmicky election tricks and just really listen first before making noises at them.

Let’s start with what we know about tested election campaign tools;

“Eat the broccoli!!”

…is the equivalent of passive broadcasting of party messages via unsolicited leafleting.

It makes a demonstrably negligible difference to land a message and is the worst return on investment to raise awareness to translate to votes. It also has negative consequences of association with junk mail/spam and can build a barrier to engagement. The external factor is, your carefully crafted message on a shiny A5 card will be lost in the noise of a dozen other party leaflets behind doors and compared if the bundle is not taken as a job lot straight to the recycle bin.

Why do parties do it then? Honestly, I think it’s just habit, “it’s what we do and has always been done” which emanates from campaign HQs!

It’s something to do at election time and doing something is always better than doing nothing, right?

Hmm, that depends on whose perspective you look at it from. On the positive side, it may make members feel good to be involved and may even help build a team in the short term but when results don’t reflect the financial and physical efforts, it can quickly flip to a post-election slump in mood, drop in active engagement or even canceled membership.

“What is it about the broccoli?”

What does work then and where should effort & resources be better spent?

Well, the first step is to take your party member hat off for a minute and just think as a voter. What would convince you to read leaflets or listen to a campaigner? Again, those of us who’ve ‘convinced on the doors’ have a common approach; listen, observe, target the message and mostly, show you can be trusted by following up!

“OK, let’s talk about these vegetables”

Door knocking is good but largely used only during elections to understand where a party’s vote already is, to ensure they ‘Get Out To Vote’ on Election Day. Sadly to canvas like a Yodel Driver on Redbull is a missed opportunity and even GOTV is a lot of effort for voters that if ‘sticky’ probably will vote for you without much prompting. If you’re making the effort to spend time in communities, why not optimise the opportunity?

Community gatherings, village/town hall meetings on local and national topics, street stalls, rallies, anywhere really that you can engage directly with people and hear what they have to say, should be grabbed with both hands! You can then understand firsthand how your message is landing!

Why make the effort for direct communication?

⁃   Makes it a personal conversation, harder to ‘bin’
⁃   Interactive and shows effort to go to the voter, ‘taking yourself to their level’ to engage
⁃   Opportunity to deploy all our human communication tools; eye contact, intonation, body language etc., to land a message.
⁃   Observation, who is this voter, what are they likely to engage best on? Allows targeted messages on: health, pensions, education etc. 
⁃   Opportunity to target messaging collateral by having a selection of easy read topic focused leaflet/books to go over together and leave with them to embed message
⁃   Build the team by ‘signing up’ any supporters who want to get more involved 
⁃   Establish local contacts for GOTV to delegate to and speed up and expand this election date effort beyond stable vote
⁃   Critical source of intel on what the electorate actually want from you and HOW they want to be engaged with helps shape palatable policies people will be enthusiastic to vote for

Broccoli today vs lifelong broccoli fan

We seem to focus every election on the same hamster wheel campaigning ‘strategy’ with ever-decreasing enthusiasm from members to deliver it to an ever-resigned electorate. Apathy should be a serious concern for all political parties!

Some voters, so put off by previous broken promises, will put their fingers in their ears and never eat broccoli again. Some will ‘hold their nose’ as they grudgingly consume blanched, bland, boiled, or even reheated broccoli. Some eat it out of habit or even duty, while quietly questioning its actual nutritional value and mumbling “if things don’t change, this time is definitely my last bite” until the next helping is served up!

How about we ditch the reheated mush and go wild? Learn what voters’ tastes really are and make our broccoli, be it tender stem, purple sprouting, or just green, the star ingredient in a flavor explosion! Present the electorate with menus that appeal to even the most discerning of palates and that people just can’t get enough of!

THEN, get the campaign broadcasting going, on all channels with high-quality, simple messages that voters know there’s substance behind and quality ingredients. Playback that you’ve listened to them and created something special, both FOR them and critically, WITH them!

It’s (past) time for politics to move from a transactional “just eat the broccoli (again)”’ to a long-term, mutually trusted relationship with the electorate. Micro campaigning is not easy, it’s hard work but it is worth it if we’re to build a stable electoral base that’s understood and that understands us.

To create a new, thriving independent Scotland we need a store cupboard of ingredients and an array of innovative skills!

How adaptable political parties will be to change, only time will tell. If they do look for inspiration, they’d be wise to look to the grassroots Masterchefs. Not only are they multi-skilled and creative, unencumbered as they largely are by personal political ambition, but they essentially don’t pack up the kitchen at end of election cycles!

Let’s not allow old-school passive political campaigning to try to turn our creative activists into broccoli boilers, let’s instead inspire a nation of chefs to satisfy an electorate of real connoisseurs!

Bon appetite Scotland!