Social media’s unprecedented role in #DebateNight

debate-926-hrc-trump-feed-cover-1400x600While social media played a role in both the 2008 and 2012 elections, the influence of platforms such as Facebook and Twitter in previous election cycles pales in comparison to this year.

Social media makes for a great unofficial battleground, with the candidates both trading blows.

Candidates now, more than ever, are bypassing traditional media and engaging with voters directly. Donald Trump even launched a national ‘Crooked Hillary’ campaign and filter on Snapchat.

Well over 80 million people watched Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump face off on television, setting a new record in the sixty year history of televised presidential debates. According to Nielsen, the debate averaged a total of 84 million viewers across 13 of the TV channels that carried it live in the U.S. This beats the previous record for a presidential debate held by Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan back in 1980. While it didn’t reach some predictions of 100 million (making it Super Bowl worthy), it was certainly a big audience.

Both candidates were very active on social media leading into the debate, and throughout it used platforms, especially Twitter, to push out key messages. Twitter streamed the debate live and it was the most tweeted debate ever.

But which candidate won over Twitter? According to the social media monitoring tool Brandwatch, neither of them. Both had more negative than positive mentions. In fact, the night’s big Twitter winner wasn’t a presidential candidate, but a hip hop star.

@chancetherapper tweeted’ Dear God, the words law & order shouldn’t strike so much fear in my heart as a law abiding citizen but I am so damn scared of Donald Trump’ which generated 58.5k retweets and 115k likes.

If you want to check out more tweets from the event, you can as Wired have collected some of the best tweets here.

Aside from Ms Clinton, Mr Trump and Chance the Rapper, the Twitter handles with the most debate-related mentions included moderator Lester Holt of NBC, Fox News and the fact-checking site Politifact.

It is also fascinating to watch how companies and individuals responded to mentions during the debate. Take Ford for example, who Trump singled out by saying “Ford is leaving,” Ford quickly took to Twitter to tweet to its own defence.

Sean Hannity, Alicia Machado and Rosie O’Donnell all got specific mentions during the debate and used Twitter to respond. Rosie calling Donald “an orange anus”.

In the past, companies, brands and people referenced in a debate had minimal opportunities to defend themselves — at least in a timely fashion. Not anymore. Can’t wait for the next two debates.

Cheers, Jack & the c word crew

And, in case you haven’t seen it – Will & Grace are back:

Copy cat

6509860769_b9e231e3c0_zWith a title like that you probably think we’re going to cover the 1995 thriller starring the fabulous Sigourney Weaver. As much as we could chat about that great film – copy cat serial killers do make for intriguing scripts – today we’re focusing on another copy cat.

Instead we’ll focus on something current and newsworthy: Melania Trump’s speech that appears to have parts copied or “borrowed” from Michelle Obama’s 2008 Democratic National Convention speech for her 2016 Republican National Convention speech in Cleveland. Melania was there as the keynote speaker and to support her husband. She has certainly managed to create some media attention around the event.

The public has criticised Melania Trump on social media, with many using the hashtag #FamousMelaniaTrumpQuotes to mockingly attribute the famous words of others to the prospective First Lady.

I think the best way to explain this is to look at a few of the great memes that have popped up on social media. The internet was and remains flooded with so many that have us laughing out loud.


As you can see the media and the public have really taken to this one. Stephen Colbert offered a great impersonation on his show: it was hard not to chuckle.

Is this a PR crisis in action? Donald Trump’s campaign manager defended Melania Trump on Tuesday saying her speech consisted of “common words and values”. He took the reactive approach, blaming the widely critical reaction to the speech on the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

“This is once again an example of when a woman threatens Hillary Clinton, how she seeks out to demean her and take her down,” he said. “It’s not going to work.”

We’re not here to judge, but the speech does have a striking resemblance to the 2008 speech of Michelle Obama’s.

Judge for yourself. Here’s the full speech side by side with Michelle Obama’s.


Jack and the c word crew

Continued count concerns campaigners and country

The campaign may be over but the counting continues and the country and the campaigners await a result.

While we wait to find out who the latest PM is, let’s have a look some lessons we can learn as communicators from the latest election campaign.

Memes seem to go hand in hand with politics now. If you don’t know exactly what a meme is (think #choppergate) here is a great explainer. It shows just about anything can be summed up in a picture.


Communication lesson #1: Educate your public. Donkey votes were at an all time high and received a chunk of media attention. If the public were interested and educated these number might drop – adding to the count.

A word that is widely used– plebiscite.  It sounds like some sort of bacteria.

Plebiscite: The direct vote of all the members of an electorate on an important public question (Collins).

Lesson #2. Know your message and keep your brand consistent: Don’t forget that personal connection. People who know you are more likely to buy from you or vote for you. Who could forget how the media took to Malcolm Turnbull’s grandson. Trustometer up.

C= cute.

Lesson #3. The public is always ready to pounce. Bill Shorton was trending when video of him eating a sausage sizzle took off. He obviously doesn’t shop at Bunnings on the weekends.

This trended (briefly) more than #mediscare

Lesson #4. Keep your friends close and social media closer. We thought we’d see more of the Australian Federal Election on Snapchat – like we have seen in the US.  Turnbull and his side had a snapchat lens developed. Julie Bishop took a couple of good snaps and applied Geo Filters when was overseas. Young people are huge potential political audience – next time the parties should get snapping.

It’s only your imagination that can stop you. Look’s like we’re not the only one’s hitting Snapchat for a little political fun – see the Christopher Pyne bunny:


The twittershephere was littered with election conversations. Some serious and some silly.

And the conversation continues…with #Australiawaits. Now the twitterati has turned its attention to who will form government and what it will mean for the country. This election was meant to be a fresh start, an end of to a period where we have had four PM’s in the space of three years. If the election was based on social media followers alone, then there would be a clear winner. Look at these figures from a few of the social media platforms.


Malcolm Turnbull – 629k followers

Bill Shorten – 147k followers


Malcolm Turnbull – 298,656 likes

Bill Shorten – 140,671 likes


Malcolm Turnbull – 61.6k followers

Bill Shorten – 8908 followers

Interestingly, even Tony Abbott has more Instagram followers than Bill Shorten! And he thought the internet was invented in 1992.

Social media might have been their only shot to convince some people of their argument.

Too late now.

With the final votes rolling in and being counted I think we can agree that it’s important to watch your Ps & Qs.

Social is a platform, like a soap box. With the right tactics (or wrong!) it has the potential to spread a message, to reach millions of people, and in politics, that’s half the battle. With the plus of real-time images and video which in itself is more engaging than drawling political debates or chunks of text.

The thing with social is it’s uncontrolled media. Once it’s out there, there’s no taking it back – however misconstrued your message. Think #faketradie, #mediscare … and so the list goes on.

We can’t debate that social media can keep the public informed. Almost instantly. This certainly has to have an impact on election outcomes.

This analysis might not be the most exciting thing since sliced bread (which was first produced commercially back in July 1912) but it’s certainly on most people’s minds.

Cheers, Jack & the c word crew.

Commercial con

Have you seen the new Liberal Ad? If not, catch it getting mocked on social media via #FakeTradie

The pre-election games have begun. The slinging of insults via social media has been going for a while. Countless ‘dank memes’ have been thrown from side to side.

The latest liberal ad featured a stereotypical tradesman, however the public was not convinced he was the real deal. His $7000 watch and loose bracelet on a building site were enough to stir controversy. A satirical twitter account was created, and #faketradie started trending.

It’s since been discovered through The Daily Mail Australia that the #faketradie is in fact a real tradesman – a metalworker. Convinced or not, it’s got people talking about the advertisement again. As the age-old saying goes – any press is good press.

Let’s just have a look at the viral ad from a comms perspective, and see what they were thinking back at Liberal HQ. By using a typical Aussie tradesman, they were hoping to relate to a different type of public. The tradesman in the ad asks Opposition Leader Bill Shorten why he wants to wage a war on “people like me”, who are just trying to negatively gear an investment property to get ahead.

We can all relate to a bit of hi-vis right? Wrong. These types of commercials are scrutinised – not just by the other political parties but by the everyday voter. Give the everyday voter a computer, some free time and they’ll soon make a mockery of it. This is exactly what was done.

The use of the tradie’s simple language in the ad (no mention of Turnbull). Just “we should just see it through and stick with the current mob for a while”. It’s not just the content that had people up in a storm. But what seemed to be a very lowbrow production – you can see the “tradies” microphone sticking out from his crisp, King Gee work shirt.

In 1983 the Fraser government had a similar everyday Australian using the same scare tactic – don’t trust the new guy.

The Hawke Government tried the “if aint broken” approach in its 1987 campaign: “Let’s stick together, let’s see it through … nobody ever got anywhere changing horses in mid-stream.”

Continuity with change

Just days after his “It’s a great time to be an Australian” slogan came under fire, Malcolm Turnbull has a new three-word slogan, and it is already creating controversy.

How important can a slogan be? Well, a good slogan can take a campaign to new heights and a bad slogan can have you running a mile!

Malcolm Turnbull said “continuity” and “change” several times in press interviews on Tuesday morning.

The PM was attempting to distance himself from Tony Abbott, who had said earlier in the week that the coalition was “running on the record of the Abbott government”.

In response, Mr Turnbull attempted to suavely say that the Coalition was both a product of Abbott’s policies and of his own government’s new agenda. He attempted to summarise that in three words: “Continuity and Change”. Oh dear.

Nothing new here, you would think. Political slogans aren’t exactly groundbreaking territory. However, this last-minute slogan has been used before. Oops. For satirical purposes only! It was plastered on the side of a bus in the HBO comedy ‘Veep’.

Veep actor Timothy Simons wrote: “A heartfelt thanks to the truly clueless US / World politicians providing us with so much free publicity.”

Turnbull and his party like it or not are a brand. They have a public following and should therefore be careful, like any brand on how they represent themselves.

The two words alone would sound great in a campaign. But used together they contradict each other – Oxymoron?

Checkout some of the worst political slogans here

Closing comment – Election 2013: Compasses, compassion & lycra-clad pollies

Not certain which political party best aligns with your views and values in this election? Consult the vote compass. The ABC-hosted ‘Vote Compass’ is an educational tool developed by a non-profit group of political scientists enabling you to find out “how you stack up against the parties question-by-question or see how the parties stack up against each other”.

Your answers to questions will plot you on the Australian political landscape, somewhere between social liberalism and conservativism on one axis, and the economic left and right on the other. It will also tell you how much you agree with the three major parties, as well as how you rate the party leaders.

Speaking of compasses, did you know scientists warned against using Twitter and Facebook because it could harm our moral compasses? Apparently social media channels like Twitter and Facebook don’t allow time for compassion or admiration. Agree or disagree?

This theory is not new news, mind you. The story dates back to 2009, when it was found that emotions linked to moral sense are slow to respond to news and events and have failed to keep up with the modern world because in the time it takes to fully reflect on a story of anguish and suffering, the news bulletin has already moved on or the next Twitter update is already being read.

What? Missed that last point because your train of thought had already left the station? Tony Abbott in lycra – there, we’ve got your attention back.

Social media may have only taken on a marginal role in the last two Australian elections but this time you’d have to think the sheer numbers on social media will mean it will be a major player in determining who gets a bed at the Lodge.

Since 2010, social media subscriptions have ballooned across all platforms, with more than 11 million Australians now on Facebook and about 2 million on Twitter (including our very own Helen Steel AKA @MelbourneSteel.

Locally, the major parties can at least agree social media is the new campaign frontier and are spending large portions of their budgets on social media. In addition, both parties’ campaign bosses have recruited full-time staff dedicated to online campaigning.

The Liberal Party’s federal director has created a sophisticated unit that mines data, raises money, directs voters to candidates’ Facebook profiles and paints a bad picture of Labor MPs in YouTube clips.

Labor has formed a full-time social media unit and You Tube veteran and PM son Marcus Rudd has joined it as a volunteer.

So, will a pollie’s prominent performance on social media help sway our moral compasses to the left or right?

Rudd is the current frontrunner in the digital realm, easily eclipsing Abbott on Likes and Followers. But that doesn’t necessarily mean his clicks or views will translate to votes, does it?

Rather scarily, the SMH has the following advice for social-media underdog Abbott if he wants to “win the social media election”: “loosen up, and possibly bring out the lycra”.

Forget the moral compass. Someone call the fashion police and quick!

Cheers, Jack & the c word crew

(thanks for this week’s lovely words by our chief content curator, Danielle!)

Abbott’s boy band heads in one direction

Closing comment – Friday 6 July – Save the singing for the shower

This week the c word celebrated Fourth of July alongside our American friends, so a belated happy Independence Day to you all. While we didn’t manage to have the day off, we did consume our fair share of American candy as recompense; mainly Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in their miniature form.

In keeping with the US theme, Tuesday night we attended the US Consulate’s Independence Day function at the Fox Classic Cars Museum in Docklands. It was great to catch up with the many Americans and honorary Americans living in Melbourne including author and NBC Correspondent Sara James, American Australian Association’s Regina Khart and General Manager of the Melbourne Aces Windsor Knox.

Thanks to the staff and volunteers of the US Consulate for organising another wonderful celebration of their Independence – 236 candles required to mark their birthday. Congratulations also to the lovely Sally Branson who received an employee of the year award on the very same day.

Our next topic comes with this advice: singing should be kept to the stage, the shower or on rare occasions the lounge room in the company of extremely close friends and truckloads of tequila.

Even if you have the world’s most wonderful voice, a media interview is not to appropriate place to prove it, unless of course it’s your profession (and even then it’s questionable). What I can say for sure is a politician should never end their television media interview with a jingle. But thank you Craig Emerson for providing the laughs this week and taking us back to the singing and dancing pollie days of Midday with KAK.

Final topic for this week’s Closing Comment: culinary delights and conversations. We had a number of great chats about communications over coffee and calories this week, some scheduled and many impromptu.

We started the week with back to back coffees at the c word HQ Milton House with a journo, an event coordinator and a CEO. Sounds like the candlestick maker etc doesn’t it. Perhaps we’ll try that next week?

Wednesday we caught up with some friends in fundraising at Red Spice Road. A great conversation about fundraising events was followed by complete silence as we devoured their famous pork dish. A must try if you’re not a vegetarian and enjoy your pork belly!

Thursday morning we caught up with our Twitter and PRIA colleague Dean Mercer over coffee at Cumulus providing another colorful communications conversation.

Now it’s Friday and time to speed through the to do list, clear out the inbox & get ready for a sunny weekend (we hope).

Cheers and happy singing everyone (just not during a live cross!),

Jack and the c word crew

Pavlova fit for the POTUS

Official U.S. Embassy photo by Adam P. Wilson
Official U.S. Embassy photo by Adam P. Wilson

Firstly, let me get this off my chest – is Pavlova Roulade (rolled pavlova) really the best we could dish up for the President? Perhaps I’m being a little too critical given I haven’t had my morning sugar fix, but I would have thought we could be a little more creative in the kitchen. Oh well, I’m sure the pav’ was delicious!

This week Australia welcomed POTUS (President of the United States for anyone who isn’t a West Wing addict!) as part of his whirlwind 2011 Asia Pacific Trip.

Obama and his entourage flew in to Canberra on Wednesday for a 26-hour visit, which included a State Dinner, an official address to both Houses of the Australian Parliament, a grilling by journalism students at a Canberra Highschool and a sombre visit to the Australian War Memorial.

After a day and night of seeing the sights in Canberra, Obama jetted off for the first ever-Presidential visit to Territory, in particular Darwin. It was a coup for the people of Darwin and an opportunity for the President to see yet another part of Australia.

It was also a chance for America to show us how to stage an event. The Americans delivered a true visual spectacle in Darwin where the Prime Minister and the President shook hands with our troops and inspired the masses in front of spectacularly oversized Australian and American flags. I hope everyone took out their pens and pencils and took down some notes!!

Now he’s off to Bali for the final leg of his Asia Pacific Trip. Then it’s back to the States where he’s only months away from a year where he’ll be running for re-election while continuing his duties as President of the United States. (Jed Bartlet would be proud!!)

Pavlova aside – it’s been an exciting couple of days for Australia. A fantastic opportunity to show Obama and the rest of America why it’s great to visit and live in Australia – although Bob Katter singing would make anyone run a mile.

I’m looking forward to seeing what part Australia plays in the next episode of the “West Wing Week” – a fantastic weekly series created by the first official Whitehouse videographer Arun Chaudhary.

Finally, hats (and I mean multiple styles and colours) off to our Governor-General for her outfit change between meeting the President at the airport and welcoming him to Parliament House.

She’s copping some flack from some, but I don’t agree. I don’t know about you but if I’ve got the time and am going to be photographed at two major international press opportunities, I’m going to change too. And she did recycle the outfit – well part of it – from her time with the Queen.

OK enough talk about Pavlovas and outfit changes, now time to get on with some work.

Happy Friday!


the c word

PS. While we’re on the topics of world leaders, we thought we’d leave you with a sneak peak at Margaret – the 2012 movie with Meryl as Margaret. We can’t wait!!

Communicator’s Corner: Sunday Age Political Reporter, Melissa Fyfe

Melissa Fyfe is the State Political Reporter for The Sunday Age. Her career with Fairfax has seen her take on a varied number of roles including: Sydney correspondent, health editor, section editor and also the state news editor. She has won several awards for her reporting on climate change and water during her time as The Age’s environment reporter.

With a State and Federal election upon us, this will be a feverishly busy year for the political reporter.

1. Tell us about your typical day.

I start the day reading the newspapers and keeping a keen ear on the radio. The rest of the day is spent meeting with contacts, digging through reports, talking to my editors about ideas for the paper, interviewing people and, when parliament is sitting, hanging around the big house on Spring Street. I write my stories on Fridays and Saturdays. Every second Friday I chat to Tony Biggs on RRR about state politics.

2. When did you first know you wanted to be a journalist?

Quite young – when I was in Year 7 at high school.

3. Who’s your communication hero/mentor?

I have had many fantastic mentors at The Age. My journalistic heroes are mostly American writers, particularly those working for The New York Times and The New Yorker.

4. Which tools can’t you live without?

My mobile.

5. What are the biggest challenges in your role?

Managing my time. I have a weekly deadline, so I have to be very disciplined about what I do. Also, dealing with the spin machine of the government and the opposition is very difficult at times. In an election year the stakes are very high.

6. Tell us about the best story/campaign you’ve ever worked on?

In the scheme of other stories in my career this one was quite small but it meant a lot to me: I reported on the plight of a young mother who was in a public housing flat so mouldy it was causing her and her baby significant illness. The housing minister moved her within months. She is now living in a place with no mould and her life has completely changed. Her baby is so healthy and happy now. I am also proud of the story myself and my colleague Jill Stark broke recently on Kevin Rudd’s chief mental health adviser quitting.

7. Which campaign do you most admire?

This is difficult to answer because in my business a campaign means an election campaign. Barack Obama’s tilt for US president is easily the best example of a political campaign for office that we’ve seen in decades. It’s been said many times, but his harnessing of grassroots support through the internet was spectacular and left the Republican campaign totally flat-footed.

8. What’s been the biggest change to communication industry/journalism since you began your career?

Obviously the internet. It has massively reshaped the newspaper industry, eroded the classifieds and changed our business structure. It has opened up many more opportunities for journalism but obviously threatens the fundamental economics of old-school media.

9. What’s your favourite brand?

I don’t really have one.

10. What book/blog do you think every communicator should read?

Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. An oldy (1918) but a goody.

11. What tips do you wish you’d known starting out in your field?

The value of confidence. Backing yourself is important.

12. Finish this sentence: ‘Communication is… keeping the message simple, powerful and accurate’

You can view Melissa Fyfe’s work when kicking back with the papers on Sunday or follow her on Twitter @melfyfe

Congratulations to our new PM

A lot can happen in 12 hours, just ask Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard.

Last night Twitter and news services went CRAZY with talk of a Labor party spill. This morning, Kevin Rudd didn’t even contest the ballot at the Caucas meeting, and Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard was elected as the first female Prime Minister of Australia, 108 years after women were given the right to vote in Federal elections.

Congratulations to our new Prime Minister Julia Gillard!

And as you’d expect, it’s been a morning of press conferences, with an emotional speech from Kevin Rudd who, supported by his family, reflected on his time in office.

Then, Julia Gillard stepped up to the podium. Her first order of business was to extend an open invitation to the mining industry to negotiate about the mining tax. At the same time, she committed to ceasing the publicly funded mining tax advertisements immediately, and called on the  mining industry to cease their ads. Nice move.

There are some interesting points to take away from today’s press conferences.

Firstly, it’s OK to be emotional when you’re speaking with the press or a group of people, it shows you’re passionate about what you’re talking about and shows people you’re a real person. So the next time you step up on stage, don’t be afraid to let people see how you’re feeling.

Secondly, it’s best to be upfront and honest and talk about the good and the bad. For example, Julia made it a point to mention she had been involved with both the good and the bad side of the Rudd government. Fess up and then move on!

Most importantly, she has confirmed she will not be taking up the full forward position for the Western Bulldogs. I suppose she’ll have her hands full as Prime Minister! 😛

Finally, while we don’t have a date for the election, the campaigning has begun for sure, and the c word will be watching the upcoming election trail with much anticipation.