By October 28, 2013 2 Comments Read More →

Digital Makeover: Dennis Bevington

While my ongoing research has revealed quite a few MPs who set the bar high when it comes to their online presence and the way in which they contribute to and participate in digital culture, it’s clear just as many (perhaps more) are still learning the ropes. Perhaps they’re too busy or a digital footprint doesn’t cater to their particular style. However, a weak presence is perhaps more strategically-problematic than no presence at all.

It should be clear to MPs that their online presence reflects on their party just as much as it reflects on them. I appreciate that few MPs go with cookie-cutter party-provided websites and formulaic participation over social media. However, done poorly or half-heartedly, I believe an MP drags down their party and (in the eyes of those who are becoming increasingly involved in our democratic system online) reflects poorly on a caucus which governs or opposes with sights on one day governing.

For the second week in a row my makeover focuses on a weak link in digital politics… MP Dennis Bevington.

Digital Ecosystem

DennisBevington-DigitalEcosystem

DennisBevington-websiteIt’s hard not to notice MP Dennis Bevington’s website. The site’s style and layout, and the format of the information presented is a noticeable throwback to the days of phpNuke, an early CMS systems which achieved peak-popularity somewhere around 2006.

Look and feel notwithstanding, MP Bevington’s website generally serves as a hub  of his digital ecosystem. There are somewhat hidden links to his Twitter, Facebook and YouTube accounts. His Twitter and Facebook accounts link back to his website while his YouTube channel does not.

But there are other challenges with his digital ecosystem.

First, there is a noticeable lack of consistency among his digital outposts. Each of his properties is identified by a different variation of his name (DennisBevington, NWTDennis, BevingtonDennis and DennisBevingtonMPWesternArctic). Don’t get me wrong, you can easily find his properties in a Google search. However, I’m a strong believer in setting a pattern that allows web surfers to simply apply the same naming convention across properties (e.g. twitter.com/markblevis, facebook.com/markblevis, etc…). In fairness, I set up my YouTube account before making that realization and acknowledge I use mblevis for that property.

Another problem… According to his Facebook Fan Page, MP Bevington is the transportation, infrastructure and communities critic. That portfolio was shifted to Olivia Chow some time ago. According to the shadow cabinet page on NDP.ca, MP Bevington’s current portfolio entail the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency.

Bevington-FB_about

On the other hand, there is a decent bio on MP Bevington’s Facebook presence. If one exists on his website, it’s particularly well hidden.

Three opportunities for improvement:

  • Have a proper, and current, bio on all of your outposts where possible (Twitter restricts bio capabilities).
  • Clearly link to your social media outposts from your website, and your outposts back to your website. Make it easy for  visitors to find your various online properties.
  • Update your website to a more modern look and and familiar navigation style. Keep reading the content section for more hints in doing so.

GRADE: C-

Content

It’s been a while since I’ve seen an MP’s website so committed to disseminating information on PDFs. All of MP Bevington’s media releases, publications, speeches and statements are distributed in PDF form. This amplifies three problems with his website: there is too much navigation, the content is not particularly geared towards common consumption habits, and the site is not mobile-friendly.

Of course, there’s always the question of who the audience is. Does MP Bevington truly need to overhaul his website and digital footprint to appeal to his constituents and issue stakeholders? I think being in a party that has aspirations of one day being government, and which is currently official opposition, it’s incumbent on the party members, particularly those in shadow cabinet, to present a certain professional image. MP Bevington’s online image does not support that effort.

Besides the problems noted with the website, MP Bevington’s online activities are sporadic at best. Posts to his Facebook page lack context. They’re simply links to news articles. In fact, the last time he shared substance on his Fan Page was January 11. His Twitter stream is slightly more active and includes some context. His tone is more friendly on Twitter, though often stifled declarations of what he’s up to at that particular moment.

Be warned that MP Bevington’s YouTube channel is set to autoplay videos which can be problem if his videos appear on your screen while you’re at the office. On the positive side, his channel includes interview of various people conducted by staffer Joy Newton.

Three opportunities for improvement:

  • Disable autoplay on your YouTube channel.
  • Provide context in your posts. Don’t just share a link. Help people understand why the content matters to you and why it should matter to them.
  • Stop using PDFs. As part of your website overhaul, make it a responsive design and convert all of those clunky PDFs into text people can more easily read/interact with on any device.

GRADE: C-

Participation & Community

There’s really nothing to say here. MP Bevington does not have an active community on Facebook. People only occasionally mention him in their own tweets and he hasn’t replied to any. The last time he mentioned someone else in a tweet was April 11 when he simply tweeted someone else’s Twitter handle — nothing else, just the Twitter handle.

His website does little to invite participation or exchanges. It’s essentially a large brochure.

Three opportunities for improvement:

  • Pay attention to what people are saying relevant to your constituency and portfolio. Respond to questions, contribute to the chatter.
  • Provide context and substance to your Facebook posts. People aren’t acknowledging or interacting with your updates because you’ve given them no reason to.
  • If people aren’t engaging you, start engaging them. Begin with something small like acknowledging people you admire/respect as part of Follow Friday.

GRADE: F

Interruption (the bonus category)

It’s hard to say for certain. However, it appears MP Bevington takes and shares photos from his point of view. This is true more in his Twitter stream where he’s shared photos including one of Yann Martel addressing the NDP caucus and another showing a sign for Simpson Air.

GRADE: B

OVERALL GRADE: D+

Links to MP social media properties and digital makeovers completed to-date can be found on The Digital HouseSketch by Andrea Ross. Analysis performed using Marketwired/Sysomos Heartbeat and MAP.

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About the Author:

Mark Blevis is a digital public affairs strategist and President of FullDuplex.ca, an integrated digital communications, public affairs and research company. His work focuses on the role of digital tools and culture on issues and reputation management. He also leads research into how Canadian opinions are shaped through online content and interactions.
  • Suzanne Hale

    HI Mark, just sent in a comment, hope you received it. Here is a small suggestion, Your visuals are great. The drawing gives a refreshing view of a person, and its free flowing low tech style compliments the high tech nature of your material.

    May I suggest having a smaller drawing of you, in the lower corner of the diagram? It would balance the view visually and conceptually too.

    All the best,
    Suzanne

  • Suzanne Hale

    HI Mark, Great diagram. I esp. like the drawing. Your point about having a weak presence is worse than no presence at all, is interesting. Something to think about in many contexts.

    ———-

    OH here is a question for you: as the Mike Duffy inferno gathers steam and whooshes down the streets of Ottawa, I wonder how much of the flame is driven by media who see themselves reflected in Mr. Duffy’s story and past profession, as a journalist? When does a story die, due to lack of oxygen? This one seems like it will go on forever…:-(

    Thank you for the blog.
    Suzanne Hale