By November 15, 2011 0 Comments Read More →

Digital makeover: Gail Shea

Gail Shea is the MP for Egmont, PEI and serves as Canada’s Minister of National Revenue. It’s more likely you know her as the Canadian politician pied in the face by Emily McCoy, a member of PETA, during a January 2010 press conference. Ms. Shea was Minister of Fisheries and Oceans at the time and the tofu-cream pie was to protest the seal hunt.

I suppose it’s possible you didn’t know about that event. However, a Google search of gail shea gives a Globe and Mail article about that event second billing, behind Gail Shea’s otherwise anonymous website (more below).

And that’s my way of introducing Gail Shea as the latest MP to get a digital makeover.

Focus on user experience

Like those of many MPs, Minister Shea’s website is a solid foundation for her digital ecosystem. The site’s layout is clean and easy to follow. Your eyes generally know where to land even if distracted by a series of images that change on a short cycle on the right side. Visitors are presented with important information about Ms. Shea and her responsibilities as well as recent content aggregated from selected social media outposts (providing links to some).

Otherwise, the site could use some improvements to the user experience. Newsletters are as many as three clicks away — one click to a page listing the newsletters, one click on the link to the desired newsletter and a third (and extraneous) click to actually be presented with the newsletter. The site offers visitors the ability to subscribe to the newsletter via email. Ms. Shea might consider providing a link to subscribe via RSS for the more technically-savvy.

I like her Privacy Statement. It’s short and unmistakable.

Maintain the ecosystem

Ms. Shea’s re-election website is still alive, and growing more stagnant each day.

It appears her last update to this purpose-built site was on Friday, April 29 (three days before Canadians went to the polls). There’s been nothing since. No update posted on election day or post-election “thank you for your support” message to volunteers and supporters (in fact, Ms. Shea didn’t post a post-election thank you message to any of her online properties), and no message directing site visitors to her actual website.

My best advice would be to redirect this URL to her primary website, thus removing a potentially confusing site (for visitors) from her ecosystem.

Help Google help you

A Google search of Gail Shea puts her own main website at the top of the results. That’s exactly what you’d hope for if you were Ms. Shea. There’s a significant problem though. There’s no indication which Gail Shea the site is for. Ms. Shea is missing an opportunity to help Internet surfers and researchers identify what belongs to her. GailShea.ca is essentially anonymous. I suggest she get her team to add descriptive metadata into her site.

This is a particular problem since the second link is a Globe and Mail article titled Why Gail Shea is used to getting pie in her face. Now would be a good time to consider ways of promoting the search ranking of Internet properties Ms. Shea has control over in order to naturally demote the relevance of some of the more embarrassing online content.

Participate in conversations

Ms. Shea’s use of Twitter is sparse. There have been long gaps between tweets beyond just the expected summer break. Having said that, it’s odd Ms. Shea would tweet good wishes to Jack Layton on July 25th and then not acknowledge his death and impact like so many of her colleagues did on their own Twitter accounts in late August. In fact, Ms. Shea didn’t tweet again until October 8.

Ms. Shea is using Twitter as a broadcast channel rather than one of communication. This is typical of most politicians who are new to social media. There are other telltale signs including the absence of a link to her website within her Twitter profile information.

This may all sound critical. However, Twitter is a communication tool on the public record. Politicians should know that what they do and what they don’t do in the public eye will always come under scrutiny. Having a channel is not nearly important as how effectively and productively that channel is used. So, commit to specific channels and do them well.

Build a community one interaction at a time

Photographs represent the majority of Ms. Shea’s Facebook Fan Page. That’s an effective way to get visitors to take notice and perhaps even look for themselves or people they know. It’s also part of an approach which screams “playing it safe” online. While I don’t necessarily disagree with a play-safe approach for a newcomer, it’s no way to build a constituency of support or justify hosting an online community. Besides, Ms. Shea already has a photo gallery on her website.

In fact, taking a broadcast media approach over social media channels may cause some members to question their participation in the community or even support for a non-communicative politician. People join Fan Pages to engage with others, particularly those who have established the Page. Absence doesn’t necessarily make the heart grow fonder in those cases. Engaging with people cyclically, like only during an election, suggests a focus on opportunism and self-interest.

For example… Ms. Shea’s Facebook Fan Page features a number of unanswered questions. People see that. People notice the absence of participation in the community. I suggest becoming a participant in the Page. While it’s possible the questions may have been answered “offline”, the public still sees them as ignored.

Ms. Shea routinely posted updates and thoughts to her Facebook Page during the election, though did not participate in the dialog or acknowledge messages from others. Her Facebook activity dropped dramatically after the election.

Do each channel well

I noticed Ms. Shea opened a YouTube channel on October 18. The channel has a proper description and a link to her main website. That’s good so far. I’d suggest adding her official photo to the channel as soon as possible, and start uploading videos in the very near future.

However, things get more complicated.

A separate YouTube channel, launched on November 8th, boasts a single video of Ms. Shea delivering a Remembrance Day message. This video is embedded on Ms. Shea’s official website.

It appears the secondary channel is owned by a Charlottetown-based digital production outfit, though they haven’t completed the YouTube profile with a photo, bio or link.

One has to wonder why Ms. Shea would have a video channel and not populate it with her own video.

GAIL SHEA’S DIGITAL GRADE: C-

avatar

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.