Paul Dewar had been in office nearly 10 years when the election was called on August 2. He had a senior role in the NDP caucus, was well-liked (still is) among his constituents and had a political record clear of notable embarrassments. He’s also digitally-savvy. None of that mattered on October 19.
It’s unfair to say he lost strictly because of the failure of his party. Catherine McKenna was a formidable challenger and an important member of the Liberal team. It was always expected she’d give Dewar a run for his money.
I’ve chosen Catherine McKenna for my first digital makeover of the 42nd Parliament because she is my member of Parliament.
As critical as the analysis may seem, my goal is altruistic — to help MPs and Parliament do better online. Most MPs and their teams don’t have the tools or resources to do decent digital assessments and make informed decisions based on analytics. My makeovers are meant to help them get a head start.
Minister McKenna’s social media dashboard allows you to follow and filter her social streams.
Minister McKenna has a number of digital properties. The vanity domain she’s owned since 2013 (catherinemckenna.ca) currently redirects visitors to her Liberal party website (catherinemckenna.liberal.ca). She also maintains accounts on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and LinkedIn.
There are several things that jump off the page as significant problems with McKenna’s digital ecosystem.
Disconnected: McKenna has proven herself to be pretty digitally-savvy over recent years. Which makes it particularly surprising that her digital ecosystem is not an ecosystem. It’s essentially a collection of digital islands, loosely connected by someone’s name. Her website has no links to, embedded streams from, or even mentions of her social media outposts. Among her social media outposts:
- Facebook links to her website; her Twitter handle is named on the About page (no link)
- Twitter links to her website
- Instagram (strangely) links to the a video posted to Facebook
- YouTube links to her dormant Google+ account
- Google+ links to her website
- LinkedIn links to her Twitter account and website
McKenna’s website hosts a section titled “blog”. It’s actually a media centre for official statements and third-person communication, assembled in an unusual sort order. A notable standout is her October 15 post in the form of a letter to constituents.
Inconsistent title: Catherine McKenna is the MP for Ottawa Centre and the Minister of Environment and Climate Change. She’s identified as a “Liberal candidate” on her Instagram account (oops) and the masthead of her website (big oops!!!). Her Facebook page identifies her as a Member of Parliament for Ottawa Centre. There is no mention of her Ministerial profile. There is no title or bio on her YouTube channel.
Strangely, she has maximized the 160 character limit available for Twitter descriptions to accurately indicate her full title — in both official languages.
The opening sentence of her website bio (“Catherine wants to serve residents both in the community and in Parliament.”) suggests it hasn’t been updated since she was elected and subsequently named Minister.
Inconsistent branding: Notwithstanding the fact that McKenna’s properties are named inconsistently (e.g. CathMcKenna, Team Catherine, McKenna.Ottawa, CathMcKennaOttCen), her online brand lacks visual continuity and completeness: her YouTube channel has the default cover image, and the profile avatars on Instagram and Twitter are different from her other properties.
UPDATE: The avatar photo does not have to be the same across all properties. If the MP has effectively defined distinct roles for each of his or her social media properties, it would serve as reinforcement to have an appropriate photo that reflects the desired personality of the property. Regardless, all profile photos should be high quality and clearly show the MP. You need something though. Using default profile avatars and cover photos suggests can be seen as lazy.
She also hasn’t exploited the ability to create memorable “vanity” URLs for her YouTube and Google+ accounts.
Missing information: This is something that seems to plague most MPs. That is, their websites exclude information and issues relevant to their own ridings and, where applicable, their Ministerial portfolio. They become brochures and repositories for official statements few “real people” actually read.
One more thing: It’s worth noting that the “Breaking” news header block of her website is in need of a refresh.
THREE OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
- Make sure your title is current and consistent everywhere. This communicates that you’re taking care of the details and tells your constituents and stakeholders that you have embraced your elected role. Keeping this information up-to-date online also helps national and international media know your title, role and that they’re viewing an official digital property, not a hijacked or parody account.
- Update your bio. You’re in the big leagues now… a rookie with a key spot in the starting rotation.
- Connect your properties. Help people who visit your website get to your social media properties. And, more importantly, make sure people who find your social media properties know where to find the most important place in your digital ecosystem — your website.
McKenna is most active on Twitter. She issued 3,987 tweets during the writ period (Aug 2 through Oct 19, inclusive) and 1,181 tweets since (Oct 20 through Jan 2, inclusive).
Dominant themes include the election and COP21 summit. However, it hasn’t all been politics. McKenna has a good handle on digital culture. Her Twitter stream includes selfies and links to fun content, and the kind of personal experiences to which we can relate.
Her Twitter momentum has slowed a bit since October 19. That’s understandable given she was thrust into a steep learning curve and important cabinet position with immediate high-stakes responsibilities. However, McKenna’s Facebook and Instagram posts have slowed to a near halt, mostly reporting on political activities and milestones with sometimes clunky language inflected with a few humanizing gems.
McKenna has used videos to deliver her message with decent success (by the numbers). Her August 4 campaign kick-off video, in which she introduces herself and her passion for change, was viewed nearly 10,000 times by September. It’s a strong video.
Still, I prefer her September 24 Less than thirty days till the election video which feels more in-the-moment and McKenna comes across as more relatable.
Her well-worded video on the Victims of Communism memorial doesn’t work for me. In it, she constantly walks at the viewer and uses awkward hand gestures. More recently, her December 22 holiday video includes wishes for a Happy Hannukah, a holiday which ended on December 14.
THREE OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
- Develop your ability to present official communication as your own. Tap in to your in-the-moment style of video communication. It’s better than the scripted stuff.
- Figure out what role Facebook and especially Instagram will play in your content distribution. Make “job descriptions” for them.
- The Liberals have done very well in helping Canadians feel the “why” rather than just understand the “what.” Work the “why” in to your social media updates that promote announcements, statements and articles.
Participation & community
Like many candidates, McKenna was very invested in the campaign process. Nowadays, that means being active and attentive online. She issued a healthy mix of regular/original tweets (communication) and retweets (amplification), and a decent share of replies (conversation). Based on several years of research, I can say that a 15% reply rate is about average for a sitting Canadian MP.
And, like many candidates, McKenna had to change her approach to digital activity after being elected. The steep learning curve of a newly elected MP, coupled with her appointment as Minister of Environment and Climate Change, and then preparing for and attending the COP21 conference, led to Minister McKenna’s reply rate falling 60% to just 6% of her overall Twitter activity. Some people are likely not getting answers to their tweeted questions, or the level of Twitter engagement with McKenna they were hoping for.
The same is true for Facebook. Scanning through the active comment threads to her Facebook posts, one can’t help but notice the Minister is not part of the conversation. Perhaps that will change as she settles in to her role and the urgency of ramping up for Parliament has subsided.
The change in her level of activity is almost tangible. McKenna’s pace of digital content creation was particularly high during the election. The graph that follows shows shows of her rate of posts to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube along the x-axis of the graph (in familiar branded colours). The rate of engagement with McKenna’s content by social media users is evident in the logarithmic y-axis.
It’s particularly interesting to note that the decrease in McKenna’s content production had a bit of a cleansing effect. There are significantly fewer “ignored” tweets. Perhaps scarcity or clarity of content, or her Ministerial profile that resulted in greater engagement with her tweets. Facebook activity is also visibly more sparse.
The post that attracted the greatest level of engagement was McKenna’s August 4 campaign kick-off video (over 12K views), followed by its French companion (over 3.5K views). In fact, her four most-engaged posts were all videos.
Three opportunities for improvement:
- Be part of the discussion. Watch, or have staff watch, for content that you need to reply to or acknowledge.
- Make more videos. You have an audience that watches them. Give it what it’s looking for.
- Remain engaged with your riding. The level of activity during the election (as seen in the graph, above) suggests you have engaged and interested constituents. Don’t walk away from them.
Interruption (the bonus category)
While I have opinions about the delivery of her video content, McKenna did a great job incorporating video in her campaign. It wasn’t gratuitous. Being sparse and relevant meant that her videos were rather popular. Four of her 10 most-popular social media posts (Aug 2 – Jan 2) were posted to YouTube. Five of the nine videos she posted have over 1,000 views.