What I learned through blogging

Open Letter to Frances Abbott

I’ve been writing a political blog for long enough to accumulate useful insights into the style and topics which get a reaction and those that are posted and sink without a trace.

Out of the 200 posts on my blog, the biggest reaction came from my Open Letter to Frances Abbott, which was read by over 400,000 Australians. This post didn’t take me long to write – it just flowed out of the outrage I felt about the situation; when it was revealed by a whistle-blower that then Prime Minister Abbott’s daughter Frances had been awarded a secret scholarship to attend the Whitehouse Institute – a scholarship apparently not available to her less-well-connected peers. Other posts I have spent hours researching and writing have been far less popular, such as this one, which only got a couple of thousand views.

So what have I learned about effective political communication from the stats page on my political blog?

  • An emotional, passionate response to a topic is much more likely to be shared, commented on, ‘Liked’ on Facebook and Tweeted, and for that reason, is going to be read by many more people. My ‘Open Letter to Frances Abbott’ went viral because the public shared the outrage I felt about the situation, and wanted to share this outrage with others. My emotional reaction therefore moved people to realise they were having the same emotional reaction. Bluntly, if people feel nothing for what you are saying, they will give you the ‘meh’ reaction of doing nothing about it. Emotion is everything. If people don’t feel anything about what you say or write, they won’t listen and they certainly won’t act.
  • Timing is important. Politics is happening and happening and happening all the time. Scandals erupt and die down continuously. The 24 hour news cycle eats stories up and spits them out as soon as there’s something new to chew. I got lucky with my letter to Frances Abbott. My post went up within 24 hours of the scandal breaking, so it caught the wave of outrage right at the moment people felt like sharing their outrage. And share they did.
  • New Matilda broke the story and no doubt this ‘news’ story went viral. But so too did my emotional reaction to this ‘news’. People don’t just want news. They appreciate sign posts of how to feel about it.
  • My painstakingly researched facts and figures might make me feel justified that I know all there is to know about a topic, and might satisfactorily portray why I came to feel the way I do about a person, policy, situation or political decision. But facts and figures, and all the research in the world, doesn’t make people ‘feel’ anything. That’s not to say that facts and figures can’t be useful. It’s always important to have your facts right and they can help to provide context. Partisan audiences particularly like them when they back up their preconceived ideas; in other words, when they allow them to feel the warm glow of ‘I was right, you were wrong’. But facts and figures should never be used in isolation because laundry lists of rational, expert derived, peer-reviewed, evidence based statements don’t grab and hold attention like an appeal to emotion.

Chat to me about how to incorporate these insights into your next communication opportunity.

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