POST NUMBERS: Starting to crack election night comms

It’s now a few days after the local government elections and the dust has started to settle.

Candidates have caught up with lost sleep and so hopefully have council comms people.

I blogged the day after the results at the patchy quality of how the election results were communicated. You can read that here. I love local government. I really do. But the struggle to find out basic information made me despair.

I wanted to know who has won my ward.

I wanted to know who is in control of the council.

Yet, as I glanced around 16 West Midland councils, almost half didn’t mention the election results on their home page, half had no party-by-party results breakdown and none told me which party was actually now in charge.

As an ex-local government person I feel the pain of those trying to get the numbers out. But the truth remains that if councils can’t get the basics like this right, what hope have they got in convincing sceptics they can nail the really difficult things?

I’m encouraged there’s now  a debate on how to improve election comms.

One council caught me eye.

Step forward City of York Council.

They have three comms objectives and measured them

The comms team at City of York Council led by Claire Foale looked to encourage residents to engage in the process through easy-to-share content, they wanted to share up-to-date content in realtime that was also easy for journalists to share.

Evaluation shows they reached 157,000 accounts on Twitter, 2,900 on the live stream and their website had 105,000 views with a peak at 6pm the following day. Five people worked on the project. It’s important to say that this was a daytime count.


Hats off to Claire Foale and their team for drawing-up the plan, delivering it and then measuring it. It’s a really impressive performance.

This shows that yes, this can be measured and that yes, there is an appetite for the information if you create it in a sharable format. If you resource it, the numbers justify it.

I’m also glad they looked at creating content that media could share. The important thing is getting the information out rather than driving traffic.

Besides being useful, election night is the comms team’s first chance to impress the newly-elected or re-elected administration

Picture credit: City of York Council

They have a signpost to results on the homepage

Yes, I know a lot of people go via google direct to the Baswich library page to find out the opening hours but there’s something pretty basic about signposting from what is your flagship page the flagship numbers.

york homepage

They list who voted for who ward-by-ward

So, if you’ve voted in the Acomb ward, you can see what difference your vote made.

york individual

They also give an overview of where the parties are

Like a swing-o-meter, this graphic gives a picture of who is on the brink of power. If there’s an observation to be made, I don’t know if this is updated in real time during the night. I hope so.

And for bonus points, I’d like to know what the current situation is. No overall control? Is that a change from 2018? And is there a Full Council meeting where this gets resolved?

york byparty

They also give an overview ward-by-ward

Again, a visually attractive ward-by-ward breakdown. Bonus points if this was updated in realtime.

york by ward.JPG

They ran a video livestream in realtime

They also ran a video link live from a fixed camera position to allow uber-geeks to follow things in realtime. They also managed that rare thing of getting the sound something like alright.

Extra marks for making a note of when each ward announced, so people didn’t have to sit back through nine hours of coverage to see that special moment when the Hull Road ward result was called.

They ran a Twitter that posted results and answered questions

Ten years on from the first time results were posted in social media, the council Twitter fulfilled this role and also responded to queries in realtime.

Of course, the City of York were not the only council that did a good job. But they’ve done an impressive job with the resources they have.

Go them.

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