For those Lib Dems who are interested in using email and video for engaging with residents, here's a bit about how I do things in Gateshead. I produce a monthly Video Focus newsletter. The link to the just-produced August edition is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYv-vfDq-Co or follow the link on the blog entry below.
I started off producing videos that are about a minute in length and restricted the file size to about 1 or 2 MB. One minute was generally enough for about 4 issues to be covered. I am now more relaxed about using larger files so the last edition was over 2 minutes and 6MB.
Hardware is quite basic. A Nisis DV6 digital camera, a tripod and an Olympus VN-480PC voice recorder with hand held mic. Editing is done on Windows Movie Maker though I was looking at Martin Tod's version of Adobe Premier last week and I'm definitely going for a copy of that!
The Nisis operates at 30 frames a second though in the August Video Focus I also use a 4 year old JVC digital camcorder that takes 15 frames a second. I used this for the opening and closing shots.
I email the video file to a list of about 50 people. They have all specifically asked to receive them. Now, however, I also put the video file onto YouTube. This is greatly increased the number of people viewing the videos. This is because I can put a link to the Video Focus on the email letter I produce that goes to 900 addresses.
The email newsletters - eFocus - are produced monthly in 2 different editions. I am currently experimenting with producing short, single issue videos a link to which can be attached to the appropriate story in eFocus. I have done this twice before and both videos have received more viewings than the Video Focuses. This is of course early days.
With eFocus, I deliberately ensure it has a very high local news content. I have found that many residents find eFocus the most useful literature they get from us and many forward it on to others. I am constantly coming across constituents who tell me they like eFocus - and I know for certain they are not on my direct circulation list. I have one elderly constituent who prints lots of copies to give to friends who are not on email. So produce a useful productand others will distribute it for you! (But produce rubbish and it is just too easy for it to be deleted by the recipient unread.)
Earlier this year I got an email from a ship's captain somewhere in the Pacific telling me the eFocus was his best way of keeping in touch with what was happening back home!
Campaigning in Gateshead is geared to carrying out petitions and surveys which always ask for people's email addresses (be sure to include the appropriate wording about using the informaiton supplied to contact people.) We collect them directly from people's doors on the same day as they are delivered - make it easy for people to respond and you will get much higher rates of return.
My target is to have 1200 emails by the end of the year. I am gradually getting there.
I am also trying to include business emails in the distribution. We have started some business survey's recently and have had a good response. Local small businesses are opinion leaders and therefore it is useful for people like shop keepers, hardressers etc to get a good supply of local news from us. And over time we want to encourage them to us eFocus as a way of reaching out to potential local customers themselves - at a suitable advertising rate!
Finally, content of the eFocus and Video Focus tends to be different from printed Focus. It is much more up to date but at the same time it has a much shorter shelf life.
Any Lib Dem wanting copies of what I produce can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org