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July 12, 2019

Social Media: The Newest Political Battlefield

With the NZ local elections fast approaching, candidates have begun their 2019 campaign through building a social media presence and engaging with their followers. This year’s election is looking to be more interesting than usual as we delve into the effects of social media throughout an election campaign.

October 12, 2019 marks when the local authority elections will take place for city and district councils, regional council and district health boards. As the local authority election turnout has been declining in many areas of New Zealand since the 1980s, the Electoral Commission will be running an enrolment campaign #Vote2019NZ to lift nationwide voter turnout (to greater than 50 per cent) as well as increase people’s engagement with their local council.

With social media now at the forefront of election campaigns and political information being readily available through social networking sites, it has been questioned if:

1. It’s important for candidates to have a social media presence

2. If having a social media strategy matters

3. Whether the usage of social media can be an indicator for predicting election outcomes

Political Environment And Social Media

Social media operates 24/7 and response time expectations are demanding, especially throughout the duration of an election where it’s crucial to monitor what is being said, by whom as well as understanding the sentiment that goes with it.

It is suggested there is a statistically significant relationship between the size of online social networks, voting behaviours and election results. With the recent disparity between political polls internationally and in New Zealand, it has raised questions about the accuracy of polling surveys and whether they should be paid attention at all.

Nowadays, government bodies and agencies view social media engagement as a ‘no choice’ situation and the power of social media allows these government bodies to give responses in real-time. Although Facebook and Twitter are increasingly being used by political parties and candidates in their electoral campaigns, candidates are recommended to start their campaign strategy early to ensure they establish a strong social presence that can be maintained for the duration of the campaign. Having this set up will assist with building rapport and trust with their followers.

Is a high level of online interest and engagement indicative of wider electoral support?

Online social media environments present new challenges and profoundly different experiences. As there is an increasing emphasis on social media being a powerful online marketing channel, it can be much more complex than what is seen on the surface. Each social media channel has their own algorithm, determining how frequent and vast any content gets shared. Most channels design their algorithm in a way to reward extremism to entice the user to stay on the platform and potentially influence the user opinion of a particular topic.  Due to the vast amounts of content and media items available throughout an election campaign, it is important to stay across these conversations as well as monitor media bias with social media monitoring.

Polling And Social Media

It has been said public opinion could be better analysed from social media rather than just opinion polls. Considered to be outdated, opinion polls are conducted by large, successful organisations who are predominantly interested in protecting their reputations, and anxiously anticipate their electoral predictions to resemble their estimates. The head of Strategy at a top Kiwi research firm has acknowledged social media is a more valid way to assess voter habits than the polling surveys conducted by research companies.[1] This is due to the sentiment being measured off observations of conversations across social media which can be significantly different than provided in polling surveys. So, if politicians are consistently looking to appeal to the masses and win points in polls, they run the risk of losing the interest of the key constituents they need to appeal to in order to win their campaign.

Is There A Better Way?

With polling and betting markets missing the mark with several elections, experts are progressively turning to social media to judge voter sentiment on a larger scale. Our Mediaportal can provide coverage of key New Zealand media coverage related to the election campaign and can help determine breaking news and voter sentiment. Being across this data can be beneficial as it has been seen in the recent Australian Federal election, where an unexpected victory from the Coalition contradicted weeks of almost identical opinion polls predicting a Labor win.  Other notable examples of pollsters getting their predictions wrong include Brexit – where opinion polls showed majority of voters in favour of remaining a member of the European Union, and the victory of Donald Trump where the national polling average was in favour of Hillary Clinton by 3.1 per cent[2], Trumps active social media engagement resulted in his election victory.

In the 2017 NZ election, Jacinda Ardern’s age, gender and keen use of social media livened up the election campaign where there has been a long run of politicians considered dull or out of touch with young and female voters. [3] Starting with a strong social media following, Jacindamania was ignited. Adding to this, Jacinda’s confident and mediagenic personality has set her up to be a leader younger voters can relate to and has resulted in her being the most watched New Zealand politician on Twitter during her electoral campaign.[4] She continues to have a strong social presence following as she directly connects with her audience, proving the power of social media.

The Power Of Social Media

The benefits of any social network – real or digital – come from the quality of relationships with members of the network rather than the volume of members within it. As younger generations reach voting ages and social media becomes even more universal, it will be necessary for democratic institutions and practices to revisit and restyle their political communications to tie in with the interests and discourse of contemporary young culture. By analysing the election campaign coverage from multiple angles such as share of voice, media bias, candidate promises and the effectiveness of a campaign strategy it will provide the necessary information required for organisations to make informed decisions about the proposed policies and understand what’s driving the agenda across Councils.


If you would like to keep up to date for the duration of the local election campaign, our daily curated briefing can ensure you’re across all campaign announcements, policy updates and share of voice. If you would like to learn more about the services we can offer, get in touch with our team to discuss your needs.


[1] https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=12238919

[2] https://indianexpress.com/article/world/world-news/hillary-clinton-leading-donald-trump-by-3-1-percentage-points-polls-average-3731849/

[3] https://www.forbes.com/sites/ralphjennings/2017/09/20/how-one-womans-likes-tweets-and-vibes-threaten-the-ruling-rightists-of-new-zealand/#46694557ca94

[4] https://www.forbes.com/sites/ralphjennings/2017/09/20/how-one-womans-likes-tweets-and-vibes-threaten-the-ruling-rightists-of-new-zealand/#46694557ca94

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IIt was just a week ago when I was asked to travel to Canberra to assist the Isentia Canberra team with the 2022-23 Budget. The team was preparing to provide our clients with a range of Parliamentary Services to support them throughout the Budget announcement and plethora of reactions, resulting in the most significant media day of the year. 

Isentia has an office right in the middle of the Parliamentary press gallery, above the House of Representatives, alongside the ABC, The Conversation, 9 News, 7 News and SBS had my head reeling. We are in the thick of the Budget conversation at Parliament House and have access to the Budget papers during lock-up. I am not going to lie, I would have loved to have gotten my hands and eyes on what lay inside the mass that is the Budget, but I was just as excited to be a part of Isentia’s first live stream of the conga line to deliver immediate stakeholder perspectives.

Lock-up team Whitney and Crystal ready to unpack the 2022 Budget for clients, pictured with Account Executives Melvic (right) and Nikhar (left)

This is my first time in Canberra and walking into Parliament House. It may sound ridiculous to some, but I felt the magnitude of decisions and words within this space as soon as I arrived. This could be due to the physical size of the building, the maze of corridors (I did get lost), or that Greg Hunt, Minister for Health and Aged Care, passes by you, or Laura Tingle, ABC political journo heavyweight, is standing inside the courtyard cafe – no longer just a revered top news journalist on my TV screen. I am tempted to approach her and ask her thoughts on any Budget revelations, but professionalism nips that one in the bud.

The live stream is my main priority and ensuring we capture stakeholder responses as soon as lock-up ends. With the cool, calm, and collected Melvic (Canberra Account Executive) by my side, I felt we were prepared to capture all the opinions and critical commentary on Frydenberg’s latest Budget. But as Melvic had said to me plenty of times over the past couple of days while in Canberra, “you can’t exactly prepare for Budget night.” Speeches can go on for longer, lock-up can be delayed, and elevators can stop working. It was 7.30pm, and we (Melvic and myself) could not get to the second floor, where the press gallery and the conga line were to be. After semi-frantically looking for a way to get there – the elevator wouldn’t go to floor two, and the staircase was blocked off – our prayers were answered in the presence of a former staffer who took pity and showed us to an elevator that could get us there. The doors opened, and we were awkwardly confronted by a crowd of diners enjoying a catered event, but after casually walking by, we were able to get to the gallery and stream the conga line.

I staked my claim on a small footprint of space to set up Isentia’s nimble streaming equipment among tall, solid guys supporting big TV broadcast cameras. As speakers were changing over, we had to pause for one of them to change their camera battery. The speakers were unfazed by the background buzzing of phones, regular triggering of Parliament House clocks and adrenaline-pumped chatter of people in the corridors. I was particularly moved by the words of Carolyn Smith, Aged Care Director at the United Workers Union and a team of aged care workers who felt a lack of respect for what the Budget provided them. I wondered how journalists could keep it together when they were listening to the stories and concerns of people who really feel impacted by the decisions made here. These are comments and opinions that matter to our clients, and providing this service allows them to better inform their operations and objectives. After the last speaker, Melissa Donnelly, National President of the Community & Public Sector Union, had finished, the live stream was done. But the active alerts team weren’t.

Live stream conga line of Carolyn Smith, Aged Care Director, United Workers Union & Aged Care Workers (Curtis, Marina, Shin,Teresa)
Live stream conga line of Carolyn Smith, Aged Care Director, United Workers Union & Aged Care Workers (Curtis, Marina, Shin,Teresa)

The team, rapid-firing live alerts to clients after lock-up release, are able to provide clients near-immediate knowledge of key topics concerning their organisation. This being my crash course introduction to the chaos of a Budget night, I was not expecting the personal understanding and touch that went into the live active alerting process for clients. I pictured images of machines whirring and topics automatically ticking through Budget content, machines that made a detached decision about what was relevant to clients and made blanket sends without consideration. How our Account Executives, Crystal and Whitney, understood the ins and outs of the needs held by our clients does make a real difference to accuracy and content relevancy.

With the speed and focus they applied to this product offering (active alerts), you would have thought they were machines anyway. But a machine is not going to have their ongoing long-term client relationship and understanding of client development.

 It’s a wrap! Budget 2022 Isentia team, (from left) Crystal (Account Executive) Loren (Marketing Executive ANZ), Whitney (Account Executive), Melvic (Account Executive), Nikhar (Account Executive), Russ (Chief Commercial Officer). 

After the last active alert was sent, you could still feel the adrenaline. The pace and unpredictable circumstances that this team worked under were staggering, but we made it in the end. After a justified amount of snacking, we packed up the Isentia Parliament office and found our way to the car park, where everyone there that night was in a state of buzzed debriefing as they crouched into their Ubers home. I doubt anyone there got more than 5 hours of sleep that night, but it was amazing to be a part of how Isentia offers a unique service to clients. We look forward to giving the same level of tailored content to clients during the election coverage.

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Blog
Isentia bringing the 2022-23 Budget to Clients

Our Marketing Executive gets a crash course in Budget night at Isentia. We provide tailored media intelligence offerings. Discover the Isentia difference!

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Stay on top of the federal election coverage

During an election, the volume of media coverage on political promises and topical debates increases. This can have a positive or negative impact on your organisation.

With our comprehensive federal election briefing, you can monitor and track relevant media data to gain insight into the federal election.

Understand your organisation, your competitors, your industry and the important topics. Understand the media data that shapes each campaign day.

From policy, campaign and program announcements to funding commitments and latest polling figures we can ensure you're kept up to date.

Download your sample below or get in touch with us to today!

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Whitepaper
Your insight into the federal election

During an election, the volume of media coverage on political promises and topical debates increases greatly, which can have a significant impact on your organisation. As such, it’s imperative to monitor and track relevant media data so you can understand who’s saying what about your organisation, your competitors, your industry, and any other topic that’s important to you and your organisation.

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Alert the media! Audiences are more informed than ever but can there be too much of a good thing? Experts say that the internet has democratised free speech, but when there is too much content to choose from, we're left overwhelmed, trying to escape a boundless house haunted by trolls, clickbait and conspiracy theorists.

 Isentia’s webinar, Misinformation: Stopping the Spread, brought together three expert communicators, journalists, data analysts and fighters of fake news to discuss how PR and comms professionals can best navigate misinformation.   

Follow these tips so your audiences find your communications and social media strategy is informed and reliable.

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1. Conserve public opinion that uses facts 

While the internet, including social media, can be a hub of helpful information from DIY projects, recipes and tips to fight misinformation… It's also an open platform for anyone to post and publicise anything. Pulsar CEO and Cofounder Fran D'Orazio encourages comms professionals to promote public opinion that's built on a contextually rich foundation so that the everyday scroller sees more than a title and a tagline. 

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2. Call out misinformation, even your own

Content creator @sydneyraz, known for his "things to know before you're in your 30s" content, corrected his misinformation post from 2021, where he said you could store your avocados in water to stop them browning. Reputable news outlets, food experts and the FDA responded to his original post, saying this avo hack could actually put you at risk of salmonella and listeria poisoning. Unless misinformation is called out and unreliable content is debunked, media consumers will struggle to know what is correct and who to trust.

3. Seek out the experts

If your misinformation senses are tingling, don't hesitate to send content and questions to groups with expertise in this area. Initiatives like RMIT Factlab and The Disinformation Project investigate misinformation on media platforms. RMIT Factlab takes misinformation Meta has identified, and then fact checks it. They then write an article, post it on their site, and provide it to Meta, who attaches the URL to the original fake news post - offering the opportunity for people to read the truth first. Throughout this process, Meta, using its algorithms, downgrades fake news, so it's not seen as often. "It is better to work with them [Meta], so some misinformation is downgraded, rather than not having a relationship with them," says Sushi Das, Assistant Director of RMIT Factlab. 

4. Share truth

Kate-Hannah of the Disinformation Project recommends equipping people with tools like counterspeech to use in discourse spaces. Think about how stories and fact-checking tools can divert a negative conversation and direct it onto the main issue or reveal more context. Empathy, humour and reminding perpetrators of ill-informed public messaging of the consequences to spreading hate or dangerous speech, are some communication strategies to use.

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5. Ensure a source is reliable 

"Everybody is sort of a publisher now," says Sushi Das. We all deserve to feel like we're in a safe space, but the ungovernable realm of the online world puts safety into question. We are all tapping into our smart devices for news content but the key is having high standards of the publishers and creators whose content you consume. Traditional media is still held to account with regulations to follow and trained journalists on staff - posing a strong force against misinformation. With standards, regulations and trained journalists, their outputs are a strong force against exposure to misinformation. The moment a news story goes online, the context is at risk of being blurred, whether a filter is used or not.

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[embed width="1080" height="450"]https://public.flourish.studio/visualisation/10098209[embed]

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6. Bring context into the mix

What does context look like in a world still learning to understand the vague guidelines governing online spaces? The devil truly is in the details or the lack of them. Pulsar's recent partnership with Newsguard, "the Internet's trust tool," helps them rate outlets producing news content based on such specific details: their standards of accountability, do they gather info responsibly, and correct their own errors? The results contribute to a credibility score. Data powered by Pulsar show which brands are most susceptible to having misinformation about them distributed online - showing that every sector is vulnerable.

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7. Consider framing

There are multiple ways to frame a conversation or narrative. Kate-Hannah says, "there is a responsibility to tell the truth, but in ways that help people make good decisions." People need to be reading the news, not switching off. When reading or producing news content consider how you want readers to feel, but also what you want them to do with that information. Hannah during the webinar, referred to an instance in New Zealand where exposure in the city of Whangarei to Covid-19 spurred people to get tested even in the intense heat. Hannah holds journalists to account for their negative framing of that event, and offers an alternative, that those lining up to get tested in those conditions are ensuring the safety of their community.        

8. Prioritise what issues you’re going to speak to 

Fran D'Orazio says there is a big job in predicting what narratives will spin out of control, "if you try and attack all the different fronts that get opened on the web, it's difficult to make an impact." Brands must choose what battles to fight and prioritise who should be answered. Develop a response framework for your brand to use when it’s found to be in the middle of a misinformed online dispute. Answer these questions, who are those agitators that need a response and what should they, along with their followers, take away from your response? 

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9. Anticipate rather than confront 

Anticipate the impact of a narrative on particular audiences. If you confront an audience already exposed to a misinformation narrative, they are unlikely to change their mind. If you anticipate them and introduce that audience to a truthful record, you may manage to immunise them once they encounter the myths. 

10. Improve your media and news literacy

It may be your first impulse to hit that share button but "stop and think before you share anything. That share button is a trigger." Sushi Das says, "everyone needs to be aware of themselves." Question what you see and how the content makes you feel. Don't just read a headline and share it with your communities; use resources like First Draft and NewsWhip to better verify what you and your audiences are consuming online. 

Extensive research into misinformation is showing that people are getting splintered into different realities based on the news they consume and the algorithms that continue the pattern of content. By developing our media literacy and sharing the truth with our communities, experts say we can change people's minds before they engage with falsehoods. It Just goes to show, don't keep an avocado in water…or accept everything you see online as fact.

 If you see something that is mis or disinformation, send them to initiatives like, info@thedisinfoproject.org or RMIT Factlab.

Watch Isentia's webinar, "Misinformation: Stopping the Spread", for more.

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Blog
Building a Communications Strategy in the era of Misinformation
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Credit keeps the world economy moving, with Visa, MasterCard and American Express brand names easily identifiable. As time passes by, we can see a definitive shift taking place, with each of these brands increasingly becoming part of conversations taking place around the world.

This Global Report, powered by Isentia and Pulsar's data, analyses international trends and zeroes in how credit card incentives are discussed in Singapore.

Fill up the form below to download the whitepaper and read more.

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Whitepaper
[Pulsar Report] Transactions & Reactions: The Online Credit Card Conversation

Credit keeps the world economy moving, with Visa, MasterCard and American Express brand names easily identifiable. This Global report sheds light on international trends and zeroing in on how credit card incentives are discussed in Singapore.

Ready to get started?

Get in touch or request a demo.