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AEC Tasmania 2007 Federal Election Campaign

Client: 

AEC Tasmania

PR Company: 

Beyond PR

Award Category: 

Award Type: 

Call Number: 

2008 C1 - 1

Year: 

2008

Executive Summary: 

The aim of the AEC 2007 Federal Election Campaign was to maximise the electoral knowledge and effective participation of eligible Australian electors in the 2007 Federal Election. Beyond PR was charged with managing the media campaign in Tasmania, which had the specific aim of increasing enrolments from the previous election in 2004.

The goals and objectives of the campaign were to: ensure widespread awareness among eligible electors that an election had been called; increase understanding among eligible electors of how to ensure they were correctly enrolled to vote; increase awareness of availability and eligibility requirements of early voting services; encourage voter turnout at the election, increase understanding of how to vote correctly and increase awareness of the range of AEC information for other stakeholders in the Federal Election, including candidates.

By identifying original and newsworthy local story opportunities for targeted media outlets, Beyond PR generated significant media coverage, including 21 press articles in the three Tasmanian dailies, nine of which were photo stories, as well as TV and radio interviews – a considerable increase on the coverage for the 2004 election media campaign. The result was an increase in enrolments of 10,199 from the previous election in 2004.

Situation Analysis: 

The 2007 Federal Election provided the AEC with an opportunity to call on eligible Australian electors to enrol to vote or update their existing enrolments while raising public awareness of important enrolment changes since the 2004 election.

Specific to the Tasmanian media campaign was a need to concentrate on increasing enrolments, which was an area the AEC State Office felt was unsuccessful during the 2004 election campaign. With this in mind, Beyond PR made the enrolment phase of the media strategy its primary focus.

While the AEC had an advertising budget for the election campaign, public relations had a vital role to play in adding substance to the issues surrounding enrolling correctly and ways to vote by using real life stories in the media that people could relate to, such as those moving house, those who had recently turned 18, new Australians and homeless people.

Research: 

Research for the campaign involved gaining a full understanding of the Australian federal election process, and in particular the enrolment and voting systems. Beyond PR looked at how the AEC conducted all aspects of the 2004 Federal Election, including the close of rolls, postal voting, declaration of nominations, printing of ballot papers and counting of votes.

Once an understanding of the electoral process was established, the research moved to the specifics of the 2007 election process, including special enrolments, deadlines for enrolments and postal votes and opening of early voting centres. It was also essential to examine the AEC’s media campaign and evaluation from the 2004 Federal Election to identify areas for improvement.

Desktop research on international election campaigns was also undertaken to gain a broader knowledge of communications tools and tactics used for similar campaigns worldwide.

Given the importance placed on increasing enrolments for the Tasmanian campaign, interviews were conducted with AEC State Officers to establish which groups were most commonly enrolled incorrectly, such as those who have recently moved house, new Australians, young Australians, grey nomads and the homeless.

Planning was then undertaken to establish the best ways to promote the importance of enrolling to vote to these target groups. For example, an interview was arranged for AEC Tasmania State Manager Marie Neilson on the University of Tasmania’s radio station, Edge Radio, to target young Tasmanians who had turned 18 since the last election.

Target Policies: 

The campaign’s primary target audience was all eligible Tasmanian electors, which encompassed Australian citizens, aged 18 and over and living in metropolitan, rural, regional and remote areas of Tasmania as well as eligible electors living or travelling overseas.

Within this primary audience there were specific groups that required targeted communication activities during the campaign, including young electors (aged 18-24 years), culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) electors, rural and remote electors and overseas electors. It was vital to target these particular groups of electors, who are typically those incorrectly enrolled or not enrolled at all come polling day.

Secondary target audiences were as follows:

Stakeholders

  • Potential candidates and political parties
  • Internal AEC staff

The AEC was responsible for communicating with the stakeholder groups, however, Beyond PR provided some assistance where appropriate, including advising on timing and materials for candidate briefings.

Media

  • National media
  • Tasmanian metropolitan media
  • Tasmanian regional and rural media
  • Community media
  • Disability media
  • Youth media

The media was both a target audience as well as the main vehicle for communicating with electors and stakeholders.

Communication Strategy: 

Beyond PR was provided with a media plan, prepared for all the state PR affiliates by the AEC National Office as a guide for the implementation of the campaign in the lead up to the election. However, it was up to Beyond PR to tailor the plan to suit the Tasmanian community and media in order to achieve the best possible coverage of the campaign’s messages on a state level.

There were several phases of the campaign in the weeks leading up to the election, including the pre-election stage, enrolment stage, voter service activities, formality activities and post-election day stage. It was essential to plan for the next stage while implementing the current one in order to make the most of all opportunities to get the key messages of each campaign stage out there in the public arena.

For each stage of the campaign, Beyond PR successfully identified newsworthy stories to deliver key messages to their specific target audiences, pitching local angles to each of the three Tasmanian dailies where possible. Examples of these include setting up regional photo opportunities of first time voters (both young people and new Australian citizens), people moving house who needed to update their enrolments and visually impaired people using e-voting services. The press articles for these can be seen in Attachment A.

It is important to note that different phases of the campaign were allocated to the AEC National Office, AEC State Offices or the state and territory PR affiliates. It was Beyond PR’s responsibility to focus on the objectives of the plan that related to the phases allocated to the PR affiliates, such as increasing understanding among eligible electors of what they needed to do to be correctly enrolled to vote.

Implementation: 

Beyond PR met with the AEC’s State Manager and Operations Project Officer in the first week of the campaign to establish expectations and clarify processes for issuing media releases and other materials.

National teleconferences were held each week for the state PR affiliates to plan for the week ahead. The teleconferences provided an insight into how the Tasmanian campaign was faring compared to the other states as well as allowing Beyond PR to share ideas with the other states and vice versa.

By focusing on providing the state media with interesting, local angles, Beyond PR led the way nationally for original story opportunities, particularly during the enrolment phase of the campaign, with other state PR affiliates successfully replicating some of our unique story ideas.

These included identifying homeless people as a newsworthy special enrolment groupand arranging a photo and interview opportunity with a homeless person and the manager of Hobart homeless shelter Bethlehem House (Attachment A). The story was pitched with statistics about homeless people in Tasmania and the number of enrolment forms the AEC had sent to homeless shelters that week in order to make it timely and newsworthy.

Beyond PR also took advantage of Citizenship ceremonies throughout the State as a timely lead to media opportunities about new Australians voting in their first Australian election. Photo and interview opportunities with new Australians were arranged in the south and north west of the State with photo stories appearing in the Mercury and Advocate (Attachment A).

As the enrolment phase was the main priority in the Tasmanian campaign, Beyond PR deliberately spent most of its allocated hours on this phase of the plan. The later objectives relating to voting were covered mainly by national media activity.

Results: 

Summary:

  • 21 press articles in the three Tasmanian dailies, nine of which were photo stories and nine of which appeared in the Mercury, compared to two Mercury articles during the 2004 campaign (Attachment A).
  • Extensive coverage during the enrolment phase of the campaign, which the AEC felt was neglected during the 2004 election campaign.
  • Increase of 10,199 enrolments on the previous federal election in 2004.

One of the concerns identified in the AEC’s evaluation of the 2004 campaign was the lack of press coverage, particularly in the Mercury. Beyond PR successfully turned this around in 2007, with 21 generated stories appearing in the three Tasmanian dailies, including nine in the Mercury.

Coverage was spread well across the state, with four stories appearing in the Advocate (north west) and eight in the Examiner (north). Of the 21 articles across the board, nine of them were photo stories.

Beyond PR also arranged several radio and TV interviews for Marie Neilson on a wide range of outlets targeting different audiences reflecting the key messages for that week. These included ABC and Southern Cross TV news, the University of Tasmania’s Edge Radio, ABC radio’s Afternoons program and community radio station Ultra106Five.

Beyond PR generated a notable increase in coverage over the 2004 campaign and achieved the client’s aim of raising awareness of enrolling to vote, with enrolments increasing by 10,199 on the previous federal election in 2004.

Evaluation: 

At the conclusion of the election period an overall evaluation of the media campaign for the 2007 election was conducted.

The areas evaluated were: whether objectives were met, the relationship between the State AEC Offices and PR affiliates, media coverage and meeting budget.

The objectives of the plan, how they were met and their estimated success rates are as follows:

Objective:

How objective was met:

Estimated success rate:

Ensure widespread awareness among eligible electors that a federal election had been called

Through extensive local media coverage promoting the importance of enrolling to vote in the upcoming election (examples in Attachment A).

85%

Increase understanding among eligible electors of what they need to do to be correctly enrolled to vote in the 2007 Federal Election

Through extensive media coverage about the different types of eligible electors and ways they can ensure they are correctly enrolled (examples in Attachment A).

Enrolments increased by 10,199 on the previous federal election.

100%

Increase awareness of availability and eligibility requirements of the early voting services at the 2007 Federal Election

Through generated media coverage about early voting services, including those for the visually impaired (Attachment A).

95%

Encourage voter turnout at the 2007 Federal Election

Mainly media releases issued from the AEC national office.

75%

Increase understanding of how to vote correctly at federal elections

Beyond PR was instructed that national media releases would be issued,

70%

Increase awareness of the range of AEC information for other stakeholders in the federal election, including candidates

Candidate briefings were held in Burnie, Launceston and Hobart.

80%

On top of this, the relationship established between Beyond PR and the Tasmanian AEC Office was strong and the State Manager and the State Operations Project Officer continue to call on Beyond PR for media and other public relations advice. The State Manager went from being a reluctant media spokesperson to a relaxed and confident speaker during the campaign, through the advice and support provided by Beyond PR.

Through extensive and effective targeted media coverage and an increase of 10,199 enrolments, Beyond PR successfully achieved the campaign’s overall goal to maximise electoral knowledge and effective participation in the electoral process of eligible electors in Tasmania for the 2007 Federal Election.