Cllr Paul Scully is leader of the Conservative Group in Sutton. His blog has been judged among the best councillor blogs in the country. Here he says councillors blogging is time well spent.
The fact that you are reading this on Conservative Home suggests that you already know that Conservatives are at the forefront of political blogging. This doesn’t have to be limited to Westminster news and gossip. I started Scully’s Blogspot, three weeks after being elected in 2006 with an article entitled “Does cyberspace need another blog?” I believed that it did then and after 280 articles and 1200 comments from residents, I believe that there is plenty of room for more now.
Blogging is a fantastic way of getting a message over in a hurry. Maybe you have just returned from a committee where you have been instrumental in rejecting a proposed eyesore in your village idyll? Whilst everything is fresh in your mind, you can get it down in writing, whereas a printed newsletter has a lead time for design and printing causing some smaller stories to date too quickly if left to traditional means. Space on newsletters is precious. Use the blog for as much as you want - as long as it is likely to be interesting for the reader. This way people can dip in and out of your blog, seeing how much time you are spending fighting for their concerns. I also use mine as a repository for my stories and photos, picking out the best for newsletters every few weeks.
Leaflets tend to be glanced at on the way to the bin. I am one of an ever-increasing number of people that get the majority of my news locally and nationally via the Internet. Not that paper has had its day after 2000 years; far from it. Everything that I print has an advert for my blog. This isn’t Field of Dreams stuff, “build it and they will come”. Keeping the film theme, “In cyberspace no-one can hear you scream.” It’s a lonely place unless people know that you are there and care about what you write, so put the address on your letterheads, leaflets, business cards, anywhere.
The most rewarding part of blogging is feedback. It is also the most time-consuming and area for caution. I’ve had a cyberstalker - now I know that I’ve made it in the blogosphere - and political opponents that have used my blog as a freebie sounding board. I have only ever deleted swearing and one post that may have had an impact on an appeals case. Otherwise, I’ll take some flak. In the same way that a local political blog can never become a vanity piece, only allowing feedback that you like turns your community-based discussion area into an electronic Stakhanovite propaganda sheet. The only other commonsense word of warning is to ensure that you are not going against the grain of your political colleagues. Local newspapers and the London Evening Standard have picked up on stories straight from my website lifting quotes straight off the screen, so make sure you understand your role in the collective responsibility of your group.
The positives far outweigh the negatives. Good quality, regular, conversational-style writing with photos and images attracts people back time and time again. Why else are you on this up to the minute, diverse and interesting website? As well as improving your ability to communicate with your constituents, it is a no-brainer electorally. I have a majority of only eighty five. I don’t even try to compete with Iain Dale or Guido Fawkes. I am happy with my 500 readers each week. Influencing just a handful of people has a disproportionately high return at the ballot box. Come and join me, the water’s warm.