Conservative Diary

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Andrew Young: Communication on campus

Andrew_young_4 I got in trouble by disagreeing with an article on this blog promoting the use of newspapers on campus to influence student opinion. Not that newspapers are such a bad idea – I wrote for Student Direct in Manchester - but the thought of CF branches finding the start up costs, investing the time and running the risk of debt or libel suit fills me with dread.

Winning the battle on campus is important. Students comprise 49% of active members of CF. More importantly however, the political opinions formed there will last a lifetime. Hence the number of strong Thatcherites honed by the campus battles of the 80s, and the general apathy of the grown-up students of the Major era towards Conservatism.

Winning the culture wars is key, but newspapers, except those funded by an obliging Student Union, are a bad idea. The solution? Need you ask? You’re reading it…

Blogs are cheap (free in fact), easy to use, modify and are increasingly accepted as the common currency for opinion and comment online (even William Rees Mogg has one!). If YOU want to win the battle for hearts and minds on campus, a blog could help you do that. Here’s how:

1) Readership is all – Lots of people reading your blog is the only success you have. Install the code for a tracker  and observe what sort of content draws the crowd. Chase readership shamelessly. A worthy message is lost with no one to hear it.

2) Be anonymous – The best blogs are anonymous. As well as giving you freedom from libel lawyers and campus censorship, the lack of a discernible tag will allow people to log in and start reading your blog without putting up their defences. If you blog as the voice of Conservatism you can expect your entire audience to be people who already sort of agree with you and those who want to wreck what you are doing. As an idea choose the animal on your uni crest to be the character whose ‘voice’ delivers the blog.

3) Be funny – A healthy sense of humour will let your blog sink or swim. Self-important student politicians are plentiful and, rightly, ignored. Anarchic and irreverent bloggers with an eye for what makes people laugh can expect to see people returning to hear whatever they have to say. It also gives your opinion some weight – when you dislike what the Labour run student union is doing a few well placed digs are more effective than any amount of ranting.

4) Blog often – if you are serious about blogging do it every day (easy if you have more than one writer). If you can’t blog for a while (holidays for example) tell people when you will be back and put up a good music video from YouTube to hold the place.

5) Soft politics – Politics should only form one third of your content for a student blog. Avoid the obvious preaching, ranting and poorly thought out editorial content. Opt instead for well considered pieces that aim to inspire students towards developing an interest in politics and improving the world and their communities. When you talk about politics everybody should be able to agree.

6) Local News – Gossip is hard currency. It might be tacky, but becoming the fount of all knowledge on campus is a sure fire way of developing a strong local following (also, allow unedited comments - getting people talking on your blog is positive, even when their comments are not).

7) Sex sells – OK, assuming you’ve got this far you’ll realise that content is all, and that trying to force pure politics on anyone will be counter-productive. Increase your hit rate by photographing the drunken debauched antics of your fellow students (or sports events, concerts etc.) and posting them on a slideshow the next day or in a, time intensive, video . Yes this is not politics, but it is reality and the lefties are unlikely to have the savvy to do likewise. A good way of giving your blog some street cred without hugging a single hoodie, it will also get people furiously trading links.

8) The Technical Stuff – Use something like Blogger to get started, buy a domain name , add a tracker, add artwork (ask a techy friend), get a free email account. Don’t have technology that you can’t use easily yourself.

8) Advertise – Print your web address with its tagline, photocopy and wallpaper your campus esp. the computer rooms with mini flyers. Write the web address in chalk on walls and send the link of particularly good posts to everyone you can reach on the university email system (as an ‘ordinary’ student of course). Collect email addresses, create a mailing list and encourage people to add your web address to their favourites. Use Facebook to create a support network for your blog and encourage people to invite their friends. Also, be generous in linking to uni societies’ web pages.

Hopefully this is enough to get you started. Blogging is fun and massively powerful if done properly. If you feel like supporting CF student branches log onto “The Campaign for a CF Student Organisation” on Facebook.


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