Celia Barlow has been a Member of Parliament since 2005 for Hove. She is currently Parliamentary Private Secretary to Ian Pearson MP. Since 4 March 2009 she has been a Member of South East Regional Select Committee and has a strong interest in health, communities and local government, schools, families and transport. Celia’s online social media has helped her as a candidate; this can be seen on the following communication channels:
Celia Barlow is a frequent user of the website and frequently updates her status (mostly every week). Her last update was 27th January 2010 and although this is over a month ago it shows the specific engagement with fellow tweeters as she is only posting necessary information in support of her campaign. Twitter has a limited number of characters so Celia’s tweets are mainly formal to provide the user with information quickly, “Action to Improve Rented Homes…” either about recent events she has attended or attending which presents Celia as a focused politician who is always involved and committed.
Celia’s MySpace page has not been used since July 2008 so is not the most up to date social online communication used by her. The information provided on the page is formal and autobiographical so it does not provide users with any personal insight and with the lack of interesting text, graphics or layout Celia does not create a personal branding style. It is used as a biography similar to other sources found on Wikipedia or TheyWorkForYou.com.
Facebook has become a popular social networking site. Celia uses groups on Facebook to gain further support and knowledge “Celia Barlow for Hove and Portslade”. Campaign groups supporting labour can be read over thousands of people’s pages as these groups appear in people’s news feeds; so it is a fast method to reach a great number of people.
This is a television scheme to gain involvement in politics and was launched in November 2008. This channel is available on free view and seeks to inform followers of the Labour party as it is a specific digital channel and is advertised over the internet to gain viewers.
YouTube is used by Celia as a personal intimate tool to engage with viewers. The use of video (last posted video 8th May 2009) gives users online the chance to feel they are viewing an exclusive insight into the thoughts and feelings of Celia Barlow. The use of video promotes Celia as an MP as she appears trustworthy and with the last video filmed in a homely setting. This also reassures the viewer that she is up to date with technology in her communication style. It is an informal mode of communication but represents Celia positively as a politician. It breaks down the barrier between a political parties’ MP and the public (voters).
Celia Barlow’s website is her main use of social online media. Her website uses a set template design for Labour to immediately communicate to the viewer that she is representing the Labour party. The mission statement at the top, “Working Hard for Hove and Portslade” communicates instantly to the user that she is focused around values and is future orientated.
To create her own branding style of being an honest and friendly MP the homepage displays a slide show of full body pictures of Celia with members of the public from different situations such as helping young people, firemen and the environment. There is a close up head shot of Celia Barlow at the end so the user is familiar with Celia’s appearance. The pictures are to symbolically represent the politician as active and putting the public’s interests first, then her own; which reflects the chronological order of the photographs. However, these images are not coherent with the text on the homepage, as there are no connections, such as a picture matching recent news coverage; they are simply used to represent Celia.
To engage instantly with labour, there is a DONATE button on the left hand side and this follows onto a form explaining where the money goes to; printing flyers, advertising, meetings .e.t.c. This reassures the user as they know what the money is being used for and this honest break down creates a transparent honest image of Celia Barlow. The website is accessible for all ages and reading abilities with text size buttons given at the top of the homepage.
The home page refers to Twitter, bottom right hand side, and this promotion not only creates more followers of Celia Barlow but reflects her ability to present herself on different popular websites.
The layout is accessible for all with a left hand column with headings for different areas of the website. The different sections engage with all ages in the different sections.
The recent news section features articles (copied and pasted) to inform the reader. Embedding links for Facebook, Digg, Delicious, Reddit and Stumble Upon are given so that the party and website can be promoted in different websites by users. However, the website lacks engagement from users, apart from one section for young people. The lack of comment boxes or the ability to add comments suggests that Celia may not need to view the website regularly. Therefore Celia’s contact details are given and a paragraph explains beforehand that there are four key members who deal with enquiries which present Celia as honest as she does not window dress her website. I contacted Celia to see how quickly she responded to emails and I had a reply within eight hours of contacting her. This was a quick response in comparison to other MP’s that have taken two to three days.
The section, young people, allows users to add comments on a forum in relation to ‘Hot topics and What do you think?’ A user online can view other people’s views which creates a discursive element to the website, however Celia does not post which shows lack of Celia responding and engaging with people using her website.
Voters are given the chance to engage with Celia in the section ‘Campaign’ to sign petitions; however, Celia could have engaged more with users if the questions were not closed and reducing the amount of interaction between the voter and candidate. To create a personal input to the website, the ‘Diary’ section is written in first person and is informal creating the feeling of a conversational friend tone. The tone and register of these entries is accessible for all and therefore Celia uses this voice to present herself as down to earth.
After researching Celia Barlow’s personal branding website it lacks engagement by Celia and users, however it is very informative about labour, future campaigns and previous events. Twitter is used to engage with users by updating short statuses about her movements and successes which inform followers. YouTube is one of the best visual online strategies used by Celia Barlow as she can communicate orally to voters and create a visual intimate impression. Profiles across the internet are used by Celia Barlow as autobiographies (LinkedIn, MySpace, Facebook, ZoomInfo). To gain more from these websites Celia Barlow needs to engage more with the website and its users.
http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/celia_barlow/hove [accessed 10 March 2010]
http://twitter.com/celiabarlowmp [accessed 2 March 2010]
http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/mp.php?mpn=Celia_Barlow&mpc=Hove [accessed 12 March 2010]
http://news.bbc.co.uk/democracylive/hi/representatives/profiles/40443.stm [accessed 12 March 2010]
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOoY9bzLfOc [accessed 12 March 2010]
http://www.123people.co.uk/s/celia+barlow [accessed 12 March 2010]
http://www.myspace.com/celiabarlowmp [accessed 2 March 2010]