Ottawa

Internet could play a big role in election campaign: consultant

The internet will be a major force in this federal election campaign, and that could make it more unpredictable than ever, says an Ottawa communications consultant.

The internet will be a major force in this federal election campaign, and that could make it more unpredictable than ever, says an Ottawa communications consultant.

"This is truly going to be an internet campaign," said Barry McLoughlin, co-owner of McLoughlin Media, a communications training firm with offices in Ottawa and Washington, D.C.

"Everything that you do will go through not just the traditional broadcast … but it's going to absolutely put it on the mobiles, the BackBerrys, the iPhones and the laptops of people right across this country. So you won't be able to get away with anything."

McLoughlin pointed to the campaigns for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations in the U.S. as a sign of things to come. During that campaign, millions of people viewed a YouTube video titled, I have a crush on Obama, supposedly produced as a joke. The music video featuring young women in tight T-shirts and bikinis fawning over photos of Barack Obama was viewed by millions.

"Stéphane Dion would die for this," McLouglin said as he watched the video, adding that third-party endorsements like that are often more persuasive than ads paid for by parties themselves.

The internet allows people across the country to share fact, opinions, rumours and even falsehoods alongside traditional media such as radio, TV and newspapers.

"They don't necessarily have journalism degrees. They don't necessarily have studied the political science behind it all. They have opinions and they have cheap available tools … to share that opinion with everybody," said McLoughlin, adding that the internet has put those bloggers and traditional journalism "on the same page, on the same landscape."

That makes it harder for political handlers to control the end product, he added.

Genevieve Desjardins, the former deputy director of communications for Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, said social media such as blogs provide more choice for voters and an opportunity for candidates.

"It gives the option of people to have new ideas, new ways of thinking, and to look at things," she said. "It's also entertainment. You can reach to a different crowd of people."

Desjardins is a spokeswoman for Mashline.com, a site that literally puts traditional media and blogs on the same page. She said the site is one-stop shopping for both election news and election rumour.

"You have the traditional media and then you click, you have the social media — all the blogs, all the video on YouTube, all the news on CBC, CTV, La Presse — every Canadian outlet is there and updated every minute."

She said the variety of media options has the potential to get new voters interested in the election.

"Maybe you're gonna get more people involved in politics that way."

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