For politicians gearing up for civic elections across Canada this fall, now is the time to door knock, glad hand and cake cut. It’s the time for serving pancakes, cutting ribbons and kissing babies. It’s a time to get in the community, show your face and get in the places where people live.
Naheed Nenshi is running for Mayor of Calgary this fall and while his campaign includes attending community events and getting face time with the electorate, he has also spent time Tweeting, blogging, Facebooking and iPhoning. Nenshi is the only horse in this race (and perhaps the only one in Canada) with his own iPhone/iPod/iPad app.
Yes, while his competitors find their way into people’s phones through automated dialers, Nenshi is going for a more personal approach.
“We want to reach voters where they live,” said Nenshi in an email interview. “And for many iPhone/IPad/iTouch addicts (like me!) where you live is on your device. To me, increasing citizen engagement is vital, and this app allows people to access policy and join discussions when they’re on the bus, or out with friends, right in their hands.”
Lawn signs are another traditional way for local supporters to advertise to neighbours and for candidates to dress up the vacant lots and centre medians in the city. In the last federal election, Jack Layton‘s NDP took a bold step by opening up all his party’s graphics and logos for supporters to remix and post on blogs and websites. Consider them virtual lawn signs.
Nenshi won’t divulge all his secret plans, but it’s safe to assume someone innovative enough to launch an iPhone app, would also allow the public to take the lead in spreading his message.
“You will see a significant DIY component of the campaign, allowing people to create and run their own campaigns, on- and off-line,” he promised.
For now, Nenshi has Twitter, Facebook and his app running overdrive. The app is a simple aggregator of his content. With just a few swipes you can see video, tweets, news releases and photos.
The app is simple and complete with bullet points of his policy, a calendar of events he will be attending as well as a message board for constituents to pose questions and engage in debate. A pop up asks for people to volunteer or donate but only shows up the first time you launch the app.
“Fantastic,” adds Nenshi about the response since the launch a few weeks ago.
“Not only has the media been all over this, users have as well. We’ve had hundreds of downloads in the middle of the summer, and gained lots of new supporters and volunteers. Some people have even donated money as a result of seeing the app!”
Hmmm .. I’m guessing with that kind of response the next time a big election rolls around there will be an app for all of them.