Getting media coverage in Worthing

Worthing Liberal Democrats have gained a reputation for their local campaigning. This regularly features trademark pictures of their councillors pointing at an offending item.

Worthing Lib Dem Councillors hold second birthday party for a pothole
Worthing Lib Dem Councillors hold second birthday party for a pothole

Cllr Martin McCabe, deputy leader of the Lib Dem group on Worthing Council said:

"Running out campaigns is a significant challenge, we are a small group and our resources are limited.

Yet we consistently punch above our weight in terms of press coverage and council business, in addition to our local newsletters and other campaigning.

My priority for our campaigns is to have impact with local people. Without impact, no one will notice us. So to do that, we have to find stories that are worth the press covering. We have to stand out and show how we're different.

Getting good pictures is a crucial part of that process. I try to think like a journalist: I want a good local story and a picture that tells a story for the audience. I want something a bit different from the usual boring political stories. Ideally I want to be getting on page 2 or 3 of the paper.

Local papers are mostly geared to their online coverage now. So it's all about trying to get people to click a link. And a good picture makes all the difference - and it should always be landscape.

Following this strategy, our pothole pictures have become notorious locally. It works like this: we take a picture of us pointing at a pothole. And we know people will comment when they see it online. They might comment on the fact we're pointing and how ridiculous it is. Or they'll comment on other potholes they've seen locally. That drives engagement and boosts the story's profile.

The press know that when they run one of our pothole stories, it will likely be the story that most people engage with online. See an example: Let’s all point together: Martin McCabe and Bob Smytherman show how its done

I constantly think of ways of putting a new spin on it. We've done birthday parties for potholes, celebrations for pothole repairs. We recently even declared war on local potholes. I'm consistently sending out press releases to local journalists.

If our opponents respond, we view it as job done. It only helps boost our reach and make people notice us. We're trying to gain market share, so making our opponents respond is a key part of our strategy. Other party activists often write letters to the newspapers moaning about how much coverage we get. We love that.

Hence we produced a 2021 calendar featuring pictures of us pointing at potholes. We posed with it outside Tory HQ and delivered it to them. We said it was to say sorry for upsetting them so much recently. People loved it.

We only have three councillors. But we consistently make the Tory Council or Labour opposition do what we want by having an effective media strategy."