Why we (The Millennials) are not listening to local body elections

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By Cassie Arauzo

We are the children of the baby boomers, leaders and decision makers of the future. However, when it comes to New Zealand politics the local body elections seem to fall flat on our radar. Partly because it’s so boring, partly because we don’t understand it, but mainly because the communication to 18 to 29 year olds is pretty outdated and ineffective.

We could say “well the millennials are not engaged and there’s nothing we can do”, but I say you need to rebrand and strategise how and what you communicate.

There is always a time and place to use traditional means of communication, posters and picket fences to get your face out there (in a really annoying egotistical way). But, if 37.53% of Kiwis aged 18 to 29 did not vote in the last national elections, there is little surprise that 18 to 29 year olds had the lowest turnout (34%) out of all age groups for the 2010 local body elections. Even total national voter turnout for the last body elections was at an all-time record low.

Local government can be difficult to grasp, your policies even more (I think that’s half the problem). However, many things in life are difficult to understand – taking that complexity and communicating it simply (without losing the crucial information) is the real challenge.

 Communicating considerations to make us listen:

1)     Start with the basics, believe it or not many of us don’t even know what the local body elections are, what your purpose is and why we should care. The FAQs on your website and the local government #Vote16NZ is a great start, but somebody has to care enough to find that information in the first place. Those materials are not reaching us.

2)     Even those who do understand are too busy. We don’t use mailboxes, we don’t have landlines and studies show that we are the most stressed out, worked out generation ever. Consider an innovative and engaging way to grab our attention. We dual screen, we multitask like no other generation, so there is still hope in engaging with us.

3)     Language – simplify. If journalists are supposed to write to a 12-year-old reading level, why can’t you?

4)     Currently, the social media campaigns and pages have no real ambition to relate or communicate, only the ambition to have an online presence because that’s what everyone’s doing. You need to build it over time, over years, earn our trust and attention. Suggest a better planned social media plan, not just a stock, reactive page. Connect with us – ask us what we care about. Use specialised social media managers to get your policies and messages across. 

5)     Finally, to get us moving you need to communicate in ways that demonstrate how it affects us. If you’re campaigning to make housing affordable don’t write a proposal or speech to read out, make a video, or an infographic. Story tell what life in 5 years will look like if the housing crisis continues. These are important issue we need to be made aware of.

6)     Have one hub that outlines all the policies and candidates. Local body elections are inaccessible. If you get the information out in the right avenues then we would go online, read and even participate if there is a united place to discuss and debate.

Given the history of local elections, this year’s turn out of voters won’t be anything staggering. However, I do commend the new initiatives in place like kids voting at schools - shame this wasn’t in place when I was at school. Social media presence is improving, but it’s still feels surface deep. 

Despite all this, I don’t excuse the millennials who choose not to vote but still want a voice. I do think Government, especially local need to communicate pertinent issues and campaigns in a more effective way, but that doesn’t excuse us for not going out there and educating ourselves around issues that matter.



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