North East digital marketer aids national campaign that will put political leaders up for live debate

North Easterner Steve Cole has played a hand in the Bite the Ballot campaign and its mission to engage young people in politics

From left: TV presenter Rick Edwards, with Bite the Ballot's Michael Sani and SB.TV's Jamal Edwards
From left: TV presenter Rick Edwards, with Bite the Ballot's Michael Sani and SB.TV's Jamal Edwards

A North-East-based digital marketer has helped to launch a project which will see five political leaders quizzed live on TV and YouTube by young people.

North Easterner Steve Cole has played a hand in the Bite the Ballot campaign and its mission to engage young people in politics and drive the largest ever turnout of young voters at the 2015 general election.

A former in-house marketer for The Rank Group, the international gaming firm behind the likes of Mecca Bingo and Grosvenor Casinos, 31 year-old Mr Cole has helped former teacher Michael Sani and digital strategist Ben White to develop the not-for-profit project.

The party-neutral campaign aims to get more than 330,000 18-24 year-olds to register to vote by April 2015, and Mr Cole has brought his digital marketing experience to the table as a consultant.

Ahead of the first live debate with Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party, tomorrow, Mr Cole explained how Bite the Ballot was tackling the challenge of engaging young people who are disconnected from politics.

He said: “We always work with influencers, and by that I mean people on social media who have a big following among young people.

“Young people don’t always care about traditional ‘celebrities’ - they’re increasingly looking to a new generation of content creators - including bloggers and YouTube stars - who resonate with them.

“Our strategy is to work with these individuals, who in some cases have a reach of between one million to 10 million people, and use them to get our message across.”

Bite the Ballot has earned the backing of London-based YouTube entrepreneur Jamal Edwards, the 22 year-old behind youth broadcasting business, SB.TV.

Mr Edwards has provided coverage through his recently launched news platform, Bite Channel - a project which Mr Cole has helped to launch through his own business, Colehouse Digital, which launched in February this year.

The live debates, which are just one component of the campaign, will begin this week, airing on ITV and through YouTube.

Each hour-long debate will allow the online audience to direct questions to party leaders, including David Cameron, Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband, Nigel Farage and Natalie Bennett, via social media.

Mr Cole added: “This has been a real passion project for me. If you look at what we’ve achieved with a team of about eight, it’s quite impressive.

“The whole thing has been self-funded and its impact is measurable. We can track how many young people register to vote through the links on our media.

“This year we organised the first National Voter Registration Day, which managed to register 50,000 at a cost of about 25p per head. The Electoral Commission’s previous campaigns have cost around £25 per head.”

Speaking about how Bite the Ballot operators in an online landscape cluttered with noisy campaigns and marketing efforts from a multitude of brands, Mr Cole said: “For me the strategy has to be about how digital media coincides with traditional marketing - that’s what I’m interested in.

“The days when people said digital media had no quantifiable impact are gone. We’re consistently measuring return on investment.”

Bite the Ballot is a national grassroots campaign devised a group of teachers and students following the 2010 general election.

To find out more about the project, visit http://bitetheballot.co.uk/ .

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