Efficient Awareness Raising: Reputation, Trust, Creative Formats
After the Revolution of Dignity in 2013-2014, and the flee of the then President Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine has had 5 national election campaigns: two presidential campaigns, two parliamentary runs, and local campaigns all over the country. During this "short life" the country has experienced the post-revolutionary political instability, illegal annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, and Russia's unfolding of the armed conflict in the Donbass against Ukraine that is currently underway.
In 2019, regular presidential and the snap parliamentary elections were recognized as democratic, fair, and free. It was confirmed by OPORA representatives, and also by international observation missions. Violations occurred, too. However, they failed to affect the course of campaigns or the voting results. In general, the elections have a number of records hit:
80 cm long, with names of 39 candidates
the longest ballot paper in the first round of presidential elections
73,22%
of votes
the highest winning rate in the second presidential round
325 604
persons
the highest number of voters who have changed their voting places without changing their voting addresses before the second round in the presidential elections
OPORA's joint efforts with the partners contributed a great merit to this number of voters who have changed their voting places without changing their voting addresses. After all, the "how to check your name on the voter list" search inquiry hit the TOP-10 in Google for 2019 in Ukraine. Here, credit shall also go to OPORA, among others.
The 2019 awareness raising campaign was the most successful case for the Civil Network OPORA over the last 14 years. Due to partnerships with the media holding, with the production studio, and the partner film crew, we managed to obtain bigger outreach.
48,4 mln.
viewers

potentially saw at least one example of OPORA's media content on one of the channels of information dissemination during the two election campaigns
6 mln.
views

of our social ads videos on the Internet
over 15 000 mentiones

about OPORA and our experts in mass media and in social media
Therefore, if we compare the number of media mentions and statistics of the OPORA website visits with the previous presidential elections in 2014, we can see that the figures have increased significantly.
3 620 mentiones
have been mentioned OPORA and our experts in mass media and in social media during presidential elections in 2014
398 749 visits
to OPORA website during 2014
9 169 mentiones
have been mentioned OPORA and our experts in mass media and in social media during presidential elections in 2019
494 896 visits
to OPORA website during 2019
Certainly, the successful, and more importantly, the free of charge cooperation with the media, was made possible due to the many years of our activities in electoral domain and due to no political bias we have been manifesting, comprising our most important capital – the reputation. Moreover, the corporate social responsibility of the media business
fosters the adherence to social standards, and the willingness to engage in awareness raising among voters. We would like to keep living in the society where people are aware of their rights and are able to protect them. There is no room for irresponsible politicians in the country of responsible citizens.
Fair Journalism Attracts More of Conscious Citizens
A key factor for successful awareness campaign for OPORA was in the high-quality formats of media partnerships. The organization worked with the StarLightMedia media group (3 television channels), Zinc Network, hromadske.ua and the Channel 24. A systemic cooperation fostered the production of exclusive content and its maximum dissemination among voters.
"Free and fair elections are the abstract concepts if voters have no access to truthful and quality information about the candidates, procedures, quality of election process, rights of electoral subjects, and forms for their protection. We are grateful to the media for being ready to rebuild trust to electoral process as it is usually not that high in Ukraine. However, trust is not about the blind faith, but rather about the practices of applying the result-oriented knowledge. Whenever a citizen witnesses an incident with elements of breach of law, they shall understand the type of incident, where to report about it, and what to demand from law-enforcement officers or election administration bodies. Trust in Ukraine may only be built on the basis of a systemic new experience opposed to the stereotypes. In case a voter plans to engage in the unlawful deed, such as sell his/her vote for money, s/he shall be sanctioned for this breach, but also get the cause-and-effect explanation. After all, you may not be penalized or imprisoned, but keep living within the system of a central or local government not caring for its voters. We motivated citizens to make use of their vote and explained how to exercise it in the context of residing at the address other than the registration place, or due to the international armed conflict with Russia. It all was made possible due to our organizations' reputation, as it is the most valuable capital in the negotiations with the media, and in search for partners."
Olha Aivazovska
chair of OPORA board
"Fair and Free Elections" Joint Initiative with StarLightMedia
On the eve of the presidential elections, the StarLightMedia media group and the Civil network OPORA joined their efforts to protect the right of Ukrainians for freedom of expression without pressure, threats, bribery, or deception. A large-scale awareness campaign also intended to avoid the fraud during the vote count. Best practices in the cooperation were replicated also during the parliamentary campaign.
Within a joint initiative "Fair and Free Elections" with StarLightMedia, OPORA's social videos were broadcast on the TV channels of the media holding ICTV, STB, and Novy Channel. According to the National Council on Television and Radio Broadcast, all of them are in the TOP-5 highest ranking television channels in the country. On average, during the day, the holding's TV channels are watched by 6.5 mln. viewers.
Chair of Civil Network OPORA board Olha Aivazovska and President of StarLightMedia Oleksandr Bohutskyi.
Moreover, during this information campaign, the TV channels ICTV and STB aired the stories about the "Fair and Free Elections" within their highest ranking night newscasts "Fakty" and "Vikna Novyny". The topics on the problematic aspects of electoral process and expert comments were suggested by OPORA's communications unit, while journalists from the media group TV channels covered these topics.
Among them, for instance, there were materials on the difference between the national exit polls and public observation over elections; rights and obligations of voters at a polling station on the election day; procedures for verifying your name on a voter list and change of voting place; the most common electoral violations, etc.
37.8 mln. viewers
Overall, during the two election campaigns, OPORA's social videos and theme-based stories with our experts on the partner television channels of the media holding have been watched by 37.8 mln. viewers.
The basis for the successful cooperation of OPORA with the StarLightMedia was the previous experience of working on the first season of the national TV project "New Leaders" in 2018. The project is a public initiative implemented in a multimedia format. On the other hand, the Public Supervisory Council is an independent and impartial steering authority of the Project. It includes representatives of NGOs that have been confirming their flawless reputation for many years. Specifically, the Public Supervisory Council also includes OPORA representative Olha Aivazovska.
TV project "New Leaders", Season 1, October 2018
"Elections Inside Out" jointly with the Hromadske TV and Channel 24
Over the two election campaigns, OPORA, jointly with Hromadske TV, produced two seasons, with 8 episodes each, of the "Elections Inside Out" program. Each episode covers different electoral topics. Journalists also used comic sketches to cover complicated topics in an easy to understand manner. Thus, with the help of the dirty play and pullbacks in football, journalists explored the topics of electoral fraud. A sketch about coffee you buy yourself but have it flavored with the campaigning materials and served to you via the MP managed to allude to MP's attending events organized at the central budget cost. A bright metaphor for the snap parliamentary elections was the filming in a pilot's cabin who has to execute an unscheduled forced landing upon the request from the passengers' delegate. In order to tell about peculiarities of various electoral systems, journalists had to try a ride on various types of bikes – a classic, a tandem, and a cargo bike.
"For young democracies, such as Ukraine, it was very important to have voters understand the election process itself, and the mechanisms of its functioning, the possible breaches, their rights and obligations, etc. It might suffice to read the Electoral Code to know it all, but we do realize it does not work this way. We want people to watch our project, so that commercial TV channels could include it into their air time, that is why the challenge is always about combining useful and interesting things. In the "Elections Inside Out" project, we decided to illustrate each topic of the show with a short comedy sketch: we pinned some analogy to various aspects of electoral process, such as compared political ads and advertising in TV shops, and brought the situation to absurdity. Thus, through analogy and humor, we can be talking about the serious and difficult things targeting the broadest possible audiences."

Andriy Saychuk
journalist, one of the program hosts
The programs were broadcast on the Facebook-page and the YouTube-channel of the Civil Network OPORA, and also aired by hromadske.ua (an independent news channel established by journalists) and Channel 24 (it is included in TOP-5 ranking of the National Council on Television among the information channels). In general, two seasons of the show have been watched by 12 mln. viewers.
Videos and Promotion in Social media – with Zinc Network
Before the presidential elections, we have been approached by a British communications agency Zinc Network who proposed the partnership. They referred to their work experience with public authorities in different countries. OPORA contacts have been provided to them in the Embassy of the United Kingdom. Initially, we were rather reserved to accept their help since we were not able to fully understand how lucky we were with the partner.

We underestimated their creative and professional approach, either. The outcome of our joint effort were 9 videos of social ads with explanations of election process procedures, such as changing the voting address, voter behavior at the polling station, and also the most widespread violations: bribery, administrative resource, issuing ballot papers without ID presentation. On the one hand, the videos turned out very creative, interesting, emotional, and informal. On the other hand, they were fully professional and of the highest quality. Some of the most popular videos are:
All videos have links to one another, through characters and actors engaged in the filming. In addition to the professional actor group, the filming engaged electoral actors to crowd scenes, such as commission members at the polling station were impersonated by people who used to work as commission members in real life. Recognizable characters, light delivery style, and humor made the videos extremely popular in social media. In general, on OPORA's Facebook and Instagram, they have had almost 6 mln. views.
Creative Presentation of Materials, Rapid Response, and Ongoing Feedback
During the two election processes, Civil Network OPORA created awareness materials about changing the voting place and other electoral procedures. Usually, the descriptions of algorithms for actions are not clear for most citizens as they are overloaded with legal terms. That is why we produced bright pages in the Q&A format that used an easy to grasp brief manner to explain the procedure of changing voting places https://l.oporaua.org/proholosuvaty; and to verify your name in voter lists https://l.oporaua.org/perevir.


Before the second round at the presidential elections, the materials have been updated in line with the new deadlines and some live stories were added from voters via a flashmob in social media about their personal experience of changing voting locations. We produced suchlike materials with answers to most common questions also for the parliamentary elections. In addition, on election day, there was another highly popular special material with tips for voters – what shall and shall NOT be done on election day at the polling station.
Besides, OPORA was by far the first to launch the information products, as early as in January, amidst the information vacuum of explainers. Our social ads were not ready yet, that is why we posted a video about changing a voting location that we filmed when undertaking the procedure ourselves. The video was posted on the organizations' page in the Facebook social media, and had about 15,000 views and 300 shares. It was also posted by the Service of the Administrator of the State Voter Register, on their Youtube-channel.
Another important element is feedback. In addition to telling voters about the procedures and algorithms of actions, we have been communicating, answering questions in social media, responded to comments under posts, and contacted personally. For instance, if a person was rejected to change the voting location, they could ask their questions in our comments to find out what's next. Not only did we try to offer a dry reference to the law, but also to connect the voter with our team in the region to tackle the problem in more details. For example, OPORA civic ombudsmen for electoral rights (the network dealing exclusively with the aspect of human rights protection) consulted voters about renewing their names in voter lists via court, and managed to win the cases. On the one hand, this way we received many real-life success stories we can share as lifehacks to address various issues. On the other hand, we obtained a great many grateful ambassadors of OPORA brand among voters.
The stories from people were later analyzed and systematized into problem-based cases. It was a valid argument for further advocacy to simplify the procedures on the level of laws or by-laws. This informational component, as well as the work of partner organizations, such as "Civil holding "GROUP OF INFLUENCE" and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) managed to act within the information domain and draw the society's attention to many issues in electoral process. In total, it helped reach further success in advocacy campaigns to simplify certain procedures, and to reform electoral law in general. Thus, on December, 19, Ukrainian Parliament adopted the Electoral Code where they took into account proposals of the public about the exercise of voting rights of internally displaced persons and labour migrants at local elections at the place of their actual residence, rather than at the registration address. Thereafter, the Central Election Commission started collecting proposals from anyone interested and fostered further public discussions of draft procedures for changing voting places and electoral addresses.
Tips for Successful Public Awareness Campaigns
This experience of information and awareness activities of OPORA at the 2019 elections was interesting and successful. Thus, some pieces of advice can be deduced on that matter, as other civil initiatives may find them useful:
Work for reputation
Political impartiality and objectivity of the Civil Network OPORA over many years of its activities is the most important factor attracting partners from different media, regardless of their ownership.
Build good expertise
Representative of NGOs and journalists can be mutually beneficial for each other – journalists share information about the NGO activities, while NGO representatives become professional experts for the journalist coverages.
Make an exclusive and creative product
Communications unit, as a permanent office at OPORA, has always tried to tell about difficult things in easy to understand manner. Interesting ideas, new forms of presenting text materials, visually recognizable design, even the use of meme culture – all of it contributes to dissemination of information among small expert community familiar with the subject and among journalists, and also among the general voter audience. Moreover, for the period of elections, we additionally engage communication experts in the regions, in order to have regional media receive the relevant, reliable, and verified information on the course of election process in their regions.
Be open for experimenting
We have been preparing for the spring election campaign for a long time. As early as in autumn, we had the concepts for social ad videos developed. Similarly, some other organizations were talking about the planned launch of awareness campaigns at that time. They included partner organizations, international ones and public authorities. However, we were not afraid to move away from quoting the law about various types of offense. Instead, we used a simple language, comic situations, meme-culture, and hyperbolization on thin ice. That is why our content stimulated people to share their information in social media. Then, during the two election campaigns and between the elections, one can certainly find many classic analytical materials on our website, as well as legal assessments for the types of audiences who are willing to know more and have a deeper expert insight into certain matters.
Don't be lazy to communicate
During the active phases of election campaign, voters are flooded with all kinds of information via social media. They tag the organization's page in their comments under posts they rank as illegal campaigning; they write comments under the posts on the page; they send direct messages, etc. If you follow the rule not leave a single comment without a reply, you can get a highly interesting material with illustrations for further consideration, not to mention the grateful audience. After all, whenever people see live communication they feel a genuine, open, and caring attitude. You do not get a feeling that the organization is detached from the people – and it enhances trust, therefore.
Maintain the continuity of relations
High-quality information partnerships might pop up randomly sometimes, but they are still based on shared values and visions. That is why you need to keep contacts with partners, even after an awareness campaign is over. And last but not least, you should remember to always thank them for their contribution to the common cause.
Materials prepared in the framework of GNDEM best practice non-partisan election observation and non-governmental organizations in the election and the period between elections.
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