In the last ten days, PRmoment research shows that the Conservatives have grabbed more of the online headlines

You may have noticed there is an election looming. In the run up to 6 May, each week we will analyse online media coverage of the three major political parties to discover who is winning the PR war. Over the last ten days, the Conservatives should be happy that they have scored the most online media mentions, with 45 per cent of the coverage, Labour has 37 per cent and the Liberal Democrats 18 per cent. Labour and Conservatives are covering most main political topics fairly equally, with one notable exception: Europe. Conservatives are in the spotlight much more concerning their policies on Europe issues than the other two parties.

Political Party Share of Voice

Research supplied by Echo Sonar

There is no question that election fever has begun. Tara Hamilton-Miller, vice-chairman of public affairs at consultancy Weber Shandwick says that it is only ten days into the campaign, and already the election is "simply exhausting". She says: "Three manifestos now published and the parties are fighting to be the champions of “fairness”, “change” and “the future”. Much of the rhetoric the leaders use is based on distancing themselves from the expenses hell. As predicted, the past ten days have been fought dirty, getting personal at every opportunity and (at the time of press) we haven't even had the first TV debate yet. The ITV debate is a great opportunity for Nick Clegg to look like the good guy, let's hope that host Alastair Stewart gives him a harder ride than Krishnan Guru Murthy gave Vince Cable during the Chancellor's debate. The televison debates are risky for Gordon Brown and David Cameron. Brown will have to control his temper and Cameron will have to curb any hint of bullying.

"Unlike any other election before, we can follow candidates blogs and tweets. Labour hopeful and all-round moron Stuart MacLennan stood down when his charming thoughts were revealed. There is sure to be a few more of these over the next few weeks. Both Brown and Cameron have been out jogging hoping to prove they are fit for power. An Obama influence perhaps? The Prime Minister should watch out, he could do himself a mischief...".

Election issues

Research supplied by Echo Sonar

As Hamilton-Miller points out, one aspect of the campaign that is different from any previous is the impact of social media. Paul Afshar, senior account manager at PR consultancy Edelman, says that Twitter may not win the election for any party, but with over 2.5 million UK users and nearly 60,000 Tweets on the three party leaders in the past three weeks, it’s hard to ignore the influence of the site on election 2010.

Afshar adds: "The battle for favourability and influence on the microblogging site is important, with Twitter as the social media tool of choice for many candidates. Our TweetLevel tool tracks and measures the influence, trust engagement and popularity of the top 150 politicians, bloggers, candidates and journalists, ranked by their influence, on Twitter during the campaign. According to this, Labour is winning the battle for influence and of the three party leaders, Gordon Brown (through the Downing Street Twitter) is most influential, closely followed by Nick Clegg (through the Liberal Democrats twitter) and David Cameron. Although Mr Brown’s wife pips him to the post in terms of influence as the UK’s fourth most influential political Twitterer.

"But none of the party leaders come close to John Prescott, the former Labour Deputy PM, in terms of trust on Twitter, and Iain Dale flies the Conservative flag as the third most influential Twitterer. Our TweetTracker assesses personality ratings of the three main party leaders on Twitter, giving them an “approval/disapproval” score, like those used in US Presidential campaigns. According to our findings, whilst the party leaders aren't cutting the mustard with Twitterers, exciting more negative Tweets than positive, Nick Clegg has consistently higher favourability scores than Cameron or Brown. And the political Marmite award goes, thusfar, to David Cameron whom, of the three party leaders, Twitterers are most negative about; although Brown's negative ratings are approaching Cameron's fast."

PRmoment asked Echo Sonar to analyse all UK online media coverage of the three major UK political parties in the build up to the 2010 general election. The research period was 4 April to 13 April 2010. Metrics included share of voice and volume of coverage of political issues