31 March 2008

A Really Important Thing Happened This Weekend In Texas

Competing political campaigns and a state political party worked cooperatively with an independent blog - A BLOG! - and its readers to report the results of a party process that will have a meaningful impact on the Democratic nominee for President. From the Burnt Orange Report:

Dear Readers,

We are pleased to announce that we at Burnt Orange Report will be reporting the results of this weekend’s county and senate district conventions. We will be partnering with the campaigns of both Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama – with the support of the Texas Democratic Party and countless county and local party leaders – to provide you the most accurate, up-to-date vote totals of this weekend’s extraordinary process.

This is an extraordinary opportunity for our community to demonstrate the virtue and value of a people-powered movement.

This is indeed a very big deal.

The Texas Democratic Party has a very complicated process for selecting all of its delegates for the Democratic National Convention. They have a primary, and a caucus, and these rather eclectic "county conventions." However, the responsibility for reporting the results for activities like these has traditionally rested with "mainstream" media - you know, those folks with the resources and reach and professionalism to get the facts straight.

Until now:
The Associated Press had around 1,800 delegates reported tonight. We've brought you three times that amount, documented it all, and have over 72% of the delegate totals across the state. That's the value of a people-powered movement.
We've passed the point where blogs are just these online diaries written by one person or a small group. Blogs serve as community hubs, where communities can congregate and can share information quickly and accurately. They're not the only online community hubs, but the ones run by creative, smart and ambitious people like the folks at Burnt Orange Report are among the best.

28 March 2008

27 March 2008

Recommended reading

Just got back from a quick trip. Recommended reading: Today's Mama founder Rachael Herrscher interviews U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein.

This is just the latest example of mom as a cross-cultural discussion driver. In addition to Today's Mama, Rachael writes a personal blog and writes the Press Pass blog for Entrepreneur.com - she has a toehold in several online communities.

Iit's also another example of how seriously political elites take the blogosphere - even those sites that aren't the hyper-partisan "political" blogs that raise cash and serve as the echo chamber for the campaigns.

25 March 2008

Reactions From Campaign2008 Followers...

Recently I've been posing questions to the people who follow @Campaign2008 on Twitter - partly to see if anyone would respond to a twitter account that doesn't have a person's name attached to it, but also just to see what the political discussion looks like when you ask questions.

I've tried to avoid playing favorites with the messages I tweet, sticking mainly to fact-based updates with links to stories. As of Tuesday night there were 979 followers, and the number has risen slowly and steadily. Campaign2008's precursor, @SuperTuesday, started simply as a way to drive traffic to the Virtual Vantage Points blog as we live-blogged the "national primary" on February 5. It did well, but as people replied to the make-shift breaking-news feed we created, we quickly learned this was much more than a promotional tool.

Here's a sample of tweets I received when I asked people to "grade" Senator Obama's speech on race in America and compare it to Governor Romney's speech on religion. (I also sent out a link to a recent news story about the Michigan "re-vote" proposal falling apart.)

henrim henrim @Campaign2008 Mitt didn't face the issue. he said his religion won't affect him as pres. Barack said face the truth and let's deal with it.
Bob K Mertz bblboy54 @campaign2008 I think Obama's speech yesterday holds valuable content for humans even outside of the campaign - no matter who you root for.
Robert Peterson RobertP @Campaign2008 No Michigan revote. Awesome, let's be done.
Deb M debdebtig @Campaign2008 Obama's speech was about more then just race and religion. It is definitely going to be a speech that goes down in history.
John Watson jkwatson @Campaign2008 A+ on the speech. It inspired me to give money for the 1st time.
April "Hussein" myrna_minkoff @Campaign2008: A+ in complexity, delivery, lyricism, even-handedness, emotion and truth. The speech was a thing of beauty.
DeanSMS dean_m @Campaign2008: @acafourek acafourek grades on a curve. B.O.'s speech was more of campaign stump speech
Andrew Cafourek acafourek @Campaign2008 He didnt seem on his A-game.I listened to audio via CNN and the speech itself just wasnt all that moving. Romney: A- Obama: B
DeanSMS dean_m @Campaign2008 B. Obama didn't make any JFK speech nor come close to it. Not even close to Romney's. It was justification

It's been fascinating to watch the discussion here, as well as the broader political discussions on politweets and by using tools such as quotably.

Last year I contributed an essay on "The American Political Blogosphere in 2007 and Beyond" to Iain Dale's book, Guide to Political Blogging in the UK 2007-08 and I made two predictions. First, the discussions we saw in 2006 on US political blogs would migrate into other communities, like techies and moms. Second, blogs wouldn't be the only places we'd see these types of discussions online. I specifically mentioned Twitter. While I certainly like being right, I honestly had no idea it would take off to the degree it has.

Media gets more social in Lexington

There's a nice piece by Scott Clark in Business Lexington this week about Rupp Arena's move into social media recently:
Rupp Arena and Lexington Center are at the crossroads of fans, record labels, sports promotion, and live concert companies — each requiring excellent service. As the music industry shifts towards higher-end live shows and advanced merchandising, Rupp will be in a very important position, with much responsibility.

As a part of understanding the needs of visitors, Rupp Arena has wisely decided to enter the bear-it-all, unpredictable world of Internet social media early. Starting with a Weblog and Twitter network presence, they have started to embrace authentic, participatory media as a way to get closer to fans. The possible impact of social network participation goes well beyond newsletters and newspaper ads, and Rupp’s exploring the edges.
Sheila Kenny manages Rupp Arena's communications and she's doing this the right way - she took the time necessary to understand how social media works and she used it to fit a strategic need - connecting and integrating more with the people who frequent Rupp and Lexington Center - and then used only the tools that addressed that strategic need. She's using a blog to give people a behind-the-scenes look at concerts and events.

More importantly, she's demonstrating her understanding that Rupp Arena isn't just a concert venue, it's a community center. She's posting pictures of local fans attending a very important community event - recent high school basketball tournament. She's also using a Twitter feed to promote the blog and engage in conversations, giving users another opportunity to give feedback and support.

Kudos to Sheila and Paul Hooper, a critical member of her team!

24 March 2008

Taking Blogger Relations Seriously: www.bloggersandpr.com

Yeah, I've heard it before - PR flacks are terrible at talking with bloggers. Susan, Todd, Kami, Geoff, and pretty much everyone in social media PR has had something to say about it.

Last year I went to BlogHer '07 and got an earful about how we don't respect bloggers. So I apologized for the industry in an open letter, and I acknowledged an important but unresolved issue - reaching out to bloggers of color. Over the course of my work I've also heard the overwhelming calls of greenwashing from influential envirobloggers (how many releases do they get on Earth Day?) and how PR folks need to know when to say when.

Since then we've seen PR Firms issue what they called "ethical codes" and other guidelines for blogger relations. And that's good, I guess - there's nothing wrong with sharing your standards and practices. But there were two very important things still missing.

First, I don't think anyone has ever bothered to ask PR CEO's and popular bloggers the same questions about interaction and relations, and identified the specific gaps in understanding. Second, no one has ever set up a meaningful platform for bloggers and PR professionals to work together to form best practices and continually gauge the state of the relationship in a way that evolves just as fast as social media does.

BloggersAndPR does exactly that. The Council of PR Firms worked with us to develop an initial list of questions for both PR CEO's and popular bloggers, and we sent the questions to each group last year. We got some fabulous, intense feedback. You can see the results on the site. You can also check out the PR Week article for a quick summary.

But we also know we weren't asking all the important questions, and we wanted to give everyone an opportunity to shape our survey AND help us develop meaningful "best practices." So we built a wiki at the site where everyone - bloggers, PR professionals, or anyone interested in the topic - can register for free and help us develop a model that works - asking the right questions and finding the right answers.

I'm proud to have been a part of this effort, and BIGTIME ups to Kathy Cripps and Matt Shaw at CPRF and my colleagues at APCO. We really want to do the right thing here, and I hope everyone will participate.

It has to be better than me spamming you all the time.

20 March 2008

Baseball's Coming...

I'm excited about bloggersandPR and the coverage it got this week, and I have a bigger post about it on Monday. I'll also share the comments from the @Campaign2008 followers soon.

But guess what's coming up soon?

All the cool kids are doing it...

No, this isn't another plug for Twitter. Brad brought a TechPresident post from Micah Sifry to my attention. It boiled Sen. Obama's speech on race down to a 50-word text cloud and then he added:
It would be cool if someone felt moved to do the same with, say, the top 20 blogs commenting on the speech (drawn from Memeorandum?).
He might want to check out Virtual Vantage Points, where we've been doing that sort of thing for a few months now.

It's nice to have that kind of validation for your ideas, though. And thanks again to Brad for pointing it out to me. He's a bright fella, that Brad.

19 March 2008

When Rhetoric is a Good Thing

The word "rhetoric" has many definitions. To some, perhaps mainly in the media, it means "the undue use of exaggeration or display; bombast." To me, it means "(in classical oratory) the art of influencing the thought and conduct of an audience."

We've seen a lot of speeches this campaign, and we're still months away from the conventions. After yesterday, two of those speeches stand out as truly important works that will be discussed long after all the ballots are counted and a new President is named. One is from a Democrat, the other, a Republican. Both were examples of my preferred definition of rhetoric, and both were made in response to that more common definition of rhetoric. Both had to do with issues that have been used to divide Americans in a political context, and both were appeals to America's sense of unity and both invoked the rhetoric of America's founding fathers in an attempt to remind Americans that we're supposed to be above all this.

I've always been fascinated by rhetoric - I've even had the chance to write some speeches for politicians and business executives (though clearly not on the level we see in these two works). I think I'll ask the @Campaign2008 followers to compare the speeches and tell me why they preferred one or the other. I'll figure out a way to post the responses. Feel free to follow there and respond, or just leave a comment here.

The transcript of Governor Romney's speech is here and Senator Obama's speech is here.

If you have some time, you could watch each:

Which one was more important to you? Why?

18 March 2008

Redefining "Expert"

Traditional media offered up its latest defense of informational elitism last week in a Newsweek (exclusive to the web!) piece entitled "Revenge of the Experts." The current argument is that even those fancy web2.0 services like Mahalo are organizing information endorsed by "smart people" in lieu of the search results from the unwashed masses who use Google.

It's certainly true that it's not always easy to sift through dozens of search results to find the one you want, and that a considerable portion of information on the Internet is, well, garbage. But I can't help but think this is just the latest attempt from the media elites to tell people they can only get reliable information from, well, media elites.

You know, since they have such a stellar track record, especially lately.

So just to use the latest political example, I'm not supposed to trust the random guy who put Rev. Jeremiah Wright's incendiary rant on YouTube so I can see it for myself, but I am supposed to trust the NY Times columnist who says it's not enough that Senator Obama rejected that rant because he was sitting in the pew at the time and said nothing about it then.

Except he wasn't.

And so the columnist who wrote that fact-free screed now acknowledges and regrets his error, but doesn't acknowledge that the error basically invalidates his argument. This "well I was wrong on the facts but I'm still right" attitude - and the realization by so many consumers of media that there are no substantive consequences for "journalists" and pundits who are consistently, wildly wrong on the facts - completely undermines their credibility. It explains why so many consumers of media look to each other for information, and it's why consumers of media trust each other so much more than they trust those who say they're the "newspaper of record" or the official spokesperson for someone or something or whatever.

Not every blogger is an expert, and not every expert (or good journalist) is a blogger. But the collapse in credibility among the media elite (both left and right) and the rise of citizen publishing has created a new group of experts who, in many cases, have far more credibility than those who sit regularly on a Sunday talk show or own a byline at the Washington Post or New York Times.

I honestly believe that the bowtie-clad pundits who regret the day that consumers of media became credible producers of media really only have themselves to blame. I also think what pundits whine about most is the leveling of the playing field that social media technology created.

16 March 2008

We interrupt this presidential campaign...

First, many thanks to PunditMom and One Plus Two for naming my most recent rant about Facebook a "just post" for February. It's very rewarding when people from different walks of life can get together in some way and salute ideas.

Speaking of diversity and unity, It's no secret that the Democratic Party is having some serious difficulty speaking with one voice these days. So it's not surprising that this fissure has shown up in the blogs, and that online grassroots activists are having serious disagreements. I see Micah Sifry is on top of it. The online and offline discussions are integrating more each day, and that online discussions have a significant impact on mainstream debates. That's what that other blog examines, but it's an important point to make here as well.

Today, I'm much more interested in what the blogosphere has to say about Bear Stearns. I don't think I'd necessarily call this a "crisis," but it's sure sumthin', ain't it?

That blue line with the huge spike at the end of it represents online discussions about Bear Stearns. The green line is the talk about the Federal Reserve. The yellow/orange line you don't see is the talk about JP Morgan. It's very clear that the big story over the weekend and leading into this morning is the surprise negotiated sale of Bear Stearns to JP Morgan for less than ten percent of its listed price at the stock market's close on Friday - and the unprecedented action from the Federal Reserve to essentially guarantee the sale and to cut interest rates on a Sunday night.

Of course, the online discussion is mirroring the reporting in the mainstream and business trade media right now, and I think it's only going to pick up more.

I'd bet the blogosphere is pretty low on Bear Stearns' list of priorities right now. But if they ignore it they're ignoring a very important communications channel. Bear Stearns doesn't own its brand, its reputation, or its issues right now. That's not a slam on them - it's just their turn to be the focus of the news cycle. But if they're willing to look they'll find a wealth of opinion leaders and discussion drivers who are already talking about what's happening. If they had the foresight to build relationships with them earlier, they'd have a number of opportunities to get their messages quickly and efficiently into a place that we already know has some influence on the "big league" financial media.

I expect the market bloggers to do most of the writing today to talk about fallout, then the political bloggers will probably weigh in more - assigning blame, which is what they do best - and then the economists will try to explain to everyone what this all means. At each step in this story cycle, Bear Stearns and JP Morgan should be weighing in online. And frankly, so should the Federal Reserve's communications team.

14 March 2008

Otherwise occupied...

I'm otherwise occupied, so no bigthink here today.

Stumbled on this a few days ago. I was a fan then and I'm a fan now. Enjoy.

13 March 2008

Social Media's Next Political Test

OK, sorry, this is a long post. Sue me.

A while back I speculated that the early primary dates would create a long lull in the campaign season with two presumptive nominees who had nothing to do but hurl nasty rhetorical lobs at each other. I figured that social media tools would be critical at that time, because the campaigns would be conserving cash even as they raised it, and they'd be forced to rely on earned media and the user-generated content that social media tools provide to build and maintain a messaging platform.

Well, we have a lull in the campaign season now. Sorta.

There are six weeks before the Pennsylvania Primary, but there aren't two presumptive nominees. It's plenty nasty, but to my disappointment it's the two remaining Democratic candidates engaged in political fisticuffs. (Of course, I think one is trying to brawl while the other is trying to stay positive and above it, but that's just my opinion. And that could change at any moment.)

Regardless, this is a time when social media in politics faces another crucial test. We now know social media can help turnout a new generation of voters, and it can help raise gobs and gobs of cash. Now we have to see if it can sustain a messaging strategy.

Like Ohio and Texas, Pennsylvania has a couple of fairly expensive media markets - particularly Philadelphia. But now there are six weeks of airtime to fill with tv commercials, when there were only two for Ohio and Texas. I'm not so sure that even the Obama fundraising juggernaut can sustain that kind of saturation bombing of the airwaves.

Pennsylvania's demographics seem to tilt toward the Democratic constituencies that have supported Senator Clinton. The population is older than in most states. There's a substantial number of Catholics. Blue-collar. Furthermore, the Governor and the Mayor of Philadelphia - two of the most important Democrats in the state - have endorsed Senator Clinton. The Clinton campaign has a lot of veterans on it who know Pennsylvania politics very well - President Clinton's people worked hard to win this state, particularly in 1992. Her strength in the state is embodied in the 19-point lead she had in polls here just as the Mississippi Primary was wrapping up.

Senator Obama has support from those constituencies that rely on social media to do their jobs and communicate with their friends and families - the creative class, tech-savvy folks, and college kids. We already know they'll use the 'net to raise more cash than the Clinton campaign, and we can probably predict that they'll come out to the polls. But they're still short.

Saturating the airwaves with commercials for six weeks will probably annoy a lot of voters. If the campaign continues its nasty tone, it's easy to see how some will lose interest and choose not to participate.

The task in front of the Obama campaign is to leverage the creative advantage they have in the social media space to earn and build coverage in more traditional forms of media. They'll probably try to do it by letting their supporters do their own thing. That's a pretty zen strategy, one that I'm not sure any other campaign to date would do. But so far, it's worked for them.

Remember will.i.am.'s video where he took Senator Obama's speech in New Hampshire and put it to music and did that whole "we are the world" thing? Could anyone have predicted that an a capella group full of suburban white kids from Lewis & Clark college would cover it and post it online?

I'm thinking a gospel choir in Philly would knock this sucker out of the park - and get on the 5pm news to boot. There are thousands of these things floating around YouTube.

Of course, Senator Clinton's folks are starting to get the hang of this social media thing - thanking Ohio and Rhode Island voters via twitter, for example. But they have a lot of catching up to do. Had they invested more in social media earlier, they might have the tools to overcome the money advantage of the Obama campaign.

Of course, we have six weeks to watch this develop. Stay tuned - if you can stand it.

12 March 2008

Lexington's "Partner in Progress" goes multimedia

I'm very pleased with the impressive progress over at Business Lexington. They've upgraded their website to include a lot of new social features including comments and bookmarking, and their podcasts are easier to find and download. Now they've launched a monthly television program on KET which is also viewable from the website, in whole or in segments. Here's their first introduction.

Chuck Creacy, Chris Eddie, and my pal Tom Martin deserve a lot of credit for Business Lexington's growth and success, and Post Time Video and Dynamix Productions deserve big kudos as well. They've found an important niche here where they can support the business community with in-depth features and news while maintaining an important journalistic focus and balance. I'm really grateful for the opportunity to make my small contribution to their work. I hope the business community here embraces this new multi-media hub of news and information and gives it the support it deserves.

Congratulations and well done!

11 March 2008

I Strongly Oppose My Recent Behavior

If anything irks me more than a politician's fall from grace it's the now-obligatory and calculated press conference in which said politician takes a strong stand against his own indiscretions - typically with the spouse standing nearby, trying to hide how mortified she feels at that moment.

The word I kept reading online - news reports, blogs, even twitter - in reaction to the latest debacle is "arrogant." It's arrogant to assume the rules don't apply to you. It's arrogant to resist coming clean until the press catches wind. It's arrogant to then walk from the podium, not answering the questions that really matter, waiting to see how things shake out before accepting the consequences of your actions, holding fast to the theory that if you just say the right words and sound just regretful enough, somehow you'll get off the hook.

I also noticed that "arrogant" is the word kicked around most often by Facebook's critics. Of course CEO Zuckerberg isn't being accused of the smarmy kind of hypocrisy we sometimes see from politicians. But the feelings many users have toward this huge company and its unwillingness or inability to adequately address users' concerns are strikingly similar to the ones expressed toward our less-than-stellar public officials.

Beacon was one debacle where the CEO now has to publicly oppose the tactics he proudly promoted only weeks ago. But the SxSW "keynote" interview saw a Zuckerberg who stuck to the script -even when the audience vocalized their serious problems with the staged event taking place before them.

The words Zuckerberg chooses to describe Beacon - "we got a little ahead of ourselves" - aren't the words I'd choose if I were in his position. But even if they were precisely the right words, they're meaningless if his company still resists engaging with users in a more substantive way.

It's also disingenuous to try to take credit - as Zuckerberg did - for the impressive things users do on Facebook. Facebook isn't out there telling people to use their network as a tool for social justice. They're placing ads in the groups using Facebook for social justice. Heck, they're putting "meet chicks online" ads in the group asking Facebook to stop banning pictures of breastfeeding. Facebook is an amazing tool for communicators and organizers, and the company deserves credit for building a relatively open platform. But that's it. If FB keeps insulting users, the thoughtful ones who take social networks seriously will head over to Ning. It's not like FB is the only game in town.

Facebook simply has to engage with its users on more open and receptive terms on a host of issues. The company has to take its lumps, and more importantly, make the reasonable changes users seek. They have to get real about privacy and portability. They have to make it easier to delete accounts if users want to. And yes, they have to stop banning pictures of breastfeeding moms and start banning harmful pro-anorexia groups.

It seems the one attribute you can never afford to have affixed to your reputation is "arrogant." And this company is well on its way there.

10 March 2008

Bloggers are the new journalists, whether you like it or not

The American media's coverage of foreign events leaves a great deal to be desired. (By the way, America, the Serbian ruling coalition collapsed this weekend. This is kind of a big deal.) I've blogged and tweeted a bit about this for some time now.

A big reason for this is the massive cutback in US networks' spending on foreign bureaus. As Jon Freidman writes, another big reason is the editorial decision-making at major media companies. When Roger Clemens and Britney Spears get more coverage than Vojislav Kostunica and Alvaro Uribe, Americans don't know enough about the world beyond their borders.

Enter the blogosphere, and the new media corporation. Blog hubs like Global Voices Online provide the kind of diverse media coverage that major news networks won't or can't. How do they do it? Simple - they use bloggers as foreign correspondents and they work cooperatively. GVO likes to focus on what the western media doesn't. Frankly, that gives them a lot of ground to cover.

Look at what happened in Armenia. (hat tip to Profy.) The media there is state-owned. So when a state of emergency was declared there in late February after a contested election and subsequent violence, the only thing the government wanted people to know is what they told them. Traditional independent media, if it were there, would be easy to identify and close down. Online media is a bit more difficult to squelch, but it appears the government even took the step of shutting down YouTube in the country.

Enter the blogosphere, with hundreds of sites under the blogger and wordpress domains, publishing information that may be biased but is clearly more independent. And they pop back up as quickly as they're taken down.

Of course, "citizen journalism" (I still hate that term) doesn't have to be inspired by a political crisis. From a business perspective, Global Voices Online is actually the new model news network. It's a global news and commentary channel, complete with a vast roster of correspondents and a breaking news service via Twitter. And they pull it off at a minute fraction of the cost that CNN or BBC would incur.

I've written about this before - specifically looking at Green Options as a model for this. GO is more of a niche publication, but recently it's branched out into a network of very specific blogs, all covering different aspects of environmentalism. It's an enviro-channel now.

If you want to see the future of media, look at Green Options and Global Voices Online today.

Of course, the news networks may play the "bloggers aren't journalists" card again. However, most of the writing that you see on these blogs is as good or better from a journalistic standpoint. In many cases these are beat reporters with a better knowledge of their beats. In others, it's easily identifiable opinion, much as you'd see on any op-ed page.

We know that journalists rely more on blogs every day as sources and for story ideas. Many journalists write blogs of their own. Now if they could only follow bloggers' lead...

07 March 2008

A brief pause...

I'm a bit fatigued with the presidential campaign. While I was going to write a big piece about the dearth of coverage of foreign events in the American media and how the blogosphere is filling the void, I think that can wait until next week.

I'm in a Dave Brubeck mood. Enjoy.

06 March 2008

Protesting Facebook... ON Facebook

I've written I don't know how many times about Facebook's clearly wrong decision to keep "pro-anorexia" groups there, despite the growing body of evidence and medical opinion that these sites are harmful. My latest post yielded a comment from "Lauren":
This article inspired me to create a "Ban Pro Ana/Mia Profiles and Groups on Facebook" group. It only has eight members right now, but I'm hoping it will end up making a difference.
I checked it out, and wouldn't you know it, Lauren is now pushing 40 members. Yeah, I joined the group.

I like the idea of using Facebook to protest Facebook. I just think it's more constructive than walking away. Sadly, Facebook still isn't listening to this group (admittedly still small but growing, and more importantly, right on the merits) or many other protest groups, but if enough users speak up I do think they'll ultimately revisit the issue and change their position.

So congrats and thanks to Lauren for leading the issue!

05 March 2008

Sifting through the returns...

Tuesday was another successful night for Virtual Vantage Points and for our twitter stream, @Campaign2008. The blog actually went down for a while during the evening, but we still saw a decent amount of traffic head that way, and Twitter actually did really well. I'm very grateful that Scott McClellan agreed to headline the blogging team. We had a lot of people tweeting and blogging away, and everyone did a great job. Our goal is to be a resource for people who want breaking political news and analysis from top minds online, and I think we're on our way.

I also want to thank Joshua Levy at TechPresident and Chantelle Oliver at The Walrus for giving Virtual Vantage Points a shout-out.

We're going to continue to blog and tweet throughout the campaign season. I hope people will continue to give us feedback and support.

A very good night for traditional media

It seems rumors of Senator Clinton's death are greatly exaggerated. While she didn't appear to gain much ground in the delegate count, she earned three important primary wins in Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island that essentially allow her to continue campaigning through to Pennsylvania on April 22 and claim some momentum and attention.

There are only two primaries before then - Wyoming and Mississipi. So we're looking at a relatively quiet time - unless you're in Pennsylvania, which is about to be bombarded with television ads from Democrats.

Some quick takeaways from last night's victories for Senator Clinton:
  • Many people think Senator Clinton is a good candidate. I think it's important to note she has a very loyal base of support, particularly among older women, and that's not going away. If you want to get heavily into demographics, she got strong support from Latinos in Texas and Catholics in Rhode Island last night. I don't know that she does anything special to target those communities, but they clearly responded to her last night.
  • Strong internal communication is absolutely critical. The biggest mistake this time came from the Obama campaign in Ohio in regards to his position on NAFTA - and it has nothing to do with his position on NAFTA. The candidate wasn't aware that an economic adviser on his team met with a group at the Canadian consulate, and said no meeting took place. Then a memo surfaced indicating it had. The adviser stuck to Senator Obama's position during the meeting - that NAFTA must be changed - and in essence the whole flap was much ado about nothing. But the campaign stumbled trying to explain this away, and the Clinton campaign was quick to pounce on the error, allowing the media to openly speculate that perhaps Senator Obama was telling the voters of Ohio one thing and the government of Canada another. We all know how sensitive the issues of trade and employment are in this heavily industrial state, and this was just enough to tip undecided voters there toward Senator Clinton.
  • Negative campaigning works. No, this wasn't morphing a picture of Max Cleland into a picture of Osama bin Laden. But the Clinton campaign successfully scared enough voters into voting against Senator Obama on the issue of NAFTA in Ohio and on the issue of terrorism in Texas. She needs to be very careful here, but the campaign accomplished some short-term goals with some good ol' fashioned scare tactics in the form of saturation TV ads and really working the press hard.
Why does this matter to business? Replace "Obama" with your brand. Imagine a well-regarded competitor pounces on a relatively small internal communications snafu about, say, siting a new facility or negotiating with a foreign government on a contract. Then that competitor browbeats the media into "taking a closer look" at your brand, while going on a media barnstorm of softball national gigs like Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show. Where is your brand after that? And in the cutthroat world of global business, is this really that hard to imagine?

Politically, we're in a very odd time. Senator McCain is the Republican nominee now, and he has nothing to do but solidify his base, raise (and save) money, and throw rhetorical lobs at Democrats. We're looking at six weeks at a minimum of a contested Democratic race. I honestly thought we'd see a very long time of two presumptive nominees, thanks to the early primary dates this year. I also thought social media would be the difference-maker during this time, when money is a finite resource and creativity is a valuable commodity.

But that hasn't happened yet and probably won't for a while. So score one for the traditional tactics of TV ads, mainstream media and negative-ish campaigning.

04 March 2008

Campaign2008 Program Notes

We have a big day planned over at Virtual Vantage Points. Five VVP contributors will be offering their reaction to returns and analysis today and into the night. They include:
  • Scott McCellan, former White House spokesman under President George W. Bush
  • Congressman Don Bonker (D-WA), who served during the 90's and is an expert on international trade issues, including NAFTA
  • Ambassador Marc Ginsberg, the US Ambassador to Morocco in the Clinton Administration and a senior advisor for Middle East policy to President Carter
  • Craig Fuller, former chief of staff to then-Vice President George H.W. Bush
  • Bill Pierce, former spokesman for the US Department of Health and Human Services under Secretary Tommy Thompson
And of course, I'm leading a bi-coastal team that will be tweeting updates on the stories of the day and the latest returns @Campaign2008 on Twitter well into the night. Make sure you're following us - it will be like a souped-up RSS feed with breaking news updates.

Tomorrow, after the dust settles, I expect we'll see more reaction from other contributors like Cassandra Pye, former deputy chief of staff to Governor Schwarzenegger. Here at It's Not a Lecture, I'll give my take on the role social media played in the campaign and why it matters.

I just think it's important not only to talk about social media and politics, but also to show how it's done.

03 March 2008

Following @Campaign2008 on Twitter...

We've decided to take our work with Twitter and our Virtual Vantage Points blog on Super Tuesday to the next level, so I hope you'll join me in following @Campaign2008.

While we're not hosting a live event (like we did in NYC on Super Tuesday) or live-blogging per se, we're putting together an impressive roster of people who will give some thoughts on what to look for before the polls close Tuesday night in Texas, Ohio, Vermont and Rhode Island, and reaction to results the next morning. Throughout the night we'll be live-tweeting results and interesting side stories as they come up, and we'll be linking back to the commentary on VVP. This is a much more sustainable model over the course of a campaign.

I'm also very excited that former White House spokesman Scott McClellan is taking part in this as well. APCO announced his arrival a couple of weeks ago, and I think it's great he's going to try all this blogging and social media stuff with us. We may have a few more big names to add to the roster as well.

We've decided to switch out "SuperTuesday" for Campaign2008 because we expect to provide tweets and links as the campaign goes through November, and SuperTuesday was really intended to be a one-time event. So I've been spending some time pinging and inviting folks who follow me and who follow SuperTuesday, as well as some other notables in the social media world, asking them to follow Campaign2008. Twitter's been a bit kludgy for me and keeps re-setting, so I don't know if I've sent more than one invite to everyone. (I know I did in at least one case.) So if you've gotten more than one invite or email I'm really sorry about that.

Bottom line, I think this is how political analysis, updates and commentary will be done in the future. We'll have a place for our own thoughtful commentary - a blog - but we'll also have a place to share information quickly and get a real-time response and have a conversation with a self-selecting community.

While we'll never completely replace the talking heads on TV, groups of informed and experienced people will gather in social media channels where everyone gets to be part of the discussion. The campaign will go on for months, and we now have a couple of channels to both share our points of view, and more importantly, hear back from everyone else.

I'm looking forward to Tuesday and beyond.