The wounds and the elation of the election were apparent from both parties as Rospars and Palmer traded jibes and their former staffers in the audience collectively snickered at each underhanded remark.
But the takeaways from each campaign leaders only added to the intensity of the panel. Rospars opened with a great line, saying he managed “everything internet and nothing technical.” This absolutely resonated with me, where I work a lot on new media and online communication strategy but not on back-end web development.
For Rospars, the key was integrating the new media part of the Obama campaign with everything else. He talked about an ethos permeating throughout the Obama campaign staff that placed a premium on respecting people, talking to them honestly and encouraging them to take control of the political process. Rospars noted the untapped potential in respecting peoples’ abilities to get excited and organize themselves that was more fully realized in 2008.
Palmer made the point that new media, no matter how sexy it is at the moment, is just a tool in the toolbox just like direct mail, door knocks, phone calls, etc. Like many other speakers at the conference, Palmer argued that new media is effective only if a candidate had a compelling message and stood for something voters can rally around. The difference between the Obama and McCain Campaign, Palmer argued, was the “enthusiasm gap.” Plus, Palmer admitted that McCain just could not sell himself as embodying new media when he admitted that he himself didn’t email, Twitter (at the time) or anything else related to a computer. That just put McCain at odds immediately with an online spirit.
Rospars noted that campaigns in 2008 are conducted largely in the same way as they were previously. Online media simply made data gathering, door knocking and phone calls that much easier.
But, online video channels, like YouTube, were really important for the Obama Campaign. It basically provided the campaign with a medium with unlimited space to tell a story and control the message. On the other hand, users could also post video on what mattered to them regarding the campaign. While this was out of their control obviously, user generated video gave the Obama staff another avenue to interact with people engaged in the election.
The last bit of valuable insight Rospars shared was with regard to Obama merchandise. He discussed the exciting part of the campaign was actually having a design team independent of the Washington establishment and allowing their creativity to really guide the branding process. Clearly, that matched well with Obama’s brand. (Palmer called Obama’s logo a donut with a piece of bacon going across the middle). The campaign was able to “trade” campaign branded items for donations. That was part of the popular phenomenon.