Category Archives: blogging

U.S. Defense Department Releases Social Media Policy

Your first guess to a social media/new media policy from the U.S. Department of Defense might be that the policy is about as thick as the Senate Health Care bill.  After all, government can be full of legalese and stipulations.  Combine that with the sensitive job of the Defense Department and a social media policy might look messy.

But in reality, the Defense Department’s new social/new media policy is a tiny nine pages long and is incredibly straight forward.  The document demonstrates the DoD is encouraging its three million employees to use social media (safely and responsibly) either on or off duty, or at home or abroad.

To the DoD’s credit, this massive organization gets it.  Media is everywhere.  Access to social network sites is ubiquitous.  Millions of young men and women with smart phones is just too much to control.  And so the Department responded wisely by understanding what I think is the basic principle of any good organization – the best advocates are an entity’s employees.  Yes, more than their customers.  That’s because good organizations make their workplace enjoyable and rewarding.  Employees spread those good feelings to stakeholders outside the organization.

Going back to the Defense Department, if we stop to think of the organizational culture, we probably can begin to realize that this institution is full of dedicated, focused and loyal men and women.  The U.S. government should be facilitating its people to communicate via social/new media.  These employees can be the Defense Department’s best advocates.

And that is the lesson for public affairs organizations of any type or size.  The best capital we have is our people.  Happy, dedicated and loyal employees will make the best advocates.  Instead of walling them in, let them go out and be ambassadors.

The Next Generation of Election Websites

Here are highlights from another great panel at the Politics Online Conference, which probed the evolution of campaign websites and captured what we have learned.

Republican Strategist Rob Kubasko began with an entertaining brief history of online campaigns.

1996 – all about having a website

2000 – proved that donations could take place via the web in a big way (McCain)

2002- the “kitchen sink” syndrome of cramming everything into a website

2004 – the buzz is about blogs and communities

2006 – enter online video, a la the George Allen moment

2008 – the year of social networks

Kubasko put it simply that campaign success starts with messaging, is advanced by design and is driven through online tools.  I liked one line he said about design: “If you emphasize everything, you emphasize nothing.”  It’s like the old adage in branding that if you’re about everything, you’re about nothing.

Sam Graham Felsen, who served as chief blogger at the Barack Obama Campaign and came over from the traditional journalism world (the Nation), said the big winner for the campaign was the least sexy tool…email.  It alone was the leader in generating offline actions.

Sam Graham Felsen

Sam Graham Felsen

Meanwhile, he talked about the message strategy of the campaign from the outset that emphasized less about the candidate and more about people and building a movement around the values the candidate embodied.  He recalled that the majority of his blog posts at the beginning of the campaign were not about Obama, but about people around the country who wanted and hoped for change.

Plus, this message, Felsen said, was made that much more poignant through online video.  The Obama campaign had a videography team that shot and edited like 2,000 videos and got as a granular as creating videos for every Obama affinity group imaginable.  That was very helpful in story telling and giving a medium for people to relate to the campaign’s values.

Harvard Kennedy School of Government Professor Nicco Mele reiterated the importance of email, saying that in a recent talk at Harvard, David Plouffe said he wished he sent more email (to the astonishment of many who were flooded with Obama emails during the campaign).  A very smart thing Nicco said afterwards was that Dominos Pizza could have managed its crisis so much better had it collected customers’ emails and therefore had a direct channel to its target audience .

Mele’s key takeaways from 2008:

Video proved a transformative medium in message delivery

Organizing means better data collection and management

Good fundraising means good email lists and copy

Headed to the Politics Online Conference

I’ll be back at the Politics Online Conference in Washington, DC this weekend and early next week.  The conference is put on by the Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet at George Washington University and is being co-sponsored this year by Campaigns & Elections magazine.

I found out about the conference last year, after I interviewed the Institute’s Director Julie Germany, for a research project I was doing on the confluence of the social web and public affairs for my master’s program.  Julie encouraged me to nominate some work I had done for Daniel Biss’ campaign for state assembly and sure enough we won two awards, known as the Golden Dot Awards, at the conference.  By the way, Julie is the most consistently funny and entertaining Twitter user I have ever seen.  Anyone looking to do Twitter right, should see how she does it.

So, I’m headed back to the Politics Online Conference this year.  I will be moderating a panel for one of the conference’s many interesting breakout sessions, called:

Tinkering Your Web Strategy: Using Analytics to Understand Your Traffic and Making Adjustments

April 21, 3:30 p.m., Meridian D & E

Description: Who is coming to your candidate’s website? What do users do when they get there? How did they find you in the first place? Where are users who visit your site coming from?

Web analytics can open doors to a political or public affairs campaign to understand their web traffic and adjust their communications strategy accordingly. Having a great website with all the bells and whistles looks great on the surface. But, how do we read a web analytics report and what indicators do we look for? How do we make adjustments? Answers to these questions are vital for campaigns at any level.

·        Ben Weisberg (Account Manager on the Elections and Issue Adcocacy Team at Google)

·        Mark Skidmore (Blue State Digital)

·        Dan Siroker (Founder of CarrotSticks)

·        Jesse Greenberg (independent strategic communications and public affairs consultant)

I’ll be blogging on conference highlights next week and at the conclusion of Sunday’s e-democracy unconference.

Google News and PR

I read a great article this morning that all PR and strategic communication pros need to be aware of.

Rachelle Money interviewing Greg Jarboe makes the case that good content takes into account key words.  Why key words?  Because all media ends up online today and for online users to be able to find your article, they must contain the right key words.

Greg Jarboe, President and co-founder of SEO-PR

Greg Jarboe, President and co-founder of SEO-PR

Essentially, folks in the public relations field must take a step back from their work of creating what they believe is the most compelling copy and actually think what readers and therefore journalists want to know and want to publish.  This means as PR pros, it is up to us to create compelling content utilizing the right keywords and understanding the reference points in which content is read.  Without these considerations, it is likely that published content just won’t ever be found.

Jarboe talks about using Google News, which aggregates news from just about every online source imaginable, and starting a strategic PR effort by searching the site.  The lesson is to try a variety of searches on the topic and find out what returns the most relevant and impactful results.  That’s where you want to be.

Jarboe explains good keyword use is the starting point for creating the right pitch and the right content.

This is great advice.  I know I could mix keyword searches better in the work I do and help my clients manage their repuations and messaging more effectively.  I’ll start now.

Starting a Blog

I was fortunate to be invited to speak with the staff at the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce on how to best get their blog started.  The Chamber is redesigning its website and its new online presence will have a blogging function to more deeply engage with its members and general public.

For the Chamber, a blog could not be a more useful tool.  This is an organization that deals with the very fabric and engine of Chicago public life.  They represent the interests and provide the voice for businesses large and small.  In short, the Chamber is an essential element to Chicago’s public affairs, economic, and intellectual life.

With an organization like the Chamber having so many areas of focus and expertise, it becomes hard to communicate all that it is doing on an ongoing basis.  Other mediums like a website, emails and events have limitations in assisting to explain the full depth of the Chamber’s activities.  But blogging, as we discussed, can be an incredibly useful tool to peel back the different layers of the Chamber’s business and give its audiences an insiders’, real-time view of everything happening.  Blogging can be instrumental in:

  • showing the Chamber’s value to members and prospects
  • serving as a call to action on important and timely public affairs issues
  • reporting on Chamber committee meetings
  • giving a multimedia expose of major Chamber events
  • serving as an information hub for Chicagoland business issues
  • building key relationships

Please check out the presentation that got our discussion going and watch for the new Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce’s website.  If you live in the Chicago-area, I highly encourage you to get involved with this great organization.

Fritchey’s Conference Call with IL-5 Bloggers

Bloggers on the call:

1. Jesse Greenberg

2. Aviva Gibbs

3. Windy Citizen (not associated with

4. Josh Kalven

5. Alan Cotrel

6. David Lumstein

Q: How did you get in the race?

A: When Rahm was invited as Chief of Staff, became interested.  Fritchey thought he could add value.  Disconcerting to know what he could do as the most junior member of Congress.  Went to DC over Thanksgiving and thought could hit the ground running if elected.  It is historic opportunity to go to Washington and in unprecedented times and get things done.

Q: Why did it take a month to get into the campaign?

A: Because it is a serious decision.  Running for Congress is a life-changing decision.  Better question is how did others make the decision in two-days after Rahm announced.  Hopes he would appreciate the fact that this is a serious decision.  Only handicap was a financial one.  Other candidates had raised several hundred thousand dollars by then.

Q: How are you distinguishing yourself?

A: It’s a matter of results and performance.  Looks at all the contenders…brings record of results – working men and women, immigration, economic development, etc.  Sara Feigenholtz has a good voting record but those bills she supported were those Fritchey sponsored.  Been proud and honored that people came to him to sponsor bills and when they could have picked any state representative.

Q: What is your top issue?

A: 100% environmental record, 97% pro-labor record (AFL-CIO)

Q: Stimulus package?

A: Need to have a stimulus.  It’s not a perfect bill but “perfect is not the enemy of good.”  Remiss to ignore the things that were cut.  Bill should put things back to work – not a Christmas present for everyone.  Has to be a combination of tax cuts and spending.  Has to be a long-term economic growth solution.  Two goals: 1. Get people to work 2. Compete in global economy.

Didn’t see Mike Quigley’s website (  Been an advocate in long-term rail development, e.g. Brown Line.

Illinois is more hampered than ever to pay bills.  Now looking at a $9 B deficit.  Hard decisions have to be made.  We need an assurance on how money is going to be spent.  Illinois voters have been disappointed time and again.  Not afraid to talk about income tax hike to fund important projects.  Taxes should be looked at last result.

One way to do this, talked with Pat Quinn about it, is to increase exceptions for individuals and go to progressive income tax structure.

Illinois is well-situated to take in Federal dollars and 5th District needs someone to fight for them.

Q: Do you agree with Senate’s take on stimulus package?

A: No.  Situation is a dilemma that asks if we want all the goodies in the bill or make sure we can afford these.  Want to bring all the resources back to 5th District.

Q: How can you reconcile being a candidate working for people and as a lobbyist for Bank of America, Cash America?

A: Cash America was looking to locate a pawn shop, not a pay day loan shop.  Those communities needed that development.

Q: Can you comment on the ongoing conversation online and make the distinction between being a lobbyist to the City of Chicago and a being a legislator…

A: Lobbyists have to disclose clients and how much they got paid.  Sponsored legislation that would make process more transparent.  That’s a good thing.

Q: Is there anyone you would turn away?

A: Turned away corporate clients that wanted to do development projects.  Bank of America turned out to provide a more consumer friendly experience.  Made sure that City of Chicago didn’t have too many banks because it drives up local commercial rents.  Worked with Tunney, Vi Daley and others to come up with legislation to make sure there were not too many banks in Chicago.

Q: Would you work for them again?

A: In light of Republic Windows, no.

Q: Why didn’t you come out in support of Republic Windows?

A: Would have looked like granstanding.  It was handled well by the people who handled it.

Q: Will the 5th District survive redistricting?

A: Probably see disassembling of Roskam district.  The 5th will probably stay in tact.

Q: Lobbying…

A: Daughter that is 13 and needs to supplement income by practicing law.  Doesn’t cut into time as legislator. It is acceptable and “commonplace” to have legislators serve as lobbyists.  Frtichey is a registered lobbyist because of his specialty law practice.

Q: What are your impressions of the race so far?

A: The field has gotten bogged down in minutiae.  Looked forward to campaign on substantive issues.  Loved the forum at DePaul and how candidates think on their feet.  Nature of congressional race is that you don’t always get to do what you like.  Hopes that over next three weeks, candidates can focus on who they are, what they’ve done, what they will do.

Q: Traditional media

A: Substantive issues don’t make news.  Sad reality is that everyday issues tend not to be sexy.  Started blogging because wanted to share the inside political process.

Q: Why did campaign push the story on Feigenholtz being on clout list?

A: Sara started this tone by putting a poll that asked questions if they knew that Fritchey was campaigning with state rep. funds.  It was an irresponsible and mudslinging.  The statement that she was on those lists of getting people state jobs is factual.  Fritchey could have continued on that note but didn’t.

Q: Why mention Rahm Emanuel?

A: Wasn’t the only one who had conversation with Emanuel.  Wasn’t a calculated answer to take attention away from issues.  It was an honest response.

Q: Are you suggesting that others on the panel were not telling the truth?

A: Would be surprised that Fritchey was the only one who had conversation with Emanuel.  Maybe Lynn Sweet should have gone down the row so everyone knew where they stood on it.

Google’s Centrality in IL-5

Ramsin Canon beat me to the punch to bring up Google’s role in the IL-5 election.  Canon’s great post over at Gaper’s Block discusses which candidates are using Google AdWords to drive searches to their respective websites.

I had the opportunity to sit down with someone close to Sara Feigenholtz’s campaign to discuss, among other things, what role online media plays in the campaign’s strategy.

I’ll start with blogs.  In this race, we both agreed that blogs are really important.  First, because traditional media  has not covered this race with nearly the depth or tenacity as the blogging community, blogs covering this race seem to be trumping traditional media as go-to sources for campaign information.  Second, blogs have the indelible ability to show up in Google alerts and Google searches.  In short, this means any person actively searching for information is more apt to wind up at one of the blogs covering this race than one of this city’s local papers.

For campaigns, this means blogger outreach ought to remain a fairly high priority.  Thus far, I’ve had a range of experiences of campaigns reaching out or not reaching out to me as a blogger regularly covering this race.  Maybe I’ll save that for another post.

The ironic thing, and the point of disagreement in our conversation about online media, was the role of Google AdWords.  I feel like Google AdWords are extremely important and could be some of the smartest media spend in a campaign.  My counterpart felt differently.

Google is so important though for exactly the same reasons campaigns buy expensive TV and direct mail campaigns.  The 2008 election proved that online social media was great at aggregating campaign supporters and channeling their energies into productive efforts on behalf of campaigns.  Social media was not good at converting undecided voters.  That’s where Google AdWords enters and can do it cheaper and more effectively.

I would characterize TV and direct mail as the “shotgun” approach in attempt to reach everyone and hoping that out of the recipients, there are undecided voters who will be persuaded.  The research I have seen shows it will take three to five pieces of direct mail to effectively persuade voters.  TV is different in that Americans still rely on TV as the top source for political news.  Though very expensive, I do believe in the value of smart TV ad buys.

Google AdWords though can help offset the high cost of direct campaign advertising in what marketers characterize “push” vs. “pull” advertising.  Google searches are actions taken on by internet users searching for campaign information.  As a campaign, why not show up alongside organic search results to let that internet user know your campaign thinks you might be looking “me”?

At the end of the day, there is no one communications strategy that 100 percent works over another one.  There are strengths and weaknesses in each advertising discipline.  That’s why the best campaigns will have an integrated approach to figure out what works, what doesn’t, what makes the most sense, what is most cost effective, etc.

Though it may be unfair to judge which campaign has done the best advertising job thus far since not all campaigns’ paid advertising have begun yet, like Gapers Bloc, I agree that Charlie Wheelan has a leg up.  The campaign’s Google AdWords buy and willingess to take a risk on a TV ad and the place it very granularly in local cable markets really demonstrates some good judgement.  Let’s see how the others adjust.