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.
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