Are you prepping for 2008? 2012?

Funny thing – coming away from the Personal Democracy Forum in New York this week, there is a lot of discussion about what people thought were good tactics and bad ideas during the conference sessions. But the most intriguing discussions were happening off the conference floor – where people were playing armchair politics – figuring out who was doing what, who was helping whom…

One thing I noticed – the real indicator of a candidate is their understanding of the new medium – and how it can be the powerhouse for the future campaign. If you take a look at the possible contenders that are making news today:

  • Senator Clinton
    is going full steam with her new site – building up a mailing list war chest though events and email signups – almost rivalling what Kerry was doing at the height of the 2004 election – and we haven’t event gotten to the real primary.
  • John Kerry is building upon his original 2.9M – rumours at the PDF were placing his list closer to 3.1M – and applying his PAC powers to other candidates and issues for future benefit.
  • John Edwards is still sending emails out to his list of 600K – and potentially growing his coming effort for the 2008 campaign.
  • Tony Blair has continued his conversation campaign with the Labour supporters even after his win – continuing to keep his supporters informed and in the loop.
  • Betty Castor is still communicating with her supporter base in Florida – supposedly for her upcoming bid for Governor of Florida.

Interestingly – I wonder if candidates realize that the true power of the Internet is not the fact that interested people and read the candidate’s position on the issues during the last two weeks of the campaign, but the true power is the relationship that is built up between the candidate and the influentials that are accessible through the Internet – which is represented by the size of their email list and the quality and quantity of dialoging communications occurring between the two?

Does this mean that I think other influentials (read: elected officials, party organizers, community leaders) are less important? NO.

But, the power of the Internet is found in the people that you do not connect to normally, and are given permission to discuss your views with – on their terms. Whether at the workplace, in the bathrobe, after the evening news – it is the TiVo shifting nature of getting the information when they want it – not when the network news shows it.

Any candidate that is serious about building up for the 2008 election is thinking of their Internet strategy – how will they begin and continue the conversation? The parallels to direct mail are compelling – think about the size of the list and the percentage that will convert. But the problem with this model – it is very short-sighted. If the people on the list are thought of as direct mail – they eventually fatigue – and do what I do: either filter out the emails into the Bulk Email box or make a filter for the emails to look at them “when I have time” – which is often never.

Making the effort to engage and converse is the power of the list – longevity of the mailing list is what is the power. Come back to the adage I have mentioned before – it is more cost effective to keep a customer than to acquire a new one. Now, my email list providers might argue against that (What? I have a list for $0.02 per name, how can you beat that?), but I come back to quality – if it takes 1000 emails to generate a quality candidate, is it truly worth it?

Gov Vilsack, Sen. Bayh, Gov Bredesen, Sen Edwards, General Clark – are you listening?

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