Function combined with form

One of the questions I get asked freqently is “what do you do for campaigns?” The concept of using the Internet for campaigns has had the same hype that the Internet has back in the late 90’s (“it’ll change the process of democracy”). But the truth of the matter is – the Internet and the associated technologies will do to politics what it did for commerce – reduce the friction/obstacles from the path to action. Consider what happened in 2004 – and what might happen in 2006 and onward:

In 2004, broadband penetration had reached a tipping point – and the excitement of blogs began to permeate the national consciousness – which meant finding the threads of hot information were simply a search request away found at the new nodes (such as DailyKos, Eschalon, MyDD or LittleGreenFootballs).

The Bush campaign leveraged the medium (as aptly put by Ken Melman at the Politics Online Conference back in Jan 2004) and took advantage of the systems that required adoption. They would launch web ads first – then alert the media – which would increase visibility of the web ad – and have the media do their marketing for them – all without a spend of media dollars (unless you consider Akamai bandwidth charges a “media spend”). Again, the friction was reduced because supporters and detractors alike could simply search or surf their way to the site and consume the media – all without an extraneous effort beyond posting the file onto the web.

Contributions were similarly improved – because now, instead of having to get your postal mail from the mailbox, open the letter from some candidate, decide to write a check, write the check, put it in the envelope, stamp it (if not already included) and then take it out to the mailbox (whew! talk about friction) – a supporter could see a advert online or on the television, decide to donate, go to the computer – go to the candidates website – and donate ONLINE. All from the comfort of his/her home/work computer. Consider how many “impulse donations” occurred when emails on issues hit the email inboxes of supporters, when John Kerry said “” on national television, or when an advert hit the airways talking about the future of the country. Now, function combines with form to drive to a call-to-action.

For the first time in the history of the world, real-time response is possible – not because we did not have a globel communications network installed (heck, I think Alexander Graham Bell might have an issue with some assertions), but because we have the means to LISTEN to what our supporters/customers are saying – and can implement scalable solutions to accept and respond to them.

BUT – and here is the cautionary tale – it is not technology that is the panacea that makes this work. It is the people and processes that make it work. Taking the words of Alan Greenspan into mind, we increase the productivity of each campaign worker – and give the the ability to improve the reach of the campaign/candidate – if taken seriously. Consider what would happen if the proper training and tools were in place – and could empower the candidates/campaign to reach out effectively.

Here is a plug for The New Organizing Institute – a group that Zack Exley is putting together to help build out the future campaigners for Democrats. If I were you – and looking to get involved – sign up. It is going to be an interesting ride.

Tags: eCampaigning, New Organizing Institute, Zack Exley, Online Organizing

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