Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Why am I doing this?

As someone who's been working with new media since before it was called new media, I was first surprised by, and then disappointed by the use of the web in political campaigns and elective offices.

I approached some candidates/campaigns who could really benefit from a meaningful web presence--the type of candidates who could use the web to win an odds-against election much like Jerry McNerney did. The campaigns and candidates listened politely and nodded appropriately, but they didn't change their web approach. And they didn't win.

So I started looking for a model campaign--something I could use to illustrate web-centric campaign best practices. And, until I found the McNerney site, I came up dry. It looked like most campaigns (from local to national) created a web presence so they could hang donate, volunteer and subscribe buttons off it. These are all very important parts of the web puzzle, but they are far from a strategy. Even now, the 2008 Presidential hopefuls are investing in technology but they don't seem to have any meaningful strategy.

In a recent segment on political use of the web, someone on the Lehrer News Hour said, "The web is brand new so no one knows how to use it." Similarly, a US News and World Report article (see below) that was published this week is titled "The Internet--It's a potent new tool, but no one's sure how to use it."

No wonder those campaigns and candidates glazed over when I started talking web-centric campaigns--Howard Dean showed them the power of online fundraising but no one had ever shown them how to effectively use the web as an online campaign office. Or even as much more than an outdated billboard with a few buttons for data/cash collection. I am here to point out that the web is not brand new, and there are some folks who know how to use it.

I'm collecting web-centric best practices wherever I find them, and I'm pointing out common mistakes to help campaigns avoid them. And I'm hoping that concrete examples that show the (politically) untapped potential of the web will help politicians and their campaigns think twice about their web strategy (or lack of one).

I'm also hoping that a candidate or campaign that's working for progressive change--preferably in a part of the country where that's an uphill battle--will contact me so I can help them win. Meanwhile I'll continue to post here (to address my need to change the world), and to provide web strategy to Fortune 500 and Fortune 5 billion companies (to address more tangible needs).

Good luck in your campaigns, and let me know if you want some help.

--Louella Pizzuti

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