Friday, February 29, 2008

It's not about the technology, it's about communications, field, fundraising and gotv

In a recent conversation with a Congressman's campaign team, I realized we were talking about two very different things when we discussed technology. This (old-school and very effective) campaign manager saw his candidate's web site as another campaign check-off item--on the same list as yard signs, direct mail, walk pieces, etc. If the campaign was a car, he saw technology as a windshield wiper--important, but not integral.

I see the campaign web site as a way to make (almost) every campaign effort less expensive, more effective, and more widely available.

In the car analogy, I'd see technology as more like fuel injectors -- something that improves overall performance. (Did I just reveal my mechanical ignorance? Even if fuel injectors don't do what I think they do, I trust you understand the underlying point.) It's a song I've been singing for decades: back in the late 80's I started volunteering at elementary schools to help integrate computers into their curricula--to use the computer as a way to quiz second graders on their spelling words rather than just as a way to teach them how to use a mouse. I believed then (and now) that the computer was a means to an end, rather than an end in itself--and that having a computer teacher was like having a pencil teacher. Now, it's certainly true that a computer is much more complicated and powerful than a pencil--and that there's great value in combining the struggles and objectives of the teacher with the understanding and solutions of someone who knows how to use the computer to make teaching easier.

So too with campaign web sites. You can certainly hire a director of Internet outreach (or whatever you want to call it), but if you put this person in charge of your web site without integrating the web site into all facets of your campaign, you're more or less hiring yourself a pencil teacher.

If you really want to exploit the knowledge and understanding of your internet/technology person, make sure they understand (and can communicate) how to harness technology to make all campaign efforts better, cheaper and more visible.

--Louella Pizzuti

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Treating your web site as an ATM is like using your computer as a typewriter

Let me say that again: Treating your web site as an ATM is like using your computer as a typewriter. Sure, your computer makes an excellent replacement for yesterday's typewriter, but you're missing more than you're getting. Think video, audio, email, spreadsheets, databases... and of course the list goes on and on. So too the possibilities for your campaign web site.

Is your walk piece on the web? Ready for supporters to email to friends? Prepped to print and distribute to their neighbors? Complete with room for their personal endorsement?

Can supporters easily add their names to your endorsers list? Upload their photos and a line or two about why they're voting for you?

Do you have a way to manage and track letter to the editor campaigns?

Are you creating and posting video clips of your candidate's compelling appearances and pithy quotes?

Are you engaging and inspiring visitors? Giving them ways to support you with more than just cash?

Some political web sites are nothing more than static billboards with a donate button or robust collections of online tools. But the very best use the web as a campaign controlled multi-media publication--complete with an editorial focus and peppered with ways to engage and inspire supporters--both online and off.

Typewriter or computer? ATM or robust web presence? Your choice may be the margin between winning and losing.

--Louella Pizzuti