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Monday, May 15, 2006

More on Netroots Coordinators

I wanted to follow up on my posts Netroots Coordinators and Ned Lamont and the Netroots with some more ideas on campaigns and netroots coordination from my experiences organizing bloggers and the netroots.

Atari Democrat brings up a great point:

The point is that blogs are unlikely to be happy with candidates unless they alter their basic rhetoric and ideology, no matter how many staffers are spinning on bloger calls and posting diaries.

So can hiring a netroots coordinator make a difference? The short answer is no. The long answer is yes, but only a little bit. There are some basic functions like posting diaries, monitoring blog issues and communicating with local blogs that someone should be doing. For smaller campaigns this can be the communications director or an energetic intern. But netroots coordinators don't determine who will be the next netroots star.

Unless a campaign is willing to give the netroots coordinator a seat at the messaging table, his or her ability to generate good netroots coverage will be limited.
If a campaign is willing to run a serious post-broadcast, bottom up effort, somebody coordinating the netroots will increase the efficiency dramatically and can turn the potential into reality. But a candidate running a 20th century campaign who only want tap the netroots to raise money for more TV is wasting everyone's time. Most political bloggers want to see politics changed, not just change how politicians interact with bloggers.

While using technology to increase a campaign's ability makes sense for all races, attempting to tap into the netroots doesn't make sense for all efforts. And the efforts that are most successful will have netroots wherewithal that matches a candidate's inspiration.

For big races that want to see how to do it right, I recommend following Ned Lamont's race in Connecticut (many of us have strategic ideas we won't write about until after we've deployed them in a campaign). But all candidates would be wise to read the recommendations included in the NPI Blogosphere Report Matt Stoller and Chris Bowers wrote last summer:

Appendix I: Engaging Bloggers In a Local Campaign

The power of a single blog is relatively small -- it is the interlinking of blogs into a larger 'blogosphere' that is meaningful. To harness this power and use it to drive message, money and activism, you must invest in organizing this constituency. One cannot e-mail large national bloggers and expect their attention on local candidates or issues. Instead, you need to create your own blogosphere out of existing small and locally focused blogs, and invest time interacting with local online communities. This structure will in the end be of much more use to you. It is important to remember at all times that bloggers are both campaign activists, and a sort of journalist. They can be your friends, but are also third-party observers of your campaign. Here are some tips on interacting with these unique communities:

  • Hire a 'Netroots Coordinator' and be prepared to work with him or her on money, messaging and organizing. Most organizations hire one and relegate them to a position where they are asked simply to raise money. If you follow this model it is not worth engaging the blogs. A good Netroots Coordinator can deliver messaging, media, and money.
  • Put up a link on your web site that says 'Got a blog?' Ask for bloggers to give you their name, email, IM, and blog address. This list is valuable -- it is the list of bloggers who are interested in your issue.
  • Take your list of bloggers and add them to your press release list. Call through to introduce yourself, and invite them to cover events, and if possible give them press passes and access.
  • Read the blogs who sign up. If you use an 'aggregator' such as, you can read many more blogs much more quickly. Get a sense of who is on your side and who is not. Go into the comment section of various blogs and add comments when relevant.
  • Hold conference calls with your strategists/candidate. Treat bloggers like friends and allies, but also realize you are on the record.
  • Periodically do a 'blog round-up' where you email interesting blog posts on your issue to all the bloggers as well as internally.
  • Link to interesting blog posts from your web site/blog; make sure you link to a few posts that disagree with you. This will lend your online presence more credibility.
  • Listen and respond to criticism. These are your friends and often not that experienced in politics -- treat them like they are here to learn, not like they are cynical, hard-boiled reporters.
Many times in recent years the blogs seem to be bell weathers for politics overall, seeing a little further over the horizon towards where we are going. There is a different conventional wisdom emerging online and candidates need a guide who understands where the netroots are coming from before the candidate can lead them forward.

But that will only happen with a candidate running a 21st century campaign, simply hiring more staff without changing the way business is done only throws money at the problem.

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