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  • How political parties misjudge online campaigning

    by Sunny
    28th December, 2008 at 9:06 pm    

    I’m going to be doing a fair bit of link-dumping over the coming weeks, as I’m trying to write more and develop more ideas on internet campaigning. So I’m going to throw out short thoughts and ideas.
    This article on the Washington Post makes a point I wanted to about how political campaigning online, especially in the UK, is badly conceived:

    “In this Internet era, it’s not enough to run a campaign; you need to lead a movement,” Mindy Finn, a Republican online political operative, told me less than three days after the election. “That’s what Obama did.” Finn, 27, worked on President Bush’s eCampaign team in 2004 and supervised former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s Web strategy. She worries that, unlike its Democratic counterpart, the Republican establishment hasn’t fully grasped the ways the Web is revolutionizing politics. “If you look at their site,” she said of the Obama campaign, “their online videos, their online ads, everything they did, it wasn’t about ‘me, myself and I.’ It was about ‘we’ and ‘us.’ ”

    It was, in essence, about you.

    I think the same point can be made here. Most Labour, Tory or Libdem online operations seem to be about promoting the party and their policies, rather than assuming its a new voter who wants to empower themselves or see what this politics business is all about. It isn’t about engaging them in a movement based on any ideology or vision. It’s just: hello! We are the [whatever] party. Come and learn more about us here. In fact, the only party that explicitly thinks of itself as a movement and tries to engage its readers as much as possibly online is the BNP. No wonder they’re so popular.
    The Green Party, for a small operation that is meant to be radical, actually has a very conservative site, has changed somewhat with a more explicit focus on its most popular policies, on its front page. But there’s no sense of a movement, which is the only way that party will get anywhere.

                  Post to

    Filed in: Net Campaigns,Party politics

    8 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs

    1. Rayyan — on 28th December, 2008 at 9:53 pm  

      I share your concern with the GP’s website, and am trying to get a discussion initiated about how the GP should and should not use the web. One thing that a few of those links you’ve posted allude to, along with what you’ve said (either on here or LC) about Draper’s Labour online love-fest, is that communications technology is useless unless what is being communicated has a sense of purpose, and is engaging. I’ve blogged about it here:

      I think the GP’s frontpage should list six ways in which people can improve society themselves, only one of which (or none) involves directly voting for the Green Party.

      Thanks for the links, as they’ll be useful for my dissertation: I’m writing it on the role of the internet in Obama’s campaign. Any more would be greatly appreciated!

    2. Sunny — on 28th December, 2008 at 10:43 pm  

      Rayyan - I thought your blog piece was spot on. Why aren’t you linking your blog from your username?

      I have tons more links, but I’m just trying to put some sensible words around them. I promise I’ll wrote more on this in coming days.

    3. Rayyan — on 29th December, 2008 at 6:36 am  

      Cheers Sunny - I’ve corrected that now. I look forward to the links - I’ve amassed hundreds over the past year, but trying to put sensible words around them as well as add my own research is proving to be a bit difficult :(

    4. MaidMarian — on 29th December, 2008 at 10:53 am  

      Sunny - A couple of thoughts. Firstly, I was at university as a politics student just as the internet was taking off. Back then one of the lectures regarded on the fringe of the curriculum was about the internet. One party’s website then as now stood head and shoulders above the others in the UK. Look no further than the BNP. They clearly have spent a lot of time, effort and money on their website, but I would argue that is more out of necessity. The BNP can not really use more traditional methods (mail-shot, public meeting/rally etc) and the internet has lent itself rather well to their style.

      I think that the slightly wider problem is that those that live by the internet can very easily die by the internet.

      This whole idea about politics as a movement and so on is surely what Blair did in 1997 isn’t it? Had the internet been bigger in 1997 I imagine New Labour would have done almost exactly the sort of things you are talking about.

      Opposition is the easiest business in the world. I think that what you are missing here is the distinction between politics and government. Setting ones self up as a movement type arrangement and ‘selling’ a vision is far harder in power and when you have to respond from a position of incumbency.

      The Greens suffer a similar problem. Their message (however much they try to work around it) is that their politics are about reducing consumption. That may well be underpinned by a good case, but it ain’t the stuff of mass-movement.

      Starting an internet campaign against something is a far easier proposition than doing that from government.

      If Obama comes as a bitter disappointment it will show up the real limitations of movements as a political proposition. How long till the internet talkboard classes sink their fangs into Obama.

      And this is the unknown here. Justified or not the internet’s political wing is characterised by the professional malcontent. It is no wonder that political parties are a bit reticent.

      What would really improve the quality of comment on the internet is reducing its stricency. Sunny, as you have found out this week the mere mention of the words, ‘Israel/Palestine,’ get people onto the web demanding that Iran start rounding up Jews. Is that the type of environment for your mass movement?

    5. dave bones — on 29th December, 2008 at 8:10 pm  

      I’m into this. Come on lets make a movement. What shall we call it?

    6. Leon — on 29th December, 2008 at 8:23 pm  

      How about…the Movement for More Beer for Leon? I’d be up for that, might even throw you a few favourable blog posts too…

    7. persephone — on 2nd January, 2009 at 12:51 am  

      ” It was, in essence, about you.”

      What some political parties lack are some fundamentals:

      - a credible & charismatic leader who can engender the support of the internal party network & external audiences through communicating that the party ideology is 1) compelling & resonates with them and 2) perceived as running through the leader like a stick of rock

      - employ marketing professionals who can achieve the desired results. Marketing professionals with the requisite skills can sometimes look at the salaries & work hours in the political sphere and decide to work for non political sectors where the salaries can be double the amount

      It is, in essence, about good marketing across all mediums

    8. Matt Wardman — on 11th January, 2009 at 12:11 pm  

      >It is, in essence, about good marketing across all mediums

      Thinking that is a major part of the problem. It is about politics, not marketing.

      New Labour thought it was about marketing, and look what happened. The electorate bought a pup without sufficient opportunity to check it for rotten teeth.

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