I’m just back stateside after an all too brief trip to Oslo, Norway, where I spoke to activists from the Norwegian Conservative Party, Høyre, about online campaigning. With parliamentary elections approaching this September – and the party performing poorly in recent polls – they had the same question being asked right now by any American campaigns, companies, and brands: How can we capture the wave of online excitement that Barack Obama rode to the White House?
One of the conference attendees asked a particularly helpful question: when deciding how to budget time, how should time be divided between online outreach and good old-fashioned knocking on doors. The answer, of course, is that there is no substitute for the things that get you votes – offline actions like knocking on doors and physically bringing people to the polls so they can vote for your candidate.
Online tools should be implemented because they can help you do that, by creating relationships between a candidate and a voter or allowing the campaign to identify potential sources for volunteer hours, money, and of course votes.
The Obama campaign smartly did this, as the research for my presentation reminded me. All online properties fed a database, and communication through email, on Facebook, or through text messaging was always designed to spur supporters to vote, give money, and recruit their friends to do the same. You can communicate online, but votes are counted in real life – so online excitement is only good if it translates to offline action.
Speaking of communication, another lesson that was illustrated nicely by my Norway trip was the unimportance of words in political speeches. I sat in on several party leaders’ addresses to the group of activists, and found it remarkably easy to follow each speech despite not speaking a word in Norwegian. I’ve always heard that communication is 55% visual, 38% vocal (the tone and inflection of your voice), and just 7% verbal (the words you use). The crowd reactions certainly help too, but I’ve never believed these percentages more strongly than I do now.
As further evidence, check out this activist-created (and wholly unofficial) video shown to me by my colleagues across the water. Even if the original issue isn’t quite clear(a controversy over a policewoman in training questioning whether she could wear a burqa with her uniform) the producer’s take on the political response is pretty clear: