GOP nabs headlines, OFA nabs volunteers

While the Republican contenders and pretenders debated in the Granite State, the Obama Campaign quietly kicked off what it hopes will be a “summer of team building” with an online volunteer briefing.  Organizing for America’s Mitch Stewart led the largely unsurprising session, sketching out the campaign’s overall plan for recruiting volunteers and getting out the vote.  There were, however, some tactical points that were worth noting.

Just like the 2008 incarnation of the Obama campaign – and, really, any organization worth its salt – Obama/Biden ’12 seems rightly obsessed with amassing volunteers and securing firm commitments to action.  The central effort seemed to be a push to ask volunteers to host house parties, recruiting After Stewart’s overview of the basics, the webinar asked participants whether they could either host or attend a house party (along with inviting others to attend as well).

The neatest part came at the end, when participants were invited to turn on their webcams.  A collage of the real-time feeds allowed participants to see and even wave to each other:

This is another early preview of what figures to be a consistent theme for Obama ’12.  Remember that the announcement video for the re-election effort did not feature the candidate, instead focusing on campaign surrogates and volunteers.   Other faces – including, wherever possible, those of grassroots supporters – will allow the Obama campaign to create a wall of separation between the candidate and the dirty business of politics.

The result? Obama looks Presidential while his subordinates ramp up the country’s first billion-dollar campaign.

Cross-posted at PunditLeague.us.

To Høyre and back

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: