When the campaign strategist becomes a blogger (Part 2/2)

Originally posted Friday, September 08, 2006 This piece is the final part of an op-ed that i started on and published yesterday (Thursday, September 7)

What should campaign strategists consider before exploiting the tool (blog)?

What is missing from the overall blog discussion is a structured approach that will help realise the strategic options that need to be considered before adding a blog to campaign’s bag of tricks. Using blogs as a communication tool will not merely have a positive outcome because of it’s a part of the campaign (see Walmart/Edelman discussion). The influence and effect of the blog will, like every other communication tool, depend on how it integrates the Meta narrative of the campaign. Blogging is time consuming and it is not as controllable as other communication tools, but if you understand its potential and include the people that take an interest in it, it can give a candidates a springboard to a community that probably takes more interest in the election campaign that any other.

Since theoretical data is limited so far, strategists should therefore look to present campaigns by candidates, organisations and PR-firms and question why particular blogs/campaigns are considered to be effective (or ineffective) and then further question if the political and cultural differences between that campaign and the area that the current campaign will take place will allow the same results.

I believe that there is a common set of considerations and questions that need to be asked of the political parties, candidates and strategist that consider using blogs as a PR tool. I have tried to list these considerations here and hope that others will comment on them and make the list useful for people new to the medium.

Set of considerations

What strategic choices does the persuader have? -Should the campaign operate an official blog? -Should the campaign link the blog to its official website or maintain distance? -Should the campaign encourage interest groups to run a blog for the campaign? -Should the campaign try to influence public opinion through pre-existing blogs? -Is it possible to combine the above approaches?

What is the status of the blogosphere? -What are the etiquettes and unwritten laws that define this particular blogosphere that in order to be recognised by the community itself? -Which are the leading blogs? How do you define and rank the status of blogs? -Which tools do you have to help you to do this? -Which power relations and political fragments are dominating the blog community?

Understand Viral Marketing Online and the channels that exist for it - How do you promote blogs or contact bloggers? -By posting on other blogs? -By e-mailing bloggers ? -By e-mailing supporters and party-members?

Discloser -How open should you be when contacting bloggers? Should you be anonymous or use a real name when posting on blogs? -Should people that post on your behalf disclose this fact?

What level of message control should the persuader use? -Open to anyone?

What tactical features does the blog bring to the campaign? -Broadcaster of announcements, calendar -Encourage supporters to act ("meet ups", send direct mail) -Fundraising -A forum for participation, engagement and involvement -Focus groups -Publish links to other blogs, positive media coverage, etc (reinforce the campaigns message) -Debate what to say in speeches -Spin the message -Promote Blogads -Combine and promote other tactical online tools like email campaigns. -Podcast

The message -What should be published on the blog?

Technological aspect -what software and design supports an effective blog? -where to host the blog? -directories that enlist blogs

Which of these things should be considered in the different stages of the campaign? -Research -Planning -Implementation -Action -Evaluation

All the direction that it is possible to take will depend on the objectivity of the campaign and the roll of the blog. The aim of the blog might be to increase visibility or to increase the level of interaction with campaign supporter or to spark further discussion around the theme of the campaign. That is for the campaigner to decide. The choice is there, for anyone that makes an effort to understand viral marketing and online campaigning.