By: Patrick Ryan
Two weeks ago, the GOP released its “Autopsy” report. As a social media professional, I was most interested in its “Digital” section. The Party’s leadership has pledged an investment of at least $10 million into a community outreach program, while the report itself announced efforts to train volunteers and staffers in digital activities.
For example, these include “a new training institute,” “an RNC Fellows Program,” and “Digital Campaign Colleges” in such places as San Francisco and Austin. Ultimately, the GOP’s “challenge is less of a technology problem and more of a culture problem. Thus, it “need[s] to strive for an environment of intellectual curiosity, data, research, and testing to ensure that our programs are working.”
The Party also stated that it needed to frame its mission within the cyber environment, ultimately aiming for a bottom-up culture. All these efforts are very heartening to me as I contrast it with Romney for America’s approach, but it still isn’t completely sufficient.
The “Autopsy” mentions neither the word “blog” nor “blogger” in its report. I found this unfortunate as the Tea Party has established networks across the country; they communicate with a variety of blogs and websites.
Some dismiss this important omission because the report mentions “social media” a myriad of times. As Jon Henke, a co-founder of digital media firm Craft DC told me, “In fact, you might even take it as a good sign that the RNC does not lump blogs in with ‘digital’ or make a distinction between blogs and media.”
Yet, just as the report itself attests, the question is ultimately about culture, not digital tools. The “digital divide” between the GOP and the Democratic Party exists because the blogosphere developed during a time of Republican political success: 2000-2008. That historical context severely affected the cultures of both political organizations.
Professor Matthew Kerbel, a political science professor at Villanova University, explained that:
The left has benefited from such a [decentralized] structure arguably more than the right, in large part because the relative disorganization of the left when the Internet matured prevented fledgling communities from being co-opted for top-down purposes like message dissemination.
The left developed their blogosphere as a large-scale community while the Republican Party and the conservative movement used blogs primarily as top-down tools:
The right has done an arguably better job of using the Internet as an additional messaging medium, but with a few exceptions it has come at the expense of community building, which is where you find the most long-term pay-offs.
I have seen this culture in my personal experiences.
As a War Room intern for Romney for America, I was told primarily to ignore most blogs, both left and right. In this role, I collected stories and articles from cable and network news, national newspapers, digital news sites, and other pertinent forms of media.
Granted, I worked the night shift for four out of my six months with the campaign, but I sensed aloofness towards successful conservative blogs. I did not work for the Communications Department, so I cannot speak to how they engaged with bloggers.
Yet such blogs as Powerline, Hot Air, all of the Huffington Post blogs, and other mediums were ignored. At least we watched Morning Joe every day.
The GOP is currently debating the lessons of the 2012 presidential campaign. One thing we have learned is that our digital department is utterly insufficient; what we don’t agree upon is how we should use this tool.
If we want to truly reform our party culture, we need to start cooperating with national and local bloggers. That means blogger briefings. It means recruiting certain Tea Party writers to help train our staffers. Or asking all staffers of the party who have a large following to meet and share their stories and advice.
It could be anything, but one thing is certain: a report can describe the problem, but the influencers and the citizens ultimately implement the reform.
By: Patrick Ryan Two weeks ago, the GOP released its “Autopsy” report. As a social media professional, I was most interested in its “Digital” section. The Party’s leadership has pledged an investment of at least $10 million into a community outreach program, while the report itself announced efforts to train volunteers and staffers in digital…Read More