Posted by: paulfbove | July 7, 2008

On “getting it”.

A couple weeks ago, I had a solid string of classes because we had a couple of speakers. First off, Michael Silberman, National Meetup Director from Howard Dean‘s presidential bid, came to speak to our Digital Campaigns class. Michael had written a chapter, called “The Meetup Story”, in the book Mousepads, Shoe Leather, and Hope by Zephyr Teachout and Thomas Streeter, et al. What struck me first is that Michael is younger than me–probably at least by 8 years. That is weird because I’m used to being talked to by somebody older than me. He even makes a reference to his age in his chapter

“Without fail, the first words out of my new acquaintance’s mouth would be “Oh, I can’t believe how young you are!”

Of course our professor is younger too, but I’ll let that slide. The reality is that it was the people who are Micheal’s age that really got Web 2.0 and new media off the ground. I’m late to the game.

Anyway, it was pretty cool to hear about a particular function of a campaign by somebody who had been there and worked that campaign. The best takeaways that I got were as follows:

  1. Using a tool like Meetup often comes about in a true grassroots function. It seems like many ideas do indeed come from grassroots. Though technology is important, don’t forget the basics.
  2. A major challenge was trying to straddle traditional and online engagement. The Dean folks had to come into a town without actually being there. Goes to show that it is important to align yourself with others that you can trust who can act in your stead.
  3. The Web is mostly effective for the challenger, not the front runner. Challengers have less to lose and are more willing to take chances.
  4. Be cautious of what you put into a campaign. Your heart and soul must be in it or people will know you’re not being sincere. And your campaign will fail.

The other speaker I saw that week was in my Digital Communications Strategies class. Dan Solomon, co-author (along with Brian Reich) of Media Rules! Mastering Today’s Technology, spoke to us about HOW to get our organizations to listen and implement the strategies we create. We’re reading the book in class and it has a zippy tone to it that makes you want to yell at your boss because he or she doesn’t get it. When Dan spoke, you really could understand why the writing moves as it does. He’s got fire!

The takeaways were

  1. Think about the framework of how the new thing should work.
  2. Time horizons are important-don’t wait so long that you become irrelevant.
  3. Learn from extreme examples. What really drives change?
  • Need to be social and connected
  • Meeting of survival needs
  • Irrational fear

(Those last three bullets really should be taken to heart to help get across your ideas to your boss or co-workers.)

4. Content is different over different media, depending on your technique. You need to think about your media before you implement a plan.

5. People need to work together, but often fail. Why? People won’t cooperate and share.

Those major points reinforce what happens when a plan is actually tried. If the Dean campaign folks had been resistant to trying Meetup, they would have lost a huge opportunity to get the word out. Luckily, they were able to take a then-revolutionary idea and make it work. Solomon drove home the point that you can’t know if something will work unless you try it. Unfortunately, many of us have to answer to somebody else and don’t get the chance to try. Web 2.0 is growing, and yet there are numerous organizations that are behind on using it. If these groups do not at least try to implement a new tool, they will never know if it works. That sounds pretty basic and obvious, right? Well then why are there still so many organizations resistant to change? The Dean folks began a revolutionary movement in digital campaigns that is bigger today than they probably ever imagined. And the reason was that people had the vision to use technology and the higher ups allowed them to do so. If we could all be so lucky at our workplaces!

Here’s a little taste of the excitement that we could all use

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