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Monday, 7 July 2008

It's also about the money

Several colleagues have blogged about David Lammy MP’s speech to the Fabian Society, in which he drew inspiration from Barack Obama's internet-led campaign and internet-empowered base. Comparing with Labour, Lammy said:
This is light years away from the caution that can come either from the long shadow of opposition in the 1980s, or the straightjacket that being in office can feel like.

It has put together a web strategy premised on connecting activists and supporters to one another, not just pushing out tightly controlled messages from campaign HQ.

Suddenly in the US the web is being used to connect people with politics again – at a time when people are using it to circumvent politics in the UK.

And the huge lesson for us is that the technology is neither particularly complicated, nor especially expensive or labour-intensive to run.

Obama’s web strategy is focused solely on making the vital work which goes on in town halls and on doorsteps work better.

The lesson is that internet campaigning should also be about giving supporters the tools they need to get their own message across in their neighbourhood or local area.
However both Simon Dickson and Dave Briggs echo Lammy's talk about web tools being 'cheap, often free, and easy'. They are but the ones Barack employed aren't cheap (e.g. phone banks) , infact they are the legacy of marketing industry tools first deployed by Karl Rove in 2000, and the advisors who created the online campaign come from several years experience (and probably aren't cheap). Plus the traditional marketing spend - TV ads - outweighed it many, many times over. See my post Turning web buzz into votes: how Obama does it for more about the tools the campaign employed.

How they did it was new, in contrast to Hillary there wasn't the normal degree of top-down messaging during the primaries - although this may well change as we get closer to the general election and the 'netroots' is already squirming about that.

And they didn't get everything right - Hillary did better and earlier online marketing - plus one really big lesson is that email remains the killer app.

Plus US politics is very different to UK politics. Plus the US is 6x bigger - scale matters. Plus the campaign is oppositional (one reason why the right are bigger online in the UK).

In short, Barack's campaign is very inspiring but very open to picking up from it the wrong lessons.

Here's some for Lammy:
  1. once November is past, Labour should go hiring
  2. he should be arguing for a shift in party spending to online
  3. (and this was the meat of his speech) - he should also look at how Labour can adapt to become less top-down and encourage and empower the base (but this goes against the actions of the last twenty years or so).
And I think those points are in decreasing order of likelihood.

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