November 13th, 2008
Cross-posted on techPresident
As reported on TPM Cafe yesterday, the Obama transition team has named its first online communications staff: Macon Phillips, formerly of Blue State Digital and the Obama campaign, will head new media, and Jesse Lee will handle “online communications,” meaning outreach. A couple of observations: first, note how early these guys are being hired — the election was only a week ago, and the new media team is already being put into place. Think the Obama folks might understand how critical online communications is in a modern political environment?
Second, note that while Phillips comes from the technology/strategy side, Lee deals with people on the web — he’s been a blogger himself and has great relations with the lefty political blogs (MyDD is pleased, while Aravosis just about blows a gasket over the guy), plus he has the sharp political experience of working with the DCCC in a very successful 2006 election cycle. Another hire: friend-of-e.politics Cammie Croft, who’ll also be working on “online communications.”
This combination of skills is something that advocacy groups and future election campaigns should note. When organizations talk about online communications, they’re often thinking about tools and technology — websites, content management systems, advocacy/CRM systems, etc. And technology is of course key, since you usually can’t get a whole lot done online without it.
But when you’re trying to shape the online discussion and make your case in public, sometimes the phone or a discreet and behind-the-scenes email provides the best channel (guess what: much of what you read on lefty political blogs is discussed and sometimes coordinated first on various back-channel email lists). A good technology person can get you the right system at the right time, but a good communications person knows when to pick up the phone and make a human connection. For a modern political operation intending to use the ‘net effectively, both skills are essential.