In her presentation this morning, Morra Aarons-Mele made an excellent observation: internet staffers for political campaigns are expected to do everything and to know everything. The same is true in the advocacy world: when I was at the former National Environmental Trust, at various times I was a graphic designer, an HTML coder, an online communications strategist, an email advocacy guy, a database manager, a blog outreacher, a site statistics analyst, a social networking pro, an online advertiser and a trainer of interns — sometimes all in the same day. About the only things I didn’t do were to blog for the organization and to raise money online, and that was only because NET didn’t do those things.
Web staffers are expected to have a broader range of skills than any other part of a campaign or organization (example: do you expect your press relations folks to be fundraising experts?), and yet they’re still often underpaid and kept out of critical communications decisions until late in the process. Bizarre. Oh, and BTW, I can’t fix your computer — it amazed me how often people confused my job with that of our actual (and excellent) IT guy.
I can only assume that this situation exists because the ‘net seems like voodoo to traditional political staff, who often seem to have little idea what actually goes into online communications. As the ‘net insinuates itself more and more into politics at all levels, a change had better come — as Zack Exley put it, you won’t hire an internet person and put him or her in a box, you’ll hire communications staff who actually understand how to use the internet.