The Enduring Value of the Online Communications Tripod

Working on a presentation for tomorrow’s Vocus user conference, I’m stuck by how often I keep coming back to a simple model for online organizing: the tripod. The basic idea (which I stole from Josh McConaha a while back) is that most online advocacy campaigns end up with three essential components:

  • An online hub (usually a website although it could be a MySpace profile, a Facebook fan page or a blog)
  • Some way of keeping in touch with people (usually email though it could also be Twitter or a social network)
  • Online outreach (everything from blogger relations to video to social networking)

The great thing about this idea is that it breaks online communications down by function, into a structure that’s easy to digest. People often get overwhelmed by the sheer number of communications options available online — paralyzed by the plethora of channels! But the tripod model puts the pieces in context without isolating them from each other, since each reinforces the other: online outreach sends people to the website, where they’re captured on an email list, which in turn keeps them involved in online outreach, and so on.

Once a campaign has the basics down (the website’s doing its job, the email list is up and running), outreach should be a natural extension, with the choice of tools being driven by an organization’s goals and capabilities. While a policy-driven campaign might benefit from publishing a blog, for instance, a group that’s more focused on media outreach might find blogger relations a good fit, and a campaign with a strong spokesperson could score a hit with online video. Just as long as the pieces work together…


Written by
Colin Delany
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