Guest author! Actually, a guest no more: on the heels of his well-received piece on the Martha Coakley campaign, Henri Makembe will be contributing to e.politics regularly starting with the words below. BTW, how’s that next article coming, Henri? We have column-inches to fill here, buddy! Welcome aboard! And who out there in reader-land would like to be the next victim, er, contributor?
Five Talents Campaign Managers Should Look For in a New Media Director
As the fall elections approach, many campaigns, large and small, are staffing up. Since I’m on many different online politics-related listservs, I’ve seen a number of postings from campaigns looking for the kind of talent that will lead them victory. As in past cycles, I’ve seen a number of posts for finance directors, field directors, field organizers/canvassers and campaign managers. Unlike in past cycles, one position that seems to garner a lot of attention is that of new media director/manager. The listings usually include some or all of the following tasks:
- Manage campaign presence on all social networking mediums (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, and so on)
- Manage campaign website and blog, including all multimedia content (video, audio, photos, etc.)
- Manage voter file databases
- Monitoring chatter about our candidates
- Have experience with XYZ software package
These types of listings serve to highlight that campaigns are not yet aware of what they should be looking for in a new media director. For instance, a new media director should be a high-level position. While s/he should not be afraid to get hands dirty when needed, the position should be at the same level as field director, finance director and communication direct and should also report directly to campaign manager or candidate. Campaign managers should be looking for a skillset that make the hire not just a “doer” but also “thinker.” Consequently, I’d argue that campaigns should be looking for the following in their new media director candidates:
Experience on the campaign trail
Campaigns, especially those at the local level, usually make the mistake of offering new media jobs to recent college grads, a friend with a blog or even “the high school geek.” This is a fundamental mistake: these people usually do not have campaign experience and are not ready for the grueling demands of a campaign. It’s a decision is usually based on two false perceptions, first that a new media director with experience is an expensive hire, and second that a new media director must be on staff. The reality is that, especially the local level, a new media director can be a consultant and need only be present during strategy calls/meetings and be easily reachable should any crisis occur. The people that need to be around daily are staff and volunteers executing the plan. Candidates and campaign managers should think of new media director as an Architect — he or she devises the plans and checks in that construction is going well and on schedule, but does not necessarily do any actual building. All in all, it’s much better to have someone with experience architecting a campaign’s new media plan for the obvious reason that he or she can draw from past experience and help the campaign avoid common pitfalls.
Personnel management experience
This requirement stems from the belief that every campaign should have a new media team. As such, the new media director should the person overseeing that team. This requires basic academic understanding of how team works and how to motivate individuals, especially those working for little or no pay. Managing staffers or volunteers will prove to be a challenge of its own, having someone with experience in charge can only be helpful. Good techies aren’t always good leaders!
While your new media director should not be required to have coding skills of developer at Google or Microsoft, s/he should have a good grasp of the technologies at play. With reasonable technical abilities, the new media director should be able to set realistic timeline on projects and avoid spending energy implement technologies would be in play still end of the campaign. Moreover, an individual with adequate technical background would better understand the requirements for third party tools to integrate and increase efficiency.
Communication skills & project management experience
If placed correctly in the campaign hierarchy and given the adequate level of decision making, a new media director will touch all facets of the campaign as well as overseeing the actual new media team. And given the fact many campaigns inevitably end up undertaking website building and tools integration, it’s imperhas project management experience the new media director be able to communicate affectively both orally and in written form. S/he will be handling multiple moving pieces with various deadlines attached to them in the heat of campaign. Being able to plan and manage those projects as well as affectively communicate the needs of campaigns, the deadlines and possible pitfalls are a must.
Lastly, a new media director has to be a strategic what s/he wants to build and spent the campaign refining that vision. One the problem plaguing new media is the cookie cutter approach, i.e., we have to sign up for all major social networks and fill them up with as much content as possible. Indeed such an approach does not require much vision or experience. However, an affective new media strategy is one tailored for the campaign based on story the candidate trying to tell, the resource available to tell that story and community’s use of the internet. A candidate with these skills is likely to be a great asset to any campaign at any level.
And unfortunately, probably all too rare…. Thanks Henri! Looking forward to the next one.