Where Obama leads, we all follow. That is undoubtedly the case in the area of blogging and new media.
One of this competition’s organisers, Ruth Spencer has posed a question to us Th!nkers: “What would you say to the question of how the TH!NK project and Obama’s campaign are related?”
“On March 4th, 2009 I will be speaking on a panel at Digital News Affairs Brussels. It’s a two day conference on the evolution of media and news, and the programma looks wonderful! Check it out here: www.dna2009.com . The panel’s topic is on alternative media strategies used in political campaigns - and the main focus is OBAMA.
I hope to shed some light on this. Last week, I was thrilled to be able to hear from Obama’s digital guru and (not so) secret online weapon, Thomas Gensemer. A managing partner of Blue State Digital, the company behind the campaign, Gensemer played a pivotal role in engaging the US electorate in Obama’s vision.
The numbers speak for themselves. Through my.barackobama.com, more than a billion emails were sent out to over 13.5 million email subscribers throughout Obama’s presidential campaign. It resulted in half a billion dollars in donations being raised.
One of the main lessons Gensemer sought to proffer was: ‘Use tools, not gimmicks’.
“For all the talk of social networking, blogs, and mobile applications, email is still the ‘killer app’. Our email list of 13.5 million individual email subscribers was the backbone of the campaign.”
His main point was: “The lesson of the Obama campaign is to use tools to facilitate a message.”
So by all means, we should be blogging away, twittering away, YouTubing and Facebooking to our hearts’ delight. But none of that should distract from the message. The message is king.
But the man behind Obama’s online presence has more of a connection to the European Parliamentary elections than just a question from Ruth Spencer. Because Gensemer has moved on from delivering one massive American message to a crucial European one.
He will be bringing his internet expertise to bear in the run-up to June, by working to prevent the (extremist, racist, homophobic …) British National Party [no, I'm not going to link to their website] from gaining seats.
Working with Searchlight, his efforts will focus on the Hope not Hate campaign website. I will be following this element of the campaign with a beady eye over the coming weeks and months. The BNP have a pretty good (and much-talked about) chance of getting several seats in the European Parliament. And as Gensemer points out, they will then be representing every one of us (British citizens) on an international stage. I for one can say that that sends a chill down my spine. It will be one hell of an achievement if the online savvy employed for the Obama campaign can be used to prevent that.