December 18, 2005
On communicating with and via blogs

Larry Stallings, Democratic candidate in HD122, has his campaign site up. I'm one of several people who've sung the praises of the Stallings campaign blog in the past. What I like about it is that it's clearly written by people who understand the form and style of blogging. Look at this post for an example. It starts with a simple hook, leads you through some evidence to get you worked up over an issue, then ties it into the race he's running, in particular the opponent he's running against. That's how you communicate with this medium, and that's how blogging can help a "completely underfunded no-name" candidate get his or her message out there. A good read will find its audience, and that's what they've got. I just hope one of the political beat writers for the Express News picks up on what they're doing over there, because it'll make for a good story.

There's another way that campaign blogs can and should be leveraged for maximal effect, and that's in how it can be used to communicate with other bloggers. I get a ton of campaign material in my inbox these days. Mostly press releases, sometimes with DOC or PDF attachments. It's clearly the intent of the sender that I and as many other media types (old media and new) who receive them that we base a piece of writing on them. Problem is, long emails need to be cut and pasted into a blog post, with hard carriage returns and sometimes beginning-of-the-line carets removed. Embedded DOCs and PDFs can either undergo the cut-and-paste routine, or I can save it to my hard drive, then upload it to my webhost and link to it there.

In either case, the amount of laber I and any other blogger in the BCC list have to do would be greatly reduced if the sender had simply put everything on a webpage to begin with, then sent me a link. Needless to say, a campaign blog is the easiest way for them to accomplish that. I've sent private replies to a couple of attached-file-senders in recent months; I figure as we enter 2006 it'd be best for me to put this in writing here as well. The Chris Bell campaign is tops at doing this, and is in my opinion the best at leveraging a campaign blog with other media (primarily but not exclusively bloggers) that I've seen. They're also effective at taking a campaign theme and responding to feedback from it.

What both of these blogs do well is give other bloggers something to talk about. Press releases have their place, and I've reprinted my share of them, but being a part of the conversation can't be beat. If that means sending different emails to bloggers and other New Meida types than you do to regular media contacts, who may prefer file attachments, and press-release-speak, then so be it. Know your audience and its tastes.

Candidates should also consider engaging bloggers who aren't necessarily on their ideological team. You're trying to persuade people to vote for you, after all, and who knows, you may score. Though I wouldn't be voting for him even if I were in SD7 and felt the need to cross over in the primary to have a say in who wins, I have to give Joe Nixon (really his campaign communications guy Jim McGrath, whom I met several months ago) credit for including me in his distribution list. This isn't a risk-free move - you have to pick your targets with some care, and you're likely to get mostly criticism, but as Oscar Wilde might have said, the only thing worse than being blogged about is not being blogged about. Given that the main conservative blogs in Houston are either not generally focused on campaigns or were founded by one of his primary opponents, Nixon didn't have much choice if he wanted to play in the game, but still he made that choice. He gave me something to talk about, I took it, and now maybe there's a few voters in SD7 who know something about his campaign that they might not have found out otherwise.

Finally, whatever the means by which a candidate communicates with bloggers, a little creativity and a dash of something new never hurts. Barbara Radnofsky recently added to her press page a set of downloadable bumper stickers and yard signs, complete with instructions for printing them from your home computer. Far as I can tell, she's the first candidate to come up with such a thing, even though when you think about it, it's forehead-slappingly obvious. Clever and cool is always worth a mention.

That's my manifesto for how a campaign should communicate with bloggers. What do you think?

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 18, 2005 to Blog stuff | TrackBack

Until last week, our little blog was all we had to communicate with the public. Now we have a website (by rank amateurs, mind you), but it links prominently to our baby blog. We are trying to make the blog not only a bit entertaining, but authentically reflective of the candidate. The snark, though, is purely the responsibility of the Irish women in his life - what he cannot ignore, he tries to channel into some sort of politically useful way. He feels the real issues that face us are deeply moral issues, and he uses the blog for his "preachin'". Besides, press releases are just so mind-numbingly dull, we couldn't make it thru a campaign cycle (yawn) writing those. Hence, the campaign blog. So, Blogfather, what can we do to improve it IYHO?

Posted by: dksbook on December 18, 2005 11:38 PM

Yes, I have seen them today: Bill O'Reilly, starring in "A Pirate's Life for Me".


Posted by: PDiddie on December 19, 2005 3:34 PM

Thank you for your kind words! We are havin' a good time with our blog. When you have no money and nothing to lose, you can have a whole helluva alot of fun!

Posted by: COMM-D on December 19, 2005 4:15 PM