If you recall, a few days ago when I was talking about Vision and Mission statements, I mentioned my old marketing professor from UCSC Ken Germann. Well, after writing that post and mentioning him, I decided to send him an email to see how we was doing, we chatted a bit and I invited him to write a post on my blog, which he did.
By Ken Germann
A recent study supported by the MacArthur Foundation verified what Facebook and MySpace users already knew; playing online games and using the web creates more technical savvy and socially skilled users. Over the past four years social networking has taken on a new political dimension. Maybe the real story is that there are no stories about the growing importance of this trend. There is an assumption that what started in the 2004 Democratic primaries is now the norm.
At the turn of the 20th century Theodore Roosevelt took public relations coverage to an art form. Whenever Teddy did anything like taking a trip west or a game safari in Africa, reporters from many daily papers were dispatched to cover the event. In the 1930’s Theodore’s cousin, Franklin Roosevelt, used the radio in his Fireside Chats to the American public. John Kennedy, in 1960, defeated Richard Nixon because he had mastered TV and apparently won the first televised presidential debates. In 1980 Ronald Regan was able to convince American voters, through the use of televised debates, that he was not just an actor, but a politician capable of effectuating voter desired change.
In 2004 then Governor Howard Dean was able to use the internet as a source of volunteers and funding. President-elect Barack Obama, like his predecessors, took Dean’s idea well beyond what was thought of as possible. Obama 21 months ago was a relatively unknown senator from Illinois. Senator Hillary Clinton controlled most of the party’s fund raising apparatus; endorsements and state election committees. Senator Oabama used the internet to create heightened voter recognition and support by using his website to set out position papers on key issues like health and renewable energy. He was able to harness the internet to develop a very effective “Change” campaign.
In the process Obama reached many people who had previously been disenfranchised, including minorities, young people and people who had become disillusioned with the political process. Obama’s campaign used their website to raise hundreds of millions of dollars from millions of donors. Most of the donations were less that $100.00. The Obama campaign was able to raise so much money that it did not have to participate in Federal funding and was able to outspend the McCain committee by a 6 to 1 ratio at the end of the campaign. The website became a communications tool to organize voter registration drives both in the primaries and the general election. The website was also a useful way of responding to allegations made by Senator John McCain’s election campaign. This served two useful functions; first, allegations were responded to immediately and secondly, the Senator could concentrate on his positive messages of change.
The late and great communications guru, Marshall McLuhn, in his book, The Media is the Message, articulated the theory that the method of the communications is as important as the message itself. Obama’s incredibly successful use of the internet as a method of political communication has revolutionized future elections. The three authors of The Federalist Papers referred to the “marketplace of ideas.” The internet with its millions of websites, blogging spheres and users come as close to Alexander Hamilton’s the principle author of The Federalist Papers, notion of marketplace. This medium will not literally replace television, radio and print journalism. What it will do is supplant them in importance in the following areas; fund raising, organizing volunteers and political discourse. How quickly online political networking has become main stream is the current byproduct of the recently held Presidential election.
Ken Germann has an MBA, J.D. and Ph.D completed coursework. He is currently a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz where he lectures in marketing and is a member of the faculty for the international MBA program. Ken is also the principal at Germann & Germann, a virtual consulting firm which has worked with clients such as AMD, Peoplesoft, Symantec, and National Semiconductor.
thoughts/comments/ideas? let’s hear ’em!