For Republicans, the calendar couldn’t turn over from 2012 fast enough. The last two months have been a fog worse than any New Year’s Eve hangover. But if there is a silver lining, it’s that maybe, just maybe, leaders on our side are taking a hard look at how technology can be leveraged to win elections. To kick off the New Year right, here are three technology resolutions that GOP leaders and operatives should embrace in 2013:
1. Lose Objections
Many of us make an annual commitment to lose weight around this time of year. And while that resolution may or may not make it through the end of the month, one commitment we do need to keep is to lose the objections to embracing technology-driven campaigning. Too often, politics is a zero sum game. The winner gets all of the credit and the loser is universally rejected. Despite Howard Dean’s innovations in 2004, Republicans refused to examine his successful experiment tapping into online communities. Same for Ron Paul. But these innovations were important, and lit a path for Barack Obama to follow in 2008 and 2012. But Obama did win, so now people are paying attention.
The innovation of Obama’s campaign was how they reengineered traditional campaign activities. Harper Reed, Obama 2012’s Chief Technology Officer, told an interviewer, “The innovation was not the technology. The innovation was the ground game.” Another article proclaimed the “Death of the Hunch” after it was revealed that Jim Messina and company were relentlessly focused on metrics and allowed their analytics to drive campaign decisions.
Embrace the digital era, and commit to approaching campaigns as data-driven activities.
2. Learn A New Skill
WIthin the next couple of cycles, I predict there will no longer be a role for the “digital director” because digital responsibilities will be integrated completely into traditional campaign roles like the Communications Director, Political Director, and Finance Director. So if you are in communications, political, or finance, take 2013 to learn digital inside and out, and how you can use it to do your job better. Digital is no longer someone else’s job, it’s your job. That doesn’t mean you need to understand algorithms like a data scientist or PHP like a web developer, but you do need to understand the principles driving digital innovation and how to apply them to your plans.
3. Help Others
I’m hopeful that at least a few people reading this post are digital professionals. If so, God bless you. You’ve endured cycle after cycle of the “old pros” telling you that digital is a side show, that your job is to push the button they tell you to push, that you’re a second-class citizen at the strategic table, and so forth. But now those voices have been beaten so badly and so frequently that candidates and leaders are finally starting to look around. And they’re looking to you.
Want to take full advantage of this opportunity? Here’s my take: use it to help others. The Republican Party needs our digital professionals to step up and lead, and smart leaders know one of their responsibilities is to empower others. Attend conferences, engage online, blog, meet local consultants and party leaders for coffee. Help walk them through best practices in digital technology. Tell them about that cool thing Coca-Cola did on Facebook, or the crazy Old Spice stunt. Show them how best practices in digital communications and Big Data can be applied to politics and advocacy.
I know there are a lot of mean, selfish, back-stabbing people in our industry. They’re actually in every industry. That’s just part of life. They’re the people who got us in this mess. But there are good, responsible leaders looking for solutions. And you’re just the person to provide ideas to them. Empower others and you will be rewarded as a leader.
It’s a new year. A new cycle. With new opportunity. What resolutions will you keep to help Republicans innovate and win?