Monday, July 27, 2009

Why the GOP needs a (free) Twitter

Twitter really is addicting.

In my pre-Faulkner Strategies days, I wandered the sidewalks of my college campus, pointing my finger and laughing at those social media elitists “tweeting” away on their crackberries. Silly kids, Twitter is for old people, I thought.

So wrong.

A coworker forced me to make a Twitter account 3 hours into my first day of work. I grimaced, sucked it up, and made an account. Since that day, I’ve traveled far and wide in the Twitterland universe, hacking hashtags and conversing with complete strangers. But alas, my journey of Twitter happiness may come to an abrupt end soon.

At a recent media summit at the Sun Valley resort, Twitter rumors ran wild. Although the summit was closed to the media (ironic), it was leaked that the media gurus discussed the possibility of Twitter charging their users for the service.

Bad idea.

The fee to use Twitter probably wouldn’t be real high. But we’d see a decrease in the number of young Twitter users. Which could mean bad things for the Twitter world. And , I believe, bad things for the Republican Party.

Obama captivated the majority of young voters in 2008. He was everywhere: on TV, in college newspapers, and even on college campuses. His presence on the Internet helped young people relate to him. The Republican Party hasn’t done much to appeal to the young voting population – until now.

Unlike Facebook, Twitter allows users to follow celebrities and high-profile politicians. And, not surprisingly, young people are eager to do so. According to a recent survey by Pace University, 54 percent of young Twitter users follow famous individuals.

So what does this have to do with the Republican Party?

According to a February Washington Times article, the Republicans seem to “finally get it” when it comes to using new media. At the time of publishing, 49 of 219 Repubs in Congress were Tweeting, compared with 27 of 317 Democrats. Other high-profile Republicans, such as Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and Newt Gingrich are also daily users. The GOP presence on Twitter provides the Party with something it hasn’t had thus far: a direct link to the young population. Their 140-character spin-free messages quickly reach readers, and provide them with an inside look at the politicians’ thoughts. The use of this innovative technology is priceless for Republicans, who young people often view as “old” and “out-of-touch” with the times.

If Twitter remains a free tool (for the sake of my attention span in lecture, let’s hope it does), Republicans have the potential to increase their popularity among young voters. Since utilizing Twitter is the most youthful thing the GOP has done since Sarah Palin had a baby, this is a big deal.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Early Years: Making the Most out of Campaign Events

My boss (Chris Faulkner) isn’t always a chatty person in the office. But this week, I got the pleasure of listening to him talk for 15 full minutes on his latest podcast, “The Early Years: Making the Most out of Campaign Events”. By listening to it, I learned more in 15 minutes than I did in an entire semester’s worth of “Elections 2008”. Then again, I didn’t expect to learn much when I realized my professor was incapable of moving past his slides plastered with Sarah Palin photographs. Sick old man.

But seriously – take a few minutes out of your day and listen in.

Chris offers a step-by-step way to improve the “usual” campaign event strategy. He talks about the importance of what can be taken away from an event. Sure, coming in and firing up the crowd is important, he says, but that fire will cool off soon after the event ends. To be successful, a candidate must have a system in place at the event to churn up support afterward. Nothing butta’ than that. (Laugh.) To do that, utilizing volunteers effectively is necessary.

Campaigns shouldn’t just blindly herd a group of volunteers. Rather, assigning specific responsibilities will produce better results, he says. For example, Chris talks about creating a “bumper sticker team” (not to be confused with Bloomington liberals). The team will be at events, armed with campaign bumper stickers, Windex, and paper towels. As people exit (and when enthusiasm is high), the volunteers can ask the drivers if they’d be okay with having a bumper sticker on the back of their vehicles. This way, the bumper stickers actually end up on cars and not small children’s t-shirts. And, as we all know, car travel is much faster (and therefore effective) than kid travel. Unless your child is a Transformer.

The bumper sticker team is just one of Chris’s suggestions. Listen to the rest of the podcast to learn how to gain contact information from prospective voters and volunteers and how to engage event attendees with some simple photography.

To hear more of Chris’s suggestions, you can download his podcast on iTunes (search for Chris Faulkner) or by going to

Cubs' PR is Pretty Ridiculous

When you’re in baseball, you can get away with saying a lot more than the average person.

Last month, Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella singlehandedly demonstrated the need for better PR management in the sporting industry.

Rather than trying to accurately convey the idiotic statements by Lou, I’ll let his “words of wisdom” do the job:

(6/27) "Look, I'm 66 years old. I feel like 68." (Lou is actually 65.)

(6/26) "Look, I have smoked dope one time in my life. And it didn't do a damn thing for me, and I never tried it again. I'm fortunate because of that. A lot of people do. You can even buy it in California from a pharmacy.”

(6/17) "What do I need to show fire for? I'm not a dragon."

(6/17) “I wouldn’t know a steroid from a reefer.”

I’m all for letting the old man speak for himself. It’s important to show fans an honest image of their team’s head honcho. But someone needs to lay down some ground rules before Piniella admits that he has no idea what he’s doing (because, as the Cubs’ record shows, he doesn’t.)

As he should be, Lou continually tries to take the fall for his team’s mistakes off the field. Geovany Soto admitted to using marijuana, so Lou admits it, too. Sammy Sosa gets outed for steroid usage (duh?), and Lou tries to cover it up with his own lack of street smarts.

But apparently no one’s told the longtime manager that his team is terrible, and that he needs to be taking some of the blame for their pathetic performance on the field. Rarely does Lou admit he did something wrong (which I guess is difficult to do, considering he doesn’t actually do ANYTHING).

Lou’s own pride is part of the problem. But the Cubs’ public relations staff needs to remind Lou that his first priority is what happens on the field. And also that the term “reefer” went out a long time ago. Until that happens, Lou will continue to serve as an example for the entire sporting industry (or, arguably, the world) of what not to say to the media. Let his words be a reminder of the importance of good public relations management for all industries.

For more examples of bad PR, check out Carrie Muskat’s articles on Instead of answering fan’s questions directly, she makes jokes and tells riddles. It’s good stuff.