Guest Post By: Matt Sloustcher

Last week the Obama campaign released an official iPhone application, a step the campaign hopes will bolster support among voters, draw in loads of revenue and keep the base well informed. Let’s put away politics for a few minutes and take a look at the effectiveness of the application from a communications standpoint.Obamaapp

The basic features of the application include obvious elements that any campaign communications adviser would suggest: News, issues and updates and images from the campaign trail including polling data, reactions from pundits and a means to sign up for regular updates via email or text message.

Other features, however, are much more telling.

Understanding that staunch Obama supporters would download the application in waves, the campaign turned the application into a powerful volunteering tool rather than strictly a means for rallying the base. The first menu option available when you open the program is Call Friends. This feature prioritizes your contact list by key battleground states, allowing you to quickly determine which urgent areas you need to lobby your friends in. From there, you can call your friends with just one touch. Another feature, Get Involved, allows you to quickly contact your local Obama campaign headquarters using the iPhone’s nifty GPS feature so local offices will get the unique support they need. The Local Events feature lets individual constituencies know when an event is happening in their area. From there, users can get maps and directions to the event. Finally, there’s a little green button on the bottom left that connects users with the official Obama donations hotline.

Building the application in this fashion is reflective of a team which understands that digital communications is not only a means for transmitting information to their base, but also a platform for bridging connections with undecided voters, generating increased revenue and extending the volunteer network. No data on the amount of money raised via the application has been released, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that iPhone users shelling out at least eighty bucks a month on cell phone fees have disposable income at hand. It also suggests that the campaign took notice of Ron Paul’s impressive feat last November, raising $4.2 million in just hours. With innovative fundraising techniques like this, it’s no surprise Obama is stomping McCain in fundraising overall, including a whopping $223 million in contributions of less than $200.

When you consider the average iPhone user – young, technically sound – this move seems even smarter coming from a campaign that has prided itself on bridging a deep connection with young voters and improving turnout amongst the 18-24 category. And according to unscientific observations from my friend Joey, a mechanical engineering graduate student at the University of Arizona, “Everyone I see on campus carrying an iPhone probably votes Obama. Why wouldn’t he put out an official app?”

I hope that, if Obama is elected, he will continue to leverage this and other social media tools to communicate with his audiences. As Steve Cody and Sam Ford recently wrote in BusinessWeek, it’s important that the new president “puts at least as much energy into using digital tools to explain what they’re doing to make good on their promises as they did in selling them to us.”

Whether or not this strategy will move the needle for Obama remains to be seen, but Obama’s presence and McCain’s absence from the app store only adds to the growing perception that McCain is out of touch among young voters.

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By: Sam Ford, PepperDigital

I had the pleasure yesterday of being a guest on New Hampshire Public Radio’s Word of Mouth for a brief conversation on how national government and big business both might benefit from the digital communications provided by “Web 2.0.”

The 10-minute conversation or so touched on a few of the issues Steve Cody and I covered in our recent BusinessWeek guest editorial, The Fireside Chat Vs. the Podcast.

While I bumbled through the conversation with host Virginia Prescott, the article goes into greater depth about our argument on how the candidates we see in elections often don’t run nearly as digitally savvy an administration after the fact.  In other words, the desire to be transparent and have us know exactly what a politician is much higher when they’re on the campaign trail than when they’re being a “public servant.”

But, while I might lambast many areas of government for not being digitally savvy (see here), there’s no question that there’s one branch of the national government interested in investing more heavily than ever in digital technology: National Public Radio (and PBS).

(more…)

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By: Joe Becker, PepperDigital

The other day my digital colleague posted a blog on Obama’s campaign announcing the VP selection via text message.  Before I gave my cell number to the Obama camp, I noticed another article in yesterday’s Times on the savvy digital endeavors Obama has established.

On Thursday August 28th, at next week’s Democratic Convention in Denver, Obama is set to deliver his “Mile High” keynote acceptance speech in front of 70,000+ people at INVESCO Field.  What’s unique and compelling is that the campaign is encouraging everyone in attendance to text, email and send video files of the speech to friends and peers.  They plan to turn the football stadium into a literal word of mouth media satellite for everyone to enjoy…Wow.

Obama’s Campaign has certainly understood the power of digital communications, and more importantly has appropriately engaged with people to spread messages via word of mouth.  In a recent BusinessWeek story titled The Fireside Chat versus the Podcast, Steve Cody and Sam Ford disscused the importance of digital communications from our governing bodies.  I couldn’t agree more, and -politics aside- wouldn’t be surprised if this candidate created a podcast series to share his thoughts on the country while sitting in the Oval Office.


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