Online and offline integration: there is no baseline

In a world where “there is no baseline,” Year One of Organizing for America tries to provide an aerial view of the activities of the group that formed out of the coalition that mobilized and elected President Obama.

The group is so large that it more or less embodies everything that a campaign can— in both the online and offline realms.  Offline, activities range from petition drives to local events and meetings, and online, activities include the extensive email list and dedicated community-building.  Communications with policy makers are encouraged both online and offline.

For the Obama campaign, digital media interaction actually did cause behavior in real life— the ultimate end-goal for most campaigns whether they aim to sell a product, encourage someone to quit smoking, watch a television show, or support an idea.  New media actual drove political action, like fundraising, event attendance, voter registration, and, ultimately, votes!  An effort as large is this is great because it shows the importance of tailored efforts.  For example, activities around health care were scaled back or increased depending on political action.

Despite the fact that it is an integral part of my job, I had never really stepped back to consider the importance of online and offline campaign integration.  The importance of this cannot be overstressed— not just for political campaigns, either.  It’s proven that the more times people see a message, the more likely they are to absorb it, and the more places a message lives, the more likely people are to see it more than once.  For example, Old Spice’s new advertising campaign is prevalent not only on YouTube, but on television, and I’ve also seen numerous Tweets and a few Facebook posts about it.

This concept was stressed at work this week as well— my employers’ Ogilvy Notes initiative gained much favorable coverage, including from Mashable, proving that sometimes the perfect compliment to something highly digital is something that’s about as old-fashioned as it gets.

In that light, Mobilizing Generation 2.0 was a very interesting compliment to the Organizing for America case study.  While there were some things I did not agree with (e.g., that young adults respond to traditional outreach such as phone calls at the same rates as older adults), on the whole it was a fantastic look at the lives of the newest voters— of which I am a part.  I could definitely relate to many parts of the book, seeing as I am among those who do not have a digital component to their lives, instead, digital is integrated into all of the things that I do.

The overarching theme of the book is that while new platforms are great ways to reach audiences, what’s crucial is the relationship building that these platforms allow, and thus participation in social networks requires research and strategies.  Knowing your audience is key— if you don’t know how they use a platform, how will you know how to reach them?  That’s where this book comes in handy— though it’s a bit out of date, it’s a great learning manual from Rock the Vote— an organization fully intrenched in the subject matter.

The book identifies Millennials as being politically involved, civically active, tech savvy, and influential— making them a group any organization would be remiss not to target.  What the book boils down to is: how can we activate this group ONLINE to mobilize them OFFLINE?  Through blogs, social networks, mobile phones, wikis, maps, and video and photo sharing: that’s how.

A few best practices from the book: authenticity is key — communicate like a person, not like a computer.  Know your audience and your influencers — influencers have their pulse on the audience, and have a wide, authentic reach. By reinforcing offline action with online support, Millennials can be driven to take action and can define a campaign.

Although there is no baseline— one thing is key.  Online relationships that can transition to offline interactions are extremely valuable, and learning to develop those types of relationships is key for the future of politicians, organizations, and corporations.

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