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Successful Online Campaigning

Successful Online Campaigning

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Published by Brad Tidwell
In the past 3 decades, there has been a dramatic shift in the way political candidates, particularly presidential candidates, use the internet as a platform for increasing name recognition, gaining political support, fundraising and other purposes. The author proposes that the success of the political website depends on three distinguishing factors- planning, execution and maintenance. The paper begins by tracing the use of political websites in presidential campaigns, starting in 1996, and continuing into the 2008 presidential election. Specifically, the paper covers the degree to which each website utilized the model of planning, execution and maintenance, and its positive and negative factors which went into the process. It will also go into detail about how branding and graphic design have been incorporated with the recent trend towards social networking, and how that played to Obama’s advantage in the 2008 election.
In the past 3 decades, there has been a dramatic shift in the way political candidates, particularly presidential candidates, use the internet as a platform for increasing name recognition, gaining political support, fundraising and other purposes. The author proposes that the success of the political website depends on three distinguishing factors- planning, execution and maintenance. The paper begins by tracing the use of political websites in presidential campaigns, starting in 1996, and continuing into the 2008 presidential election. Specifically, the paper covers the degree to which each website utilized the model of planning, execution and maintenance, and its positive and negative factors which went into the process. It will also go into detail about how branding and graphic design have been incorporated with the recent trend towards social networking, and how that played to Obama’s advantage in the 2008 election.

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Published by: Brad Tidwell on Dec 15, 2010
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BradTidwellTulaneUniversity,WashingtonSemesterProgramDecember
2008

 Successful Online Campaigningfor National Office: A Focus onthe 2008 Presidential Campaign

{
ABSTRACT
}
 The Internet has been an effective tool that has changed every area of the public world,and politics is no exception. In the past 3 decades, there has been a dramatic shift in the way political candidates, particularly presidential candidates, use the internet as aplatform for increasing name recognition, gaining political support, fundraising andother purposes. The author proposes that the success of the political website depends onthree distinguishing factors- planning, execution and maintenance. The paper begins by tracing the use of political websites in presidential campaigns, starting in 1996, andcontinuing into the 2008 presidential election. Specifically, the paper will cover thedegree to which each website utilized the model of planning, execution and maintenance,and its positive and negative factors which went into the process. It will also go intodetail about how branding and graphic design have been incorporated with the recenttrend towards social networking, and how that played to Obama’s advantage in the 2008election.
 
 
Tidwell|1
Introduction and Overview
The greatest goal of democracy is to empower the citizenry to work with itsgovernment for the greatest overall good. Until recently, this goal had to be met throughthe necessary compromise of representative majority, where in many cases; a few wouldrepresent many, usually in a manner that was necessarily fitted towards a trustee rolerather than a pure delegate format. At bare minimum, there were relatively few instanceswhere the representatives could reliably communicate with their constituents. As withany proportional representation, input would only be as fast as the communication thatwas available during that time. But now, as with every other area of communication, theface of political communication is changing like never before.The age of digital instant communication has changed much of our world already,and the time has come where it can begin to modify the processes and structures of democracy as well. We already have a society where 42 percent of voters now look to theInternet for information about candidates- traditional news sources dominate at 88 percent of voters looking at Internet for information, while the actual campaign websitesfor the candidates garnered only a paltry 30 percent.
1 
By creating and utilizing effectivewebsites, policymakers can gain access into a great untapped reserve of previouslyunreachable constituencies in a way that is truly unprecedented. This separates itself fromgeneralized public polling because this method allows politicians to get access to thesevoters in their native environment- engaging interest at the source. Since the first politicalwebsites for presidential candidacy were developed for the 1996 election betweenClinton and Dole, there have been many marked improvements.

1
iCrossing,2007
 
Tidwell|2
To understand the evolution of presidential online campaigning, it is important toask- what are the elements of a successful Internet campaign? All of the websites can bedescribed within the framework of a single model, which will serve to describe thefunction of all political campaign websites. These follow the model of Planning,Execution and Maintenance. Ultimately, the websites which best execute all three stagesof the model will have the most success. Success of these websites can be defined interms of measurable outputs such as funds raised, email lists acquired, meeting groupsexecuted, volunteers enlisted and other nebulous self-reported data. And, as campaignsare necessarily as unique as the candidates they represent, there will be numerousdifferences between the campaign websites, which will make the goal of creating fair comparisons and contrasts significantly harder. The specific application of this modelwill be different for each campaign and depend on the technology of the day. However,the model of Planning, Execution and Maintenance allows these websites to be comparedfairly in terms of shared components. All of these features can be independentlymeasured separate from the partisan nature of the actual campaigns, a significant featurein that this model as described should be able to identify universally effective techniquesfor online campaigning as well as partisan techniques which can create an edge for a particular side.Online campaigning has only recently had the extensive impact we’ve seen in the2008 election. But by looking at the 2008 election in conjunction with the previous presidential elections that used Internet campaigning, one can see a clear method of determining effective strategy. Through looking at the Planning, Execution andMaintenance of the websites, specific strategies emerge. Planning ultimately involves

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