Bless Andy Burkett, the former Facebook digital savior hired by the RNC after the famous 2012 digital ‘autopsy’ of failed digital operations. Saturday, Burkett appeared at a Lincoln Labs event in San Francisco and elaborated on his previous statements about the dearth of digital regard at the RNC. The digerati sigh and wonder wearily if this continuing indictment will ever be closed. The RNC hired a savior, from Facebook for cryin’ out loud, for its digital game, but conceptually couldn’t harness his expertise so generously offered.
“Read the whole thing” as they say – at both links above.
Like many digital people (myself included), Andy was disliked and regarded as abrasive because he looked at hard numbers to blow operatives’ blithe political talk with the objective of achieving real measurable results with some real authority. Burkett at the RNC was death on political operatives who could talk a good game, but had no real digital skills. That delta shows up quite quickly in a real digital person’s eyes. Both stories above furnish lavish quotes on Burkett’s open contempt for the digital poseurs.
When Mike Shields was RNC Chief of Staff, he and I had several long conversations about things like sharing emails and answering every email that comes in to a campaign; yes, even a presidential campaign (hint: it only takes about 18 good volunteers). He didn’t get either point at all; probably because he did not want to get the point. If your campaign becomes a user of the vaunted RNC Voter Vault, or Data Center, or Data Beacon or whatever name it bears this week, you’ll discover a paucity of email addresses being shared with you. Ask for more? You’ll be directed to FLS Connect where you can buy them at $0.14 per… corrupt crony capitalism to profit former RNC staffers – while the Democrats share email addresses with campaigns for free, because they know it’s essential to victory. RNC? Not so much.
It’ll be highly visible, and instantly, the minute the RNC switches their digital priority from crony profit to widespread conservative political victory.
For a little over 18 months, I’ve worked as National Digital Director for a campaign without a candidate until just very recently (May 4). Nevertheless, without a candidate, we raised $17 million and put nearly 30,000 volunteers into the field. We have amazing talents on board as volunteers. We tried many scary innovations – most of which worked, and only a very few that failed (my own favorite was a spectacular flop). With an eye cocked toward such papers as ‘Inside the Cave’ (the RNC autopsy) and other obvious tips ‘n’ tricks every worthy digital person knows anyway, we went to work worth a vengeance to prove the value of smart digital. With the results obvious in today’s polls.
Is the RNC interested in learning how this campaign did it? No. They already know it all. They are, after all, the RNC. Their teacup of knowledge is already full and neither the Zen master nor the Grasshopper can pour any more worthy thoughts into it.
As Burkett discovered to his ‘political’ misfortune, if you’re not a favored ex-RNC staffer, forget about doing digital business with the RNC – if you are, you have open license to publicly shortchange important political clients to save a programmer an hour of work. Anybody trying to upset that particular and highly profitable apple cart is quickly dis-invited from the party. Literally. The campaigns, especially the small ones to get our farm team trained, suffer as a result.
But take heart digital folk, highly effective digital (and even inexpensive) is available for even your small campaign if you are clever – just don’t look to the RNC or state party (except maybe in Nevada) for good digital leadership.
As I’ve noted before, the price of good voter data for your district continues it’s free fall and good campaign digital (with best practices already applied for you) is will within reach of even the smallest campaign. Look for it. Google is your friend – more political digital expertise is shared openly on Google than you might suspect – just keep a close eye on publication dates so you are certain you are not using ‘expertise’ from 2004.
Ron Robinson has spent the last 18 months as National Digital Director for the Draft Carson campaign (now The 2016 Committee). He lives in LA, and is a former local GOP official (but still a GOP delegate). He has a jaundiced eye for highly impeachable political claims and a natural affinity for authoritative hard numbers.