Myspace, YouTube & the Yankees; An interview with Romney’s guy, Kevin Madden

One of the greatest things about being in the political communications business is that you can always find someone smarter than you are who will take you under their wing, teach you what they know about the business, or in my case as the “modern media” guy, get yelled at when you make a mistake. In other words, I’ve had many extremely bright and successful communicators who have contributed to my growth and understanding of the world of political communication. And I’m thankful to every single one of them.

Kevin Madden imageOne of those people (for many of us who served on the Hill) was/is Kevin Madden, Mitt Romney’s press secretary who used to flack for Tom DeLay and John Boehner. Madden is one of the most well-respected guys in the mainstream media and on the blogs (at least the conservative ones).

In an effort to better understand how technology will impact your next campaign, it’s critical to pay attention to what is happening at the 30,000 foot level. So I’ve asked Kevin Madden to answer a few questions via email. This interview focuses on the changing dynamic in the political sphere with regard to modern media, myspace, YouTube, and, of course, the New York Yankees.

So without further porridge being piled on Kevin…let’s dig in.

Mitt Romney myspace image1. Recently, Mitt Romney (and other candidates) launched an official myspace profile page as part of its 2008 Impact campaign. Have you noticed any donations coming in from myspace contributors? Any estimate on how much financial support or what the average donation appears to be? In other words, are there any general trends, e.g., low dollar, recurring monthly, etc. that you can share? How is your campaign working to identify new pockets of opportunity to raise financial support through this new medium?

I can’t go into much detail about our Internet fundraising profiles as of right now, but I can say that we have enjoyed considerable success raising campaign resources online. A portion of that success is a result of the work we have done building these online communities via MySpace and Facebook. It’s also a result of the impressive multimedia functionality of our MittRomney.com website.

The online communities we’re building across our grassroots network is so diverse that we’re seeing both low-dollar amounts and high-dollar contributions coming in as a result. One of the great things about these online communities is that they’re utilized by political stakeholders both big and small, as well as by those who have been involved with campaigns for a long time or those who are getting involved for the first time.

Since the audience in the conservative corner of the blogosphere is unique in that it is both highly motivated and sophisticated, we’ve targeted a lot of popular websites with our blogads that drive interested parties–ideally potential supporters and donors–to MittRomney.com so they can join our campaign effort.

Mitt Romney Facebook2. Back to MySpace and let’s include facebook, how is the campaign embracing its social networks in the different communities? Are there any specific examples that you can point to that would show us how it’s having an impact on your campaign?

First, we continue to be amazed at just how successfully both those ventures are progressing. Everyday we see more and more campaign supporters joining the Romney for President online communities that we’re building. Less than one week after creating the Governor’s MySpace page, we already have more friends than any other official Republican profile. I think the reason we’re successful in that area is because the communities we’re building are pretty active. There’s a lot of involvement and feedback among the members and the campaign. We haven’t just built a page and left it there on its own. We’re actively engaged with the members. To take one example, we recruited enthusiastic college students from around the country through Facebook to serve as volunteers to help at CPAC in Washington. And these volunteers played an important part in winning the straw poll through superior organization.

3. Regarding YouTube, you were recently quoted in the Chicago Sun-Times in a story about the anti-Hillary Clinton “Big Sister” video as saying: “Every campaign has to have a new media plan to combat this” and keep their “market share” focused on what the campaign wants to talk about.” What exactly did you mean by a “new media plan to combat this,” and how did you develop such a plan? What advice would you give lower-ticket Republicans about such a plan?

Any campaign that hopes to be successful in this Information Age must have a strategic communications plan that fuses their outreach to the Mainstream Media (MSM) with the New Media technologies like blogs, YouTube and social networking. My point about campaign’s maintaining their “market share” was a way to describe how each campaign has to actively create and promote messages, themes and ideas in order to provide voters a more dominant brand about your campaign. We use lots of video and audio feeds on our website–as well as our YouTube channel –to promote OUR message so that there is a reservoir of new media info available about Mitt. We’re doing our best to control the market share of information about Governor Romney and the fact that we have the most videos and the most total video views of any Republican on YouTube shows that we’ve been effective so far.

If a candidate allows an opponent to use the New Media forum to seize control of their image and distort it, you just may never get it back. The now infamous “1984” ad depicting Hillary Clinton as Big Brother serves as the perfect example of a campaign that lost control of their image via YouTube and the market share of information about Hillary online became dominated by that very unflattering image of her.

Mitt Romney YouTube image4. Mitt Romney has been hit rather hard by anonymous YouTube video uploads trying to paint the Governor as a “flip-flopper” on issues important to conservative voters. How are you working to change this narrative using modern and traditional media?

This goes back to my earlier point. When we were on the receiving end of an anonymous attack that distorted the record about Governor Romney’s position on the issues, we moved very quickly to set the record straight. We did so by offering a personalized response, with a full set of the facts and via the very same medium of YouTube. We refused to allow a distortion of the Governor’s record to go unanswered, and we were determined not to lose our market share of information about Governor Romney’s positions. The attack was anonymous and meant to harm our campaign, but in the end, we ended up with a moment of strength because we fought back and did so with what most everyone will agree was an impressive display of speed and precision.

Yankees image5. What’s your favorite baseball team and why? Do you ever get in fights with Mitt Romney over sporting events?

The New York Yankees. I was born in New York City and raised just a Ruthian home run away from Yankee Stadium in Yonkers, NY so I’ve been rooting for the Yanks since Lou Pinella and Reggie Jackson were playing for them. There’s nothing like taking in a game at The House that Ruth Built. You can just sense all the history while sitting there. The Governor and I have talked sports a bit, but I think since everyone in Boston knows me as the hard-headed New Yorker they steer away from sports arguments. I’m sure when the Yanks come to Fenway, that will change.

6. What are your top three online political destinations each morning?

DrudgeReport.com, Politico.com, and NRO’s “The Corner.”

David All is the nation’s first Republican Web 2.0 consultant where he works to help Republicans better navigate the modern world. He blogs incessantly at his company blog, From The Trenches (RSS Feed), about the intersection of politics + technology. You can connect with him through facebook, myspace, YouTube, or the old-fashioned way.

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