Monday, August 25, 2008

Obama mania hits my inbox (part 1)

For the last 9 months, I have watched the election year cycle heat up with great but detached interest. I evaluated all candidates, supported a few, and generally wait to see how it would all shake out. Now, with three months left to go, I was lured into the folds of one with little more than ... a text message.

Yes, the girl who hates texting officially threw her support -- and her contact information -- behind the Obama campaign in support of its mobile strategy. The "first to know" VP announcement struck me as a savvy, smart, and modern way to reward Obama constituents with the coveted information. And though the media scooped the story, the sincere intent behind the idea was enough to win my textual heart.

I should have know, however, what was to come.

How easy it was to type in my digits. How simple to hand over my email address. No sooner did I hit submit than the campaign outreach gears closed in around me. The first warning was this rather demanding landing page. (Read: We want your email AND your money!)

Then, within minutes, my Hotmail account registered several Obama emails. And more kept coming. Soon, I decided it was time to grade these missives, and see where they stack up in the communication effectiveness spectrum. Here goes:

1. "Welcome" from Obama for America. This receives a solid A for its clear calls to action and comprehensive list of all resources Obama. For folks like me, who had steered clear of deep campaign involvement until this point, it could have been the equivalent of cramming for a physics final exam after not attending class all year. Instead, it was clear, readable, digestible, and immediately actionable. A good start to the flood.

2. "Keeping track" from David Plouffe, BarackObama.com. I give this a B for its fast response to McCain's housing gaffe, with points deducted for continuing negative campaigning. The whole debacle exposes the unspoken flaw in Obama's campaign: It's not possible for any political mission to do a complete 180 and "change" everything about the way it runs, communicates, and cuts deals. Our government is not built to be so ultra flexible, especially in the hands of someone who isn't even president. While Obama has changed some things, he's still rolling with some of our less laudable chestnuts ... such as getting personal during campaign season.

3. "A new attack from Swift Boaters" from the Obama Action Wire. This one piqued my interest with its purpose statement: "The Obama Action Wire is a grassroots rapid response group for supporters to fight smears, spread the truth, push back on misleading media, and take positive action." They certainly responded quickly, and with a respectable degree of localization (the email specifically discussed ads airing in VA). I give it an A- for its stirring language, clear call to action, and on-point messaging -- "This is exactly the kind of politics Barack is running to change."

Note: In my view, I am not contradicting myself by praising him for the messaging after calling him out in point #2. Writing messages and following them are, sadly enough, often two different pursuits. #3 and #2 illustrate that communication divide.

Let's leave off there for the evening. There are four three more emails that need grades in my inbox, but they'll have to wait for part two of this mini-political series. Until then ...

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