Meatball Sundae VII: Election Day Edition
Winning In A World Transformed By Social Technologies0 points
In the new transparent age, it's really difficult to tell two stories simultaneously.
Why George Allen won’t be running for president:
It was a great Web moment. George Allen was the Republican Party’s next star, anointed as a potential candidate for president in 2008. But first he had to win the Senate race in Virginia, considered by many to be a layup for him.
The traditional way to run a political campaign is to control your message. Control what you say and when you say it. Control who hears it.
Tell one story to your raving fans, and a more moderate story to people in the center.
As voters have seen again and again, politicians are good at this. Some people call it lying. But in general, politicians have gotten away with it.
The top-down, control-the-message strategy worked in the past for a few reasons:
- Media companies were complicit in not embarrassing the people they counted on to appear on their shows and authorize their licenses.
- Politicians could decide where and when to show up and could choose whether or not they wanted to engage.
- Bad news didn’t spread far unless it was exceptionally juicy.
But George Allen discovered that the rules have fundamentally changed. Allen’s challenger asked S.R. Sidarth, a senior at the University of Virginia, to trail Allen with a video camera. The idea was to document Allen’s travels and speeches. During a speech in Breaks, Virginia, Allen turned to Sidarth and said, “Let’s give a welcome to Macaca, here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia,” said Allen. As I write this, YouTube reports that Allen’s slur has been watched on YouTube more than 318,000 times. Add to that the pickup from the broadcast media (which picked it up because it was popular, not because it was “important”), and you see why George Allen lost the election.
The ironic part of the appearance is that the first words out of Allen’s mouth on the tape are, “Ladies and Gentlemen, we’re going to run positive campaign.” The story didn’t match the facts, and the facts showed up on YouTube.
Summary for nor non-politicians: You can't tell two stories at the same time. Not for long.
Catch up on the last six installments of this series here.
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