Launching a Campaign via Video

April 6, 2011

Three days.  Three important Democratic campaign announcements.  One method.

Campaign 2012 launched into full swing starting April 2 when Congressman Martin Heinrich (D-NM) announced his candidacy to replace the retiring Senator Jeff Bingaman as a U.S. Senator from New Mexico.  Two days later, Americans began their work week with the fully expected announcement from President Barack Obama that he is seeking a second term as President of the United States.  The deluge of Democratic candidate news continued on April 5 when Tim Kaine, former Virginia Governor and current Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, announced his candidacy to replace the retiring Senator Jim Webb as a U.S. Senator from Virginia.

While the races are different, all three candidates eschewed the old methods of announcing a candidacy – such as a press release or press conference – in favor of an approximately two-minute homemade video launched via the Web and social media.

Congressman Heinrich portrayed his family life and illustrated how his upbringing and middle class values make him the ideal candidate to fight for New Mexican working families.  The video was simultaneously launched on his campaign website and Facebook page.

President Obama utilized his reelection campaign introductory video to reenergize the grassroots activism that launched him into the White House.  The video interviews Obama supporters from all over America describing why they support the President and the importance of being involved in the political process.  The video was launched via social media and on the President’s reelection website.

Tim Kaine made his long-awaited campaign announcement by highlighting his work as a city councilman, mayor of Richmond, and Governor of Virginia.  He articulated the achievements Virginia has made in the last two decades to attract business and grow economically while remaining fiscally solvent.  The announcement was posted on Kaine’s campaign website, with a separate Spanish-language version.

These videos represent how candidates are utilizing social media and online channels to define their campaign message and illicit early campaign supporters, volunteers, and donors.  Video announcements allow candidates to easily build an online database and ensure maximum local and national news coverage without the expense or logistical challenges that stem from campaign rallies.


What Does AOL’s Acquisition of The Huffington Post Signify about Media?

February 26, 2011

The news that AOL purchased The Huffington Post for $315 million shook the journalism world.  Liberals lamented the potential demise for one if their most potent voices.  Business commentators debated the deal’s financial implications for the past Internet titan.  But the most important question is what does this convey about media as a whole?

We have previously highlighted statistics demonstrating the readership decline for traditional print newspapers, particularly in our article “The Power of Online Political News”.  The Huffington Post exemplifies a successful online media model.  The publication, started in 2005 by founder Arianna Huffington and a core group of contributors, leverages an array of news sources and columnists to delve into a multitude of subjects, particularly progressive politics.  In 2010 the publication posted its first profit, a virtually non-existent concept among print media publications today.

AOL is betting its future on the idea that online media will maintain its profitability.  The company, which once stood as the stalwart for connecting people to the Internet, is experiencing difficulty as its original business model – dial-up Internet service – becomes obsolete.

AOL operates dozens of online media publications including TechCrunch, Patch, and PoliticsDaily.  According to this e-mail from CEO Tim Armstrong, AOL is integrating its media brands under the Huffington Post Media Group, with Arianna Huffington serving as president and editor-in-chief.

“We continue to put significant bets behind our strategy of high quality content and advertising at scale – on AOL properties and our growing network of publishing partners,” said Armstrong.

“By combining HuffPost with AOL’s network of sites, thriving video initiative, local focus, and international reach, we know we’ll be creating a company that can have an enormous impact, reaching a global audience on every imaginable platform,” said Huffington in a note to her publication’s readers.

Traditional newspapers will continue to maintain an important presence in American culture, but their decline will persist in the face of deteriorating readership and consolidations.  Warren Buffet, investment tycoon and chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, noted that “the newspaper business will be tougher and tougher and tougher, and it is already plenty tough.  While the [The Washington Post] is the centerpiece of the Washington Post Company, that doesn’t mean it will earn the most money.”[i]

The AOL and Huffington Post merger is a bet on media’s future.  According to Huffington, AOL just finished building a pair of state-of-the-art video studios in New York and Los Angeles, and video views on AOL have gone up 400 percent over the last year.[ii] This changing media dynamic will continue to alter political campaigning and governing, accentuating the importance of new media, video, and future technological innovations to promote legislative achievements.



The Missing Art of the Lower Third

February 19, 2011

Members of Congress are increasingly posting videos on YouTube and other social media channels, a phenomenon we have highlighted extensively in previous posts.  But many Members are missing valuable opportunities to further enhance their video quality and ensure their primary messages resonate.

As an example, here is a recent video from Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) questioning Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

In a seven minute video, Senator Sanders highlights many causes for this country’s current budgetary deficit.  The Senator offers many poignant points, including ways in which he worked to stem the deficit, but because the video is so long, viewers may miss some of the speech’s key points.  This is where video graphics, particularly a lower third, can help.

Now those unfamiliar with video and advertising may be asking what a lower third is.  Understandable, as I had no clue until leveraging them extensively for advertisements when I was working at Ohio University.

Above is a press conference clip, telecast on MSNBC, involving House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) discussing a meeting with President Barack Obama.  The lower third is the graphic underneath the Majority Leader with the header “developing now”.  You will see lower thirds routinely in advertising and news.

Lower thirds are easy to program and widely effective.  Considering many Congressional offices use Adobe Premiere Pro to create videos, the software offers dozens of premade templates that new media directors can easily edit to fit within the office’s overall design theme.  When an office records a Member’s floor speech, it can include information such as the Member’s website URL, speech highlights, additional facts to reinforce the speech’s content, information about a Member’s e-mail newsletter, and much more.

It can be hard to capture a constituent’s attention for a full five minute floor speech, or eight hours as Senator Sanders demonstrated back in December.  Video graphics are an easy and cost effective mechanism to accentuate messaging and drive viewers to other communications resources.  In addition, stylish video graphics will ensure viewers continue to tune in and enhance the probability they will forward video links to friends.