I really like to do interviews and answer questions by e-mail. When I see it in print, I can go back, look at what I said, and answer the question, “Did I really say that?” Case in point, Jose Antonio Vargas’ article in the Washington Post this morning. The other upside to the e-mail method is it almost guarantees accurate quotes because all you have to do is cut and paste.
The downside, as with any interview, is you often lose the context of a single remark in a larger context. As a result, I’d like to share that context by sharing the exchange we had.
Jose: On our very first face-to-face interview, at a Starbucks
more than a year ago, you told me: “A lot of Republicans still think of the
Web as a very expensive brochure — like a slick direct mail. Here’s my own
paragraph of text that explains who I am as a candidate. It’s very
one-dimensional, almost very simplistic, purely a send-receive model.”
Looking at www.johnmccain.com right now, today, would you say the same thing of this site?
Me: In some ways, yes. In some ways, no.
His site is definitely an extension of the broadcast or send/receive model. The overwhelming majority of space on his home page is all about McCain, and not about how real people can get involved. It’s brand marketing, not word of mouth marketing. What little opportunity there is for community interaction or participation is buried in a small box below the scroll.
That said, they’re trying to move the yardstick a bit. They’ve opened up comments on the site (not sure if they’re moderated or not). They still have their McCainSpace social network and an action center. They’re just really playing those down.
As I said, the quote is accurate, but the context of my whole point about the difference between word of mouth and generic brand marketing was lost.
The advantage of an open community is it creates that word of mouth component to your otherwise traditional marketing efforts. TV, radio, print, and even web advertising serve a specific goal. They put your brand in front of people.
Empowering believers to extend that brand – to become your champions and carry your message on a personal level – is a key part of what Jose was discussing in the article. Had he been writing for AdAge, I’m guessing he would have kept more of that and less of the criticism of McCain’s otherwise uninviting presence.
People are trying to help McCain. The problem is McCain needs to take a cue from Jerry Maguire. Remember the scene with Cruise and Gooding in the locker room? Remember Jerry’s impassioned plea to Rod Tidwell? It applies to McCain.
Help us, help you!
Open your community. Invite us to be a part of your campaign, not just through scripted conference calls with bloggers, but through an active vibrant community that is – hold your breath – visible to the world. If you build it, they will come.