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MANDATE MEDIAdigital strategy for people changing the world

Want attention? Be controversial.

By Kari Chisholm:

An op-ed by Karl Rove in the Wall Street Journal is mostly of the banal "gee, the internet is changing politics" variety.

Cutting-edge campaigns have quickly grasped how the Web makes it easier and less expensive to transmit information. But campaigns are only starting to understand how to use the Web and social-networking tools to make video and other data go viral—moving not just to those on a campaign's email list but to the broader public.

But it does help illustrate one important point: If you want to "go viral", if you want to get lots of people talking about and joining your campaign, it's important to be controversial - even strident.

Nimble candidates and causes will take advantage of brief moments in the spotlight to increase awareness, organize and raise money virtually overnight. When gas prices spiked in late spring 2008, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's "Drill Here, Drill Now" effort corralled 300,000 Internet petition signers in just two weeks, and about a million in only two months.

While the first instinct of many candidate and campaigns is to play it safe, the ones that strike a chord are the ones that are willing to stake out strong positions, state them clearly and boldly, and find creative ways to push those messages out to the public -- and do all of that quickly.

Of course, a strident approach can alienate big chunks of the electorate. The challenge is striking the balance between resonating with a core of activist supporters and the broader electorate.

Posted by Kari Chisholm on March 11, 2011 in list-building, self-promotion | See full archives