Wednesday, August 10, 2005

How To Leverage Local Blogs For Dummies (and Candidates)

Blogging rock stars Chris Bowers of MyDD and Matt Stoller of Blogging of the President have put together a report on the Emergence of the Progressive Blogosphere. This report is a must-read for anyone who is interested in waging politics online, particularly those people, like myself, who are interested in building local mini-blogospheres. The report is a look at the dynamics of the major conservative and progressive blogs and makes some recommendations on how to use these blogs as tools of influence. Much of the report focuses on building local blog infrastructure, which is something that we're just starting to do here in Massachusetts. In some sense, the conservatives even here are further ahead than we are, as many of their blogs have been in existence longer and get more eyeballs than most of the local progressive blogs that I'm familiar with.

I'm going to commit a bit of an Internet faux pas and reproduce the entire Appendix I from the full report in the vain hope that someone involved with a 2005 or 2006 campaign will notice and help us help them develop the Massachusetts progressive blogosphere. As more and more people get access to the Internet, it will be more important for candidates and advocacy groups to get involved. Local bloggers are going to be important for spreading messages that large national blogs aren't going to be interested in. I doubt that Atrios is going to care about the Watertown CPA and Kos isn't interested in a State Senate race. Here, then, is the advice that Matt and Chris give to local campaigns on how to encourage participation with local blogs:

The power of a single blog is relatively small -- it is the interlinking of blogs into a larger 'blogosphere' that is meaningful. To harness this power and use it to drive message, money and activism, you must invest in organizing this constituency. One cannot e-mail large national bloggers and expect their attention on local candidates or issues. Instead, you need to create your own blogosphere out of existing small and locally focused blogs, and invest time interacting with local online communities. This structure will in the end be of much more use to you. It is important to remember at all times that bloggers are both campaign activists, and a sort of journalist. They can be your friends, but are also third-party observers of your campaign. Here are some tips on interacting with these unique communities:

  1. Hire a 'Netroots Coordinator' and be prepared to work with him or her on money, messaging and organizing. Most organizations hire one and relegate them to a position where they are asked simply to raise money. If you follow this model it is not worth engaging the blogs. A good Netroots Coordinator can deliver messaging, media, and money.
  2. Put up a link on your web site that says 'Got a blog?' Ask for bloggers to give you their name, email, IM, and blog address. This list is valuable -- it is the list of bloggers who are interested in your issue.
  3. Take your list of bloggers and add them to your press release list. Call through to introduce yourself, and invite them to cover events, and if possible give them press passes and access.
  4. Read the blogs who sign up. If you use an 'aggregator' such as, you can read many more blogs much more quickly. Get a sense of who is on your side and who is not. Go into the comment section of various blogs and add comments when relevant.
  5. Hold conference calls with your strategists/candidate. Treat bloggers like friends and allies, but also realize you are on the record.
  6. Periodically do a 'blog round-up' where you email interesting blog posts on your issue to all the bloggers as well as internally.
  7. Link to interesting blog posts from your web site/blog; make sure you link to a few posts that disagree with you. This will lend your online presence more credibility.
  8. Listen and respond to criticism. These are your friends and often not that experienced in politics -- treat them like they are here to learn, not like they are cynical, hard-boiled reporters.