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Presidential Campaign Mistakes Made at BlogHer ’12 Conference

August 6, 2012

I just returned from the BlogHer ’12 national conference for women bloggers. I took so much excellent information, energy and camaraderie away from that event, that I’ll be forever grateful that I got over my nerves and attended. I don’t think either Presidential candidate can say the same, though.

Considering this is the height of campaign season and knowing how tricky, sneaky, and usually adept the PR teams on both sides are, they all missed the mark with this event.

Here was their chance to address close to 5,000 voters, almost all women writers, to inspire us and spark that finger twitch that makes us race to our laptops to spill out the emotion and excitement we feel into blog posts, status updates, and tweets. An opportunity to not only reach the 5,000 of us in attendance, but the thousands more watching the videos from home, and the huge pool of each blogger’s readers, as well.

That didn’t happen.

Instead, we got a no-show and a canned campaign speech.

Romney’s Mistakes

Romney didn’t bother to show up. Granted, the BlogHer conference was overwhelmingly liberal, but there were many conservative bloggers like me in attendance who would have tried to clap and cheer louder than the boo’s had Romney accepted BlogHer’s invitation. And yes, the invitation was extended.

While it’s understandable that his schedule didn’t allow for a visit to the conference itself since he was traveling to England, Israel, and Poland, his camp should have urged him to make use of Skype to address us remotely.

One of the Romney campaign’s greatest errors is their lack of social media presence. They are missing the boat by not having a team of Tweeters, bloggers and commenters out in full force, getting their real message across. They’re missing the multitudes on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram who want to be reached through their own favorite platform. The Romney camp needs to embrace technology and run to social media to garner the votes he so desperately needs.

By Skyping the BlogHer conference live, he had a chance to appeal to an audience who normally wouldn’t give him the time of day. It’s a lot harder to get up and walk out of a crowded ballroom than it is to click and close a computer screen window. This was a huge mistake. Instead of getting outside his comfort zone, he could have worked hard with his team to try to reach out and connect with this group of women who think he has nothing to offer them.

The Romney campaign has told BlogHer that he will address our audience via the BlogHer website when he returns from his trip. I hope his speech is engaging and purposeful. BlogHer readers and writers will accept nothing less.

Obama’s Mistakes

President Obama had two things in his favor before he even opened his Skype session with BlogHer ’12. His audience was already mostly Democrat, and he showed up.

When you start with those two things on your side, it’s pretty hard to lose ground. Yet, that’s exactly what he did.

I walked into the packed ballroom, eager to see what our President would have to say to bloggers. I don’t particularly like the man, but I respect his office. And I do think he is a charismatic speaker. So I was kind of excited to be one of the group he was addressing, instead of one of the people he usually criticizes in his campaign speeches.

He began with a very natural, conversational approach. Man, he is good at this. I even clapped and laughed as he spoke about the power of women and gave statistics of how many successful women are changing our nation for the better. His line about how women even make up 80% of his own household, when you include his mother-in-law, was delivered well and hit home, making him likeable and relatable.

Unfortunately, though, that’s where his efforts left off. Without so much as a transition, he jumped into his campaign speech. The same speech he has given innumerable times about taxes, welfare programs, and his plan for the economy. Eyes either glazed over or stopped watching to scan their smartphones and laptops. Ears tuned him out and small conversations began in low voices at tables around the room. He lost us.

After the speech, I went out to stand in the registration line to pick up my badge and packet. While in line, I struck up conversation with some women around me. They asked if I saw Obama’s speech, since they didn’t get there in time. When I confirmed that I did, they asked what I thought.

Knowing I was in the minority as a Republican at this heavily liberal event, I measured my response.

“Well, take this with a grain of salt, as I’m not a fan of Obama’s. I went to see what he’d have to say, and was excited to be on the receiving end of one of his addresses, but I was disappointed. It felt like a canned speech. Just dry, and could have been delivered to any audience. He could have done so much better.”

That’s when another woman in line introduced herself and jumped in on our conversation.

“I AM an Obama fan, and even I thought his speech sucked. There was no effort made. It’s like someone woke up this morning and said, ‘Oh yeah, we have that BlogHer thing today. Where’s that speech we use for women?’ It was just nothing remarkable.”

A few more voices joined in and the overall consensus was that Obama didn’t capitalize on how very special this conference is to women bloggers. If he had done his research and understood the importance of this conference to those of us in attendance, he could have inspired us all.

Instead, he gave a campaign speech and missed the mark.

Ron Paul, BlogHer, and the Rest of Us

BlogHer has mentioned time and again that they will welcome speakers and posts from both sides of the political spectrum. But no mention was made of whether or not they extended the invitation to Ron Paul to speak to the conference. Granted, his numbers are low and it’s extremely unlikely that he’ll gain enough of a following to be a real contender, but the offer should be made.

Since Ron Paul’s age is one of the biggest marks against him, what better opportunity to show that he is still relevant than to use social media and seek out an audience through BlogHer?  Whether invited or not, the Ron Paul camp needs to ask for this opportunity.

As for the rest of us, I hope to see more open minds and meaningful discourse from now through Election Day. I hope we all continue to listen to what both sides are saying and actually look for the good in all candidates.

As I learned from being surrounded by smart, capable women for the three days I attended the conference, no woman is one-dimensional.  I shared meaningful experiences and formed great friendships with many of them, despite our fundamentally opposite viewpoints.  There are so many facets that make up who we are.  Surely, we can find some common ground somewhere with each candidate.  Once we look deep enough within each of them and ourselves, only then can we make a truly informed decision.

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60 Comments leave one →
  1. August 6, 2012 6:21 PM

    I’m a democrat and I totally agree that Obama missed the mark. He started off great but then went into campaign talk, which I found to be sad, if expected.

    And it would’ve been nice if Romney had sent a message from their women’s outreach program, too. Even if he didn’t appear. Oh, missed opportunities, eh?

    Also, nice to meet you! Great who you find in the hotel lobby.

    • August 6, 2012 6:49 PM

      I completely agree about the lobby. I had some great conversations there anytime I happened by! I’m glad you felt the lack in Obama’s address, too. I was trying to be objective, but it’s reassuring to know it wasn’t just me. Thanks for the visit and the comment, Jessica!

  2. ashleyinnc permalink
    August 6, 2012 9:05 PM

    I think it is pretty ridiculous in the year 2012 that even if Romney had not been available to speak live via Skype that he could not have pre-recorded a speech to be shown to the bloggers in the ballroom. He still could have made it personal, even if it had not been live. I agree that was a mark missed for sure. And honestly, I do think even if the audience is primarily liberal having candidates on both sides care enough to show up in whatever way they choose speaks more to the priorities they place on women’s voices than simply not showing up at all.
    I have not watched Obama’s speech yet, but I can’t say that I am surprised by what you said here. It is a shame that he did not capitalize on his ability to have an engaged, large audience of female voters to do a more unique speech. I don’t think that using campaign rhetoric is necessarily a bad thing, but it sounds like he could have done a better job of packaging it into something that felt more authentic to the room.

    • August 7, 2012 9:02 AM

      I agree on both counts, Ashley. Makes me want to scream, “Really, guys?!!!! We’ve come so far, yet you still haven’t learned how to engage women?!!!”

  3. Terri permalink
    August 7, 2012 8:45 AM

    Both candidates need to get in the minds of their female voters. It is not on Ohio or Virginia or Colorado that they should be focusing all their efforts because for this election, women are the battlefield. Romney not showing up is pathetic. Obama giving that laughably uninspiring speech may be even more so. And for the record, I am an Independent who, with great hope and excitement, voted for Obama in 2004. Because of his abysmal economic performance and his blanket-treatment of women’s issues (the very unconstitutional HHS mandate and the dubious governmental financing of Planned Parenthood), I will not and cannot vote for him again.

    • August 7, 2012 9:04 AM

      Terri wrote: “…for this election, women are the battlefield.”
      Yes, yes, and even more yes! Such a missed opportunity.

  4. August 8, 2012 9:01 AM

    I don’t know how inclined both Obama and Romney would have been to impress the BlogHer attendees. After all, bloggers are usually quite informed (at least we all think so) and opinionated—rarely undecided. The bloggers who write political stuff would have made up their minds before the conference and would have voiced their opinions beforehand.
    You’re right that this should not have been ignored. Romney in particular isn’t doing well with women, and there was no reason for him not to skype at least.
    Nice post. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    • August 9, 2012 7:15 AM

      You make a good point about bloggers themselves, but I still think the potential to reach the bloggers’ readership, had they felt inspired enough to write upon returning, was a huge missed opportunity.

  5. August 8, 2012 9:12 AM

    You had Obama, president of the US, one of the most (self) important political powers in the world, speaking to you live over Skype, and you feel he didn’t give you the right attention and that ‘he doesn’t get you’. Hah! Conform to steroetypes much?

    • August 9, 2012 7:17 AM

      Running for office mirrors advertising. “Know your audience” is pretty much campaign 101. Not a bad lesson for blog commenters, either. Stereotype or not, if you want a vote, you need to court the voter.

      • August 9, 2012 8:31 AM

        But he did know his audience, didn’t he have you applauding how great empowered women are? Maybe he was too busy trying to run the country, and deal with various international crises at the same time. Considering how excited the US media can get about a wrongly worded campaign sentence, I don’t think you can expect anything from any candidate expect for a canned speech, be it old or new. That lunatic Romney probably didn’t show up because anyone in his campaign with half a clue will keep him locked safely away from cameras and microphones as much as possible.

        I’m not trying to win any votes tho, so I’m free to say what I think.

  6. August 8, 2012 9:15 AM

    Obama is no more than a lackey of russian KGB dictator. The only his private promise about “flexibility” after elections must had been turned away from him everybody who doesn’t want to wake up in American Gulag.
    Either for women or men, voting for such creature is slow suicide.

    • August 9, 2012 7:21 AM

      While I personally am not an Obama fan, as I stated in the post above, he still does hold enough voters for me to worry about this year’s election.

  7. August 8, 2012 9:37 AM

    Hi there! I was at BlogHer 12 too and just finished my post yesterday. Congrats on the FP. First off, I am highly liberal and an Obama supporter. That said, I was thrilled that he, the President of the United States, was taking us bloggers seriously and that our voice as bloggers means something. Yet, I too was a little disappointed in his speech. Unlike you, I find him an amazing speaker and usually am aghast at listening to him speak and touch others. Yet after his opening which was great, he felt a little off like he was reading an unpracticed script to us and yes it was geared completely about his campaign. I would rather he had skipped this all together and just simply honor us all out there as women using our voice to make change. That is a powerful thing in itself. He missed the boat on that. We know about his campaign and promises. Yet he could have really used this rare opportunity to inspire us and I believe that would have moved us all no matter what your side is. On Romney, I can’t believe he didn’t show up. Even though I’m a democrat, he really missed the boat here to show us democrats and his supporters that he supports us too. I think it was a huge mistake on his part. Kuddos for you for writing this post! Whatever anyone’s beliefs, Dem or Rep, I think we are in all it together to help make change in the world and use our bloggers as a means! Nicole

    • August 9, 2012 7:23 AM

      Thanks for the comment, Nicole, and I appreciate your point of view. I did expect some campaigning, but was equally disappointed as you were in his lack of connection.

  8. August 8, 2012 9:40 AM

    Nice recap. Thanks for sharing. I hope to be able to attend BlogHer13 in Chicago!

    • August 9, 2012 7:24 AM

      Thank you for reading. Definitely try to get there! BlogHer12 was a great experience for me. Hope you make it there next year!

  9. August 8, 2012 9:46 AM

    No matter what country we look at, so many politicians are just a waste of time, public money, and good oxygen.
    Doctors are trained. Lawyers are trained. Bus drivers are trained. So, why isn’t there a training school for politicians.
    I remember a bumper sticker I read many years ago which read, “Don’t vote for them you’ll only encourage them.”

    • August 9, 2012 7:27 AM

      I wish I could disagree with you. One of the things Katie Couric said in her BlogHer12 keynote was that she never considered running for office because she doesn’t have that “kill”instinct that you need to be successful. My grandfather used to encourage holding office as an American’s civic duty. Yet now, the truly great leaders are staying away from politics because it has turned into such a blood sport. I wish I knew the answer to getting truly GREAT leaders back in charge. Great comment. Thanks for stopping by.

  10. August 8, 2012 9:47 AM

    I appreciate your measured criticism of the candidates. You make a great point that both missed out on a great opportunity to reach not only an audience of 5,000–but the exponential audiences of 5,000 potential PR reps.

    Both candidates talk about grassroots efforts, but it sure seems like fundraisers with big donors take precedent over everything else.

    • August 9, 2012 7:32 AM

      I agree with you that fundraisers are the ones who steer elections anymore. With each new vote on campaign reform, I keep hoping that this will change, but since everyone with voting power was voted in on those dollars, I don’t know that we’ll ever see it change. It can be very disheartening. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I appreciate it.

  11. August 8, 2012 10:08 AM

    Hi there: Thanks for coming to BlogHer ’12! In all fairness to the Romney campaign, I should point out that we told both campaigns that we would be happy to share a recorded video message on BlogHer.com and across our network, but that we weren’t going to try to gather thousands of women who paid lots of money to be there in person with each other into a ballroom to watch a canned video. We just didn’t think that would serve our audience, or them frankly. Both campaigns probably would have preferred to do a recorded message. By sticking to our guns on that, the President’s campaign made a live feed happen, and Governor Romney’s campaign did not. Both campaigns did send representatives, though, so there was an Obama campaign director on one break-out panel in the Political track, and a Romney campaign director on another.

    • August 9, 2012 7:37 AM

      Ack! Thank you for coming by to read and comment, Elisa! I had a great time at BlogHer ’12 and am having a mini starstruck moment here right now. ;) (For those of you who may not know, Elisa is one of the co-founders of BlogHer.) I truly appreciate this. Thanks also for the clarification that prerecording an address was not an option for the candidates. While I was definitely interested in the political track panels, this was my first conference for my small blog, so I needed to take advantage of some of the others first. I’ll definitely be listening in on the panels on BlogHer.com, though. Thanks for sharing this info.

  12. August 8, 2012 10:24 AM

    I’m really disappointed to hear that the President’s speech didn’t seem tailored to the venue. I’m a former college instructor of public speaking: the FIRST RULE is to customize the speech to the audience. UGH! Sounds like a speech-writer needs a good old-fashioned talkin’ to… ;) Thank you for sharing your perspective here. I SO need to attend BlogHer next year…I’ve heard amazing things about it! :)

    • August 9, 2012 7:39 AM

      I felt the same way, Mikalee. Just a bit of a shock that the speech fell off as much as it did at this level of campaigning. BlogHer was great and if you can swing it, I highly recommend it!

  13. Karina Gesmundo permalink
    August 8, 2012 11:04 AM

    I like Ron Paul, his speeches in the earlier Republican debates sounded promising. It’s such a shame that his candidacy isn’t recognized- not in the news, social media, barely.

    • August 9, 2012 7:41 AM

      I can’t tell you how many times I have wished Ron Paul were younger. Or that age wasn’t such a factor in getting votes. I think his economic plans are the best option for our current state in this country. Thanks for the comment.

  14. August 8, 2012 11:35 AM

    I don’t know much about BlogHer – can someone explain what expectations were set for the BlogHer virtual conference?

    • August 9, 2012 7:44 AM

      By virtual conference are you referring to bloggers who couldn’t attend, but wanted to follow the conference from home? Or are you referring strictly to the presidential candidates addressing the conference and what their options were? To the latter, look up a few comments above this to Elisa Camhort Page’s comment. She sheds some light on that. For the former, check out the BlogHer site itself. There were opportunities for bloggers to “virtually attend” if they couldn’t make it in person. http://www.blogher.com/

  15. August 8, 2012 11:46 AM

    This is totally unrelated but I heard that Martha Stewart was also at BlogHer – did you hear her speak? It’s too bad that both candidates missed the boat. With Obama’s camp being so in tune with social media and the blogosphere, you’d think they would have made that speech more relevant to bloggers. I suppose they didn’t think this was a crowd that need much persuading since most of them are democrats — but they really missed out on an opportunity for bloggers to amplify his message.

    • August 9, 2012 7:48 AM

      Martha Stewart was indeed there, as one of the keynote speakers. I love her and I enjoyed her speech. On the political side, she did mention that she resists sharing her own political views to keep from alienating half of her audience. Guess I’ll never have her following! I do share your surprise that Obama’s camp missed the boat this much. One of his strongest talents has been reaching out and moving audiences with his speeches. I expected that and was wondering why that Obama didn’t “show up” at this conference.

  16. August 8, 2012 12:18 PM

    This post is so thoughtful and enlightening! You really made some great points. I wonder if it is a generational thing too. I am middle-aged (It is painful to write that), and waaaaay ahead of my peers when it comes to the computer and social media. Most of my friends here in Boulder still don’t understand what a blog is.
    My son will graduate from college next year in communications with a minor in media studies (social media) Most are lagging behind in how much can be learned from the internet and how we are connecting all over the world.
    It sounds like all three missed a huge opportunity!
    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed.

    • August 9, 2012 7:50 AM

      Thank you so much! Being Freshly Pressed is a huge honor. I think it’s hard to deny the power of social media any longer. I was a holdout for a while on some of it, but it really can’t be ignored. Thanks for the comment!

  17. August 8, 2012 2:15 PM

    “I don’t particularly like the man, but I respect his office.”

    If you respect his office you have to dislike the man who is usurping it. Does anyone here know the correct definition of “natural born citizen”?

    • August 9, 2012 7:53 AM

      Correct, I do dislike the man currently holding office. Although I believe this horse has been beaten to the point of ridiculousness (and remember, I’m a Republican), here is your definition:
      “The weight of legal and historical authority indicates that the term “natural born” citizen would mean a person who is entitled to U.S. citizenship “by birth” or “at birth,” either by being born “in” the United States and under its jurisdiction, even those born to alien parents; by being born abroad to U.S. citizen-parents; or by being born in other situations meeting legal requirements for U.S. citizenship “at birth.” Such term, however, would not include a person who was not a U.S. citizen by birth or at birth, and who was thus born an “alien” required to go through the legal process of “naturalization” to become a U.S. citizen.[1]“

      • August 9, 2012 8:31 AM

        Thanks for your reply, Stacey, but exactly what “weight of legal and historical authority” supports your definition? The constitution was adopted in 1787 so the legal and historical authority must reach back to that time.

      • August 10, 2012 2:14 PM

        Stacey: “[...] and remember, I’m a Republican [...]”

        That is no guarantee for a scientific approach to this issue, rather the opposite.

        The definition you quoted is from Wikipedia’s article “Natural-born-citizen clause” and its reference to Jack Maskell’s Congressional Research Service report “Qualifications for President and the ‘Natural Born’ Citizenship Eligibility Requirement”, page 2. The definition is a blatant lie since “the weight of legal and historical authority” says something completely different.

  18. August 8, 2012 2:56 PM

    More and more I see conservative Republican voters such as myself making this standard statement, “Even if a monkey was running against Obama, I would vote for the monkey.” Still, I feel my choice in Mitt needs to get on board with the media tools mentioned in this well done blog. Good looks and shiny teeth are only the beginning of what it will take to win against Obama, who without a doubt is Kind of the Media in this country. Remember, Obama is the King of “Shiney teeth.” Mitt get off your ass and go to work! Save our Country!

    • August 9, 2012 7:55 AM

      I sadly agree with you, John. I am so strongly against so many of Obama’s plans and actions, that I most likely will vote for the “other” candidate. I just wish we had a stronger candidate in Romney.

      • August 9, 2012 8:14 AM

        Stacey,
        Thank you for taking time to render me your thoughtful reply to my comment. We can only pray that Romney will step up to the plate in rendering a stronger campaign against Obama in dealing with the frustrations of the middle class of American citizens.

  19. August 8, 2012 3:23 PM

    I agree with the earlier comment that bloggers as a whole are not exactly “undecided” voters. I am not a fan of Obama either, usually the opiate feel-good goo that flows from his mouth is gushed about by people who already love him and I’m sure that’s why he made a brief appearance at BlogHer. Anyways, my cynicism is showing. Romney does have a FB page, so his campaign is at least trying.

    • August 9, 2012 8:03 AM

      Right. I agree that bloggers as a general category may not have been the group he needed to sway. But the fact that bloggers write, and reach out to exponential audiences in so doing, equals a missed opportunity for both of them. There are links to social media on all candidates’ websites. But it’s their presence that is lacking from the Romney and Ron Paul camps. At this point in the campaign, just being there isn’t enough (like Obama’s being there at BlogHer wasn’t enough). They need a visible presence. They need hordes of Twitter-savvy posters sending sound bite after sound bite into the cyberstream. Conservative media outlets won’t do it. Their big-dollar fundraisers aren’t doing it. They need to step it up if they want to be heard.
      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I appreciate it!

  20. August 8, 2012 5:01 PM

    I’m not an American, but frankly the main parties in America (as well as in Britain and elsewhere) look so similar these days that it’s hard to understand anyone getting exciting about either candidate showing up.

    • August 9, 2012 8:19 AM

      They all do conform to the mold of “respectable, voteable American” to point of them sharing the same veneer, I agree. And, during campaign season, they all court the middle, those rare Independent voters who can still be swayed, which makes them seem more similar than they are. While I may not have been overly excited to see Obama speak, I was hoping for something more remarkable than what we were given.

  21. kollshi17 permalink
    August 8, 2012 6:49 PM

    thank you

    • August 9, 2012 8:19 AM

      You’re very welcome!

  22. August 8, 2012 7:44 PM

    Man, BlogHer… I wanna do that!

    • August 9, 2012 8:20 AM

      You should!

  23. August 8, 2012 9:48 PM

    This was an excellent recap on an event I didn’t even know about. Thank you for sharing! It’s quite a shame at how disappointing both candidates were and you presented great evidence to prove your point. I liked that you included Ron Paul in the discussion as well. He’s an interesting candidate and you made a good point that he should begin using media platforms to his advantage. Well done!

    • August 9, 2012 8:21 AM

      Thank you very much. Social media is too big to ignore the impact a well-implemented campaign can yield. Glad you found this and thanks again for reading and commenting!

  24. August 8, 2012 10:15 PM

    Love the explanation, perfect re-cap on the situation
    ! Do you mind checking out my blog http://www.candelacouture.com, its new and i would love to see what you think!
    great post btw!

    • August 9, 2012 8:22 AM

      Thanks for coming by, I appreciate it. Your new blog looks great. Lord knows I could use a fashion re-invention myself. Nice work.

  25. August 8, 2012 11:05 PM

    Excellent and fair reporting. Being viewed as a block (female bloggers) and still not hitting the mark in his speech shows you how Obama plays his voters. While it’s important for candidates in 2012 to be up on the latest means of communique transport, the message and follow through take precedent. I applaud you for your honesty, cador, and courage.

    • August 9, 2012 8:25 AM

      Thank you for your comment as well. I guess it’s being seen as just that, a block, that made it seem impersonal. But still, I don’t know that he recognized “female BLOGGERS” as different from “females,” which may have been the problem.

  26. August 8, 2012 11:07 PM

    Congrats on the Fresh pressing and thanks for this informative summary. Am I wrong that this is a real honor to be FP’ed after attending a conference with 5,000 bloggers who were all probably going to blog about the conference? :-)

    • August 9, 2012 8:26 AM

      You are not wrong at all. I feel extremely honored to have been Freshly Pressed, especially on this conference, where I was surrounded by more fantastic writers than I’ve ever encountered in one setting. Thanks so much for the congratulations!

  27. August 9, 2012 4:45 AM

    Ha, ha, ha! In my first comment here I asked if someone knows the correct definition of “natural born citizen” but no one has yet answered that, and my comment got two “thumbs down”! I believe Americans are even more stupid than Swedes.

    • August 9, 2012 8:27 AM

      See above. And recognize that name-calling is never productive.

      • August 9, 2012 2:31 PM

        Thank you for replying. I didn’t engage in name-calling, I just said what I believe. I hope you will prove my beliefs to be wrong.

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