Presidential Campaign Mistakes Made at BlogHer ’12 Conference
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 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.
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.