Social Media as a Political War Room

I participated in a panel discussion at BlogWorldExpo earlier this month on “Integrating New Media into your Marketing Mix” along with Paul Gillin, Maggie Fox, Joe Gerace and Andy Beal.

During our presentation, fellow podcaster and Boston Red Sox fan Albert Maruggi commented on how we were describing social media. His assertion was that our panel was describing to the audience a process for responding to social media not dissimilar to the operations of a political war room.

Political war rooms have teams of communications people who monitor and listen to the media and the public, respond to inquiries, and synthesize opinions to determine the best course of action.

Why don’t more corporate communications departments run like this? Corporate communications is charged with controlling the message of the company. In the past age of unidirectional messages, that was a sound strategy. But in this age of over-communication, the very approach and methodology need to change to be able to sense and respond to inquiries arriving through various channels.

Are we ready for this?

Perhaps not. Have you called your company’s call center lately or sent yourself an email via your corporate website? If so, how long did it take to get to you?

While this may seem like an operational issue, it should now be considered your communications front line. We are all going to need to take a hard look at this before we can truly operate like a political war room.

5 comments to Social Media as a Political War Room

  • tob323

    Hi Paul:

    Nice post. We (MotiveQuest) mostly work with big corporate clients, and they (mostly) do not have a war room mentality.

    I am working on a pitch for a big, well funded NGO, and because the backers come from politics, they HAVE a war room mentality. They want instant reads on what is happening and instant response.

    I think this is common practice in politics because the stakes are high, obvious and immediate. This is definitely not the case in almost all of corporate america’s staff functions.

    In politics, you win or lose on a certain date. No hiding. In corporate america you win or lose slowly, over time, and often have no idea if you are winning or losing.

    Tom O’B

  • Albert Maruggi

    Paul, great meeting up in Las Vegas at BlogWorld. Your panel was brilliant by the way. Your post today has connected yet another dot in this theory. This comment is going connect to a discussion among Mitch Joel, Shel Holtz and others on the question of who owns social media.

    Thanks for the hat tip on my political comment. I speak of the politics from 10 years of experience inside the national political scene (on Capitol Hill, at the Republican National Committee and in Bush ’41 Administration) and a couple years covering politics as a journalist.

    By way of background, the political war room, communications center sounds a bit more inviting, contains the following general functions: political strategists, these folks know what types of people and where they live, to drive to the polls in the numbers needed to win. This might be a similar to a marketing function targeting to most profitable customers or likely prospects to convert.

    Pollsters are next, you know these people as number crunchers, but they are much more than that, the real good ones are wordsmiths because they shape the question in such a way where the numbers support the message required to drive the profitable people to the polls. In the corporate world this might be product developers or market researchers.

    Then there is opposition research. These are people tasked with finding dirty needles in haystacks covered by huge tarps, surrounded by mesh netting. Ok you get the picture and I’m sure you’re aghast that such a thing goes on, but Swift Boats happen. In a corporation this might be market intelligence, what are the factors that make competitors look weak and us strong. What do people dislike about the other fella’s product?

    Next are constituent group communications specialists; labor unions, minorities, religious groups, soccer moms, er or dads, and hundreds of other groups (aka communities) have a voice in the political process. Those groups, whether configured in the same way or slightly different, are the people that buy products and services.

    In fact as an aside at BlogWorld in a different presentation, Howard Kaushansky the president of Umbria, a firm that helps analyze brand and issue conversations on the web, described how buyers of jeans identify themselves in several distinct categories. Here’s a link to that report.

    Lastly, there are the image makers, packers of emotion and substance. They match the candidate’s positions with the right constituent bases, and scrap it out for what’s left in the middle. Ironically, when a candidate has a position, listens to constituents and changes that position to reflect their constituents’ view, it’s fertile ground for a flip-flop ad. The good part is when a company listens and changes a product, or comes out with a new “green” position; they are viewed as being responsible. Go figure.

    Now let me connect the dot to the discussion about who owns social media. Paul and I maybe on to something, because Shel Holtz articulated the need for a cross-functional team in this post

    He also made reference to a Chief Reputation Officer, which may well be the equivalent of the campaign manager or communications director, nonetheless your post highlights a different way corporations may engage their constituents given the growth of social media.

    I apologize for taking up so much space, but I see a bigger picture that may help the profession and corporate marketers appreciate the breadth of social media. This appreciation may lead them toward a phased implementation, learning and adjusting along the way.

    All the best,

  • Paul Dunay


    Thanks for the further clarification and elaboration.

    To truly be ready for Social Media companies need to change the way they think out media and the way they respond to media.

    Your point is terrific: that it needs to be closer to a political mindset than it is today.

  • Paul Dunay


    OMG! I love your point about companies losing slowly over time. Fantastic comparison point …

    I think we are going to learn alot this year about Interactive Marketing by watching the political campaigners.

    fasten your seatbelt!

  • reseller hosting

    Your points are excellent in this post. We will just have to wait and see.

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