Yesterday I heard about a seminar being organised by Strawberry Media where Joe Rospars, New Media Director for the Obama campaign was to speak. It was pitched at bloggers and political and techie types and I was among the first to sign up and the organiser asked me to blog about the event and spread the word.
Now a little bit of background – In recent weeks it’s been apparent that Fianna Fáil were ramping up social media activities, there was a twitter account and then a sign up for online engagement with bloggers and encouragement for party members to blog. I signed up to be kept informed as I’m on mailing lists for other political parties and I’ve helped run events for all parties and none to attend to discuss social media and blogging. And I cover elections online.
Finally the largest party in the state were getting serious about online engagement and this was to be welcomed as far as I was concerned – I’m into people doing things online whatever the colour of their poltical bib. I then heard that Blue State Digital (whom Rospars founded) were working with Fianna Fáil on the new strategy and things started to click into place. Strawberry Media are working with Fianna Fáil and BSD as the Irish partners in the project.
But this seminar tonight was not advertised by Strawberry Media to bloggers as being part of the Fianna Fáil online engagement strategy. We were going to hear from the Obama online media guru – many of us had already supped from the Democratic Move On cup when Zack Exley came to talk at the EU Commission Representation in Ireland event in October. So we were looking for more detail and information and in just over 24 hours the event filled up.
Anyway off to the seminar I go, a good sprinkling of bloggers – most of whom were not political bloggers but more social media types, there were lots of FF members and press and media handlers there also. There were also members of other political parties there – who thought they were going to a seminar presented by Joe Rospars.
We get welcomed by a Fianna Fáil staff member who introduced the party General Secretary Sean Dorgan. Sean proceeds to welcome us to the launch of the party website and says that they were glad to have bloggers there and some Ogra FF members to hear more about Blue State Digital from Joe Rospars. There was an explanation of the involvement of Strawberry Media in the project and words about FF online in the future. The was a lot of activitiy happening on twitter during the event with people wondering what event they were at – but nobody in the room from the party or the company seemed to be reading Twitter – Problem one!
The FF website is up on the screen and lots of FF types are around room making sure everything is ok. Camera Crew and photographers are there too. No politicians from the national stage that I could see.
Joe starts his input with a video about the Obama campaign and a brief exploration of the logistics involved online and offline in organising the movment and the campaign. The input ends with the Fianna Fáil website and this website stays up during a question and answer session. If I were a non alligned political blogger/social media type at this stage I would be very confused – Problem Two.
Questions are posed by FF candidates, members, journalists and bloggers and range from questions on Obama related issues, Blue State Digital directions (more about this in another post from me later) and questions about Fianna Fáil’s online strategy.
There has been a very negative reaction tonight to the way the event was run from mainly non political aligned bloggers and social media enthusiasts.
If Fianna Fail wanted to launch their online engagement strategy to an audience of bloggers and social media activists then they should have done the full bells and whistles launch and invited us all – we would have been there with bells on no matter if we voted or not. In fact from many in the room I think they would have offered up lots of advice and many questions and commentary. Last week Bord Gais Energy did something similar with an audience of bloggers – it worked really well because it was up front in that a company wanted to talk to a group of bloggers about a new project.
Did Fianna Fail mislead us tonight on what we were going to? I don’t think Strawberry Media did – they wanted people to hear Rospars – Fianna Fáil just misjudged how to do things with the very varied audience in the room.
The media company involved asked us did we want to hear Joe Rospars speak and lots of us said ‘yes please’ and they knew how to handle things and I think it was a pity they were not allowed to run the event as it was advertised. As for Joe I won’t remember much about his speech because I was reading the reactions on twitter and watching the reaction in the room – a number of questions asked were not answered and little new information was gained. The fact the new website was on the screen in the room led to FF specific questions being asked – Cue Problem 3.
If it were a Fianna Fáil web strategy launch we’d probably have learnt so much more and FF would have lots of blog posts on the new project and engagement.
Finally to add to confusion regarding the night I wonder who I gave my name and email address to when I signed in at the door? Because at the end of night Joe was telling us all to email Fianna Fáil as if we were at a FF event.
Now if people are wondering about all the noise and negativity tonight it’s simply because people became very confused at what event they were actually at.
- Gavin has text of event invite as sent to FF members – hence the confusion!
- Brendan on how not to use social media in politics
- Green Ink tells the story pictorially
- Damien Blake the organiser from Strawberry Media (and Fianna Fáil Councillor and blogger) takes it on chin and demonstrates how to respond!