The Meetup Lesson

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Michael Silberman. Mr. Silberman was the National Meetup Director for Howard Dean’s presidential campaign run in 2004. During the lecture, Michael explained his role in the campaign and what other candidates could learn from Dean’s approach.

Meetup.com is a web site that connects people of like interests. The web site was never intended to create a connection amongst people with similar political interests, but it happened naturally. Dean’s campaign team embraced the efforts of his supporters and incorporated the web site into its grassroots plans.

The Power of One…Chapter or Supporter

Although Howard Dean eventually lost the presidential candidacy, both McCain and Obama could learn from Dean Meetup strategy.

In Mousepads, Shoe Leather and Hope, Silberman describes managing “1000 different local chapters of active Dean supporters.” The team guided each chapter by providing each organizer with every thing they would need for the meeting. Smart move! Silberman claims this was done to reduce the burnout for the volunteers. Considering that I think of everything in terms of public relations and marketing, I think its good branding. Very consistent messaging (the DVD message from Howard Dean) and consistent materials (sample letters, stamps and envelopes) help to create a consistent product.

Sealing the Deal…From On line to Off line

Obama does a superb job of organizing his supporters on line. Using social networks, he has been able to garner support from millions of people, which has translated into millions of small dollar donations. The questions then becomes: what happens next?

Howard Dean’s team understood the importance of the convergence of on line and offline worlds, and utilized Meetup.com as a means to organize and systematize the efforts of his supporters.

I believe that both McCain and Obama are missing this in person call to action. Although the Internet has forever changed the way politicians and their supporters interact, it will never take the place of face-to-face meetings.

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