Magazine article Politics Magazine

Slate Alum Cyrus Krohn, Now Online Guru for the RNC, Is Injecting Consumer Savvy into E-Campaigning

Magazine article Politics Magazine

Slate Alum Cyrus Krohn, Now Online Guru for the RNC, Is Injecting Consumer Savvy into E-Campaigning

Article excerpt

Politics: A year ago, we were ail writing about how the Democrats seemed to have the advantage online in terms of their techniques and initiatives. Do you think the opposite is true, that you've actually gained an advantage by some of the things you've done with the GOP?

Krohn: I think we have an advantage that I don't want to divulge publicly. We've got some online tactics we're deploying that we feel very bullish about. There are differences in approaches, and I think the tactic that we've taken with our strategic use of online marketing to target voters will not only impact voter turnout, but prove a model that we'll want to refine and replicate moving forward.


Politics: Who are the people you're hoping to reach and persuade with this new approach?

Krohn: Well, look at the fundamental shifts in consumer behavior m a fragmented media market. Fewer people are watching television with the same habits they used to, fewer people are reading print the way they used to or listening to radio. With the advent of the iPod, TiVo, DVRs and mobile devices, you've just got such a wide array of ways to consume content. The one area where we're seeing significant growth trends is in digital media consumption, whether that's on a device or tethered to the laptop. So it's not that these are individuals we weren't able to reach previously; it's that they're becoming harder to reach through traditional methods. These new tactics we're deploying ensure us one more voter contact. And our database, Voter Vault--which has been the bread and butter of our GOTV operations for several cycles--is being deployed now in a new tactic to effectively reach voters online.

Politics: You've been utilizing humor in interesting ways, like Is there hard evidence you're seeing that humor is a very effective way to reach people online?

Krohn: We're so inundated and saturated with information that if you can portray content with a little bit of a different hook, you're more likely to grab a consumer's or a voter's attention. So that's what we've tried to achieve with What I did not want to do this cycle was present a website that was laden with information that to the average reader is difficult to absorb. So we've presented content in a way that introduces humor and anecdotes and graphics and more entertaining information material. With BarackBook, for example, we've created a parody of Facebook while putting out relevant critical information about Barack Obama's network of friends. So people can digest it in a way that they're familiar with, through friend-feed updates and seeing who's connected to whom, et cetera.

Politics: What other innovations are changing the way campaigns are waged online?

Krohn: We have a feature, as most political websites do, where you can write a letter to the editor in a web forum. But the McCain campaign took an interesting approach, where they basically provide you with a directory of blogs, and then they facilitate your ability to post comments on those blogs. The campaign, I think, innovated there in an interesting way.

Politics: Despite efforts like this, you still find a number of people out there who say e-campaigning is still playing at the margins. The perception is that one televised debate can shift perceptions in ways that online attempts can't match.

Krohn: Well, television is still king--I don't think there's any question about that. Where the web complements television is in the push-versus-pull nature of information. If you're watching a debate, that information is being pushed to you by the broadcaster, whereas you can then go to a search engine and pull the specific information you want. …

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