About 200 Republican Capitol Hill staffers, political consultants and bloggers gathered at the Heritage Foundation last week to brainstorm ways to bridge the “digital divide” with Democrats.
Participants at the Modern Media Strategies Workshop, which was co-hosted by Heritage and Google Inc., conceded that Republicans have lagged behind Democrats in their utilization of the Internet as a political tool. The buzz word of the day was “get it.”
“Getting it” entailed getting across how the Internet can serve Republican political operators and how those operators can use the Internet to help their would-be voters get political messages.
“Most conservatives are starting to realize that learning to navigate the modern world of the Internet is not only necessary, but also a great return on investment,” said David All, a Republican media and internet consultant and founder of TechRepublican.com.
Among the presenters were Mindy Finn, director of eStrategy for the presidential campaign of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R); Tim Chapman, senior communications adviser for Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.); Matt Lira, deputy communications director for Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.); Jon Henke, online brand manager for New Media Strategies and new media engagement manager for the presidential campaign of former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.); Josh Shultz, director of new media for the National Republican Congressional Committee; and Cyrus Krohn, eCampaign Director for the Republican National Committee.
“There are these unfortunate perceptions that blogs are these crazy kids things,” Henke said. “They are basic communication skills.”
Henke emphasized the importance of having meaningful content communicated online.
“There are a lot of people that don’t have the unique content to keep a blog up. My boss is not one of them,” he said about Thompson.
Brad Dayspring, communications director for the House Republican Study Committee, said he looked to blogs that he was involved with as a way for Congressional staffers from different offices to communicate with each other during the workday.
“I always make the case to skeptical conservatives that blogging is important because two key constituencies read blogs: Washington journalists and Capitol Hill staffers,” said organizer Rob Bluey, director of the Center for Media and Public Policy at the Heritage Foundation. “When you’re trying to have an impact on public policy, you don’t get a much better audience than that.”