Sunday, June 12, 2005

Rebecca breaks down basic marketing for the Democratic Party

This wasn't supposed to be an interview. We asked Rebecca (sex and politics and screeds and attitude) for comments on a Double Dog Blog Spotlight we were doing on her entries but during the comments it turned into a mini-interview.

To make sure it receives the attention it deserves, we're taking it out of the comments section and making it an article all by itself.

Rebecca: Wendy had written me about how things were at her high school and I could identify because it was like a version of the whole Ed thing. Every time I post about how I will not let some man bully me around with an e-mail about what I should write and how I should write, I hear from female bloggers.
Now I'm sure most women who blog about politics are used to the nonsense but I know from their e-mails that a lot of women gave up even addressing politics because of this sort of shit. I also know a few female bloggers who hang in there and talk about politics but are so damn sick of this shit. I think it's time for all bloggers to stand up to this bullshit. I wish they would. I know C.I. did a post this week on "side issues," on how centerists rush in to say "side issue" or some such shit whenever talk turns to issues that are a concern to women.
So what's it's going to be in 2008? We'll the Democratic Party again try to woo the white male voter and expect women, GLBT, ethnic and racial minorities to just go along out of loyalty even though their needs aren't being addressed? Don't give me that workers shit either because there was nothing in the campaign that seriously addressed the working poor and said "You are welcome here, we want you with us."
It was a focus group campaign that focused on who can get the more white, male, middle-class voters. The excitement came from the 527s, not from the campaign. The excitement came from outsiders, not from the campaign. When John Kerry gave that weak ass answer in the debate about abortions, I wanted to cringe. He should have said, "Do you want me to tell you to have an abortion?" Then the simpering idiot would have said, "No!" To which he could have replied, "Then don't try to tell any other woman that she can't have one."
We didn't need to hear his long winded spiritual reflection on the state of abortion. And in 2008, we better have strong messages and a strong speaker. We better have a policy that says to the base, "You're welcome in this party" because if we don't, it's the death of the party.
I was in Boston on election night and I heard, not from your average voter but from party activists, that the continual refusal to embrace African-American voters is going to destroy the party. They have been a loyal base for the Democratic Party.
And it didn't stop after the election. When Slimey Simon Rosenberg was asked by Lizz Winstead and Rachel Maddow what he would do, if he were DNC chair, to address the concerns of African-American voters, he didn't answer. He started talking about Latino voters.
And therein is the problem. The party needs to stop acting like the White Male Middle Class Party that can find time each election cycle to address one group that's not White Male Middle Class. It's past time to start reaching out to all.
But when the people deciding on the "message" are mainly from one group, you get one message and then they think to speak a tiny bit, throw out a morsel, to one group that's not just like them. They pass that off as "inclusive."
It's not. Nor does the leadership reflect the base. We don't need to fancy talk or spiritual guidance, we need plain talk that is welcoming to our core voters. If we can't do that, we can't get them to the polls. I'll get off my soap box now.

Third Estate Sunday Review: One point before you do, you were in public relations, we want to note that, so what you're saying right now, are you basing it on that?

Rebecca: Absolutely. Let's say Pepsi finds out from research that most people who drink Pepsi fall into two groups: women and African-Americans, with overlap for women who belong to both groups. If Pepsi then hires all white males and crafts commercials to white males in a series of advertisements over and over, they're going to find that that their core is scratching it's head and wondering, "Does Pepsi even want me to buy their products?"
If this continues, as it has in the Democratic Party, you'll find that word of mouth is growing very negative towards Pepsi from those two groups, again with overlap for African-American women.
Now if you're a long term consumer of Pepsi, you obviously like the taste. So some will stick with it and some will stick with it out of brand loyalty. However, you'll find that your advertisements have seriously alienated a number of people who will no longer buy your products. Peeling away a very small slice of consumers can make a huge difference in where you fall, in terms of success, on the grid.
But more important, this is important in marketing, in the long term, the bad word of mouth reaches future Pepsi buyers. They haven't established a loyalty to the product and they're not going to because Pepsi isn't catering to them in their marketing. They're going to buy something that is catering to them. Over time, Pepsi can find it's market share dwindle to the point that no one buys Pepsi products in enough numbers to keep the company in business anymore.
The Democratic Party better be worried about where future members are going to go. The Green Party has a much more exciting image to young people who are concerned about the environment, women's rights, the working class, etc. Throwing together their own concept of a prayer vigil won't bring in the new voters.

The Third Estate Sunday Review: Give us five quick tips on what, from a marketing stand point, the Democratic Party should be doing.

Rebecca: Okay.
1) Stop sending out every white male you have to the chat and chews. Get the Black Caucus out there. The party can make requests on that, they have the power to do so. As it stands right now, Condi Rice is a fixture of the chat and chews. If you watch them, the underlying message is that the Republican Party has a strong female, African-American spokesperson. And the Democrats? They've got Joe Biden with his receding hairline representing who?

2) When you're walking out of a meeting, you stand next to a Barbara Boxer or a Barak Obama.
The photos being run in the press by Republicans are of an Olympia Snow or Kay Baily Hutchinson with a few men. It sends a message over time.
Someone's snapping a photo, you say, "Wait a second" and call someone over who's not white, male and balding.

3) The party has a few straight talkers.
While Maxine Waters is welcome on The Randi Rhodes Show and The Majority Report, the
party should do more to get her voice out there on the weekday programs that revolve around guests -- and others like Russ Feingold, Barbara Lee, etc. These people speak plainly and with passion. Air America is on the Democrats side, it should be used to take the strong voices that the mainstream isn't paying attention to and to note them repeatedly thereby forcing the mainstream to acknowledge them. Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy and Barbara Boxer are probably the three biggest "stars" of the Senate. No offense to the first two, but Boxer's admiration comes not from what the mainstream covered, but from what Air America and others covered. When the mainstream won't highlight your people, you work twice as hard to build up "stars" in other media.
As people become aware of them, they start e-mailing This Week or Face the Nation or whatever and asking why those people aren't on? They read an article in the paper and wonder, "What does Russ Feingold think about this?"
If an Air America show revolves around guests, leadership should be working hard to make sure that elected officials who aren't all over the chat and chews are available for each show during the week. (I say during the week because, like C.I., I think the weekend shows are very strong. Laura Flanders, for instance, doesn't need any help, or doesn't appear to, in order to book guests.) At a mimimum, leadership should be offering up ten guests a week. I'm not a fan of Al Franken's but I'm sure he'd be willing to feature anyone who was offered. Morning Edition's best moments have come when they've featured down to earth elected officials who came off as knowledgable but also as regular people. When the mainstream won't let you build an a-team, you build it in any and all outlets you can. There was an ad campaign that I worked on where TV buys were out of the question for a variety of reasons. We didn't say, "Well, there's nothing we can do then." We got focused on what other mediums we could hit and we hit them hard repeatedly. It worked. And if that's confusing, think of the Downing Street memo. The mainstream didn't lead on that, they remained silent. It was bloggers and other alternative media that informed the public and made it an issue.
Look at some of the weirdo Republicans on TV today. You wonder where they came from and how they got a "name?" The party used something other than the mainstream. They looked at the landscape and figured out a way to build outside the mainstream. We need to be doing the same.

4) No more bullshit about "I don't agree with Howard Dean."
Someone asks you about that you say, "Who did the tax breaks go to? Who did Bully Boy say 'I like to think of you as my base' to?" Quit being on the defensive. The Republicans control the message because they set it and then Democrats go on the chat and chews and say idiotic things that respond to trumped up charges.
Pull an Eleanor Roosevelt and start off with something like, "I'm saddened . . ." that you follow up with how time's being wasted on discussing that charge when we need to address serious problems like the environment, like worker's wages, etc. Every time some question pops up trying to divide us, don't play that game.
With your answer, take the question somewhere else.

5) Our stands are popular.
Start talking about what we stand for and get the base excited. C.I.'s talked about the bean counters a great deal and I say "exactly." They're so focused on one race that they repeatedly allow the needs of the party to go unattended. Howard Dean needs to get vocal about the war, I agree. But one thing he is doing right is getting back to the base. Reaching out by going around the country and not just to safe states.
A national product can not be marketed regionally. This is a huge problem and no one wanted to address it. C.I. did the whole "Red" state series dealing with the realities of a lack of voter outreach. I'm thinking of the county that the party didn't even decide was important enough to open a party headquarters in.
I don't care if you only get one walk in a week, you open those headquarters. The elderly man who wrote in about how sad it was for him because this had always been a place where he could go and discuss politics and get campaing literature, that broke my heart. Yes, we have electronic meetup potential via the internet but face to face remains important.
People want to criticize the 527s and say that they didn't have the impact by traveling to states as did groups of Republicans who lived in them. No shit. And they never would and that shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone. The 527s did motivate people. But it's always better to have your own local organization.
Instead of trashing 527s, the complaint should go to the fact that they were out there doing their job and the party's job. They did strong work and deserve praise. The failure was in the party's inability to build up the local organizations.
Howard Dean knows that and he spoke of that when he was campaigning in the primaries. That's why The Common Ills community supported him for DNC chair.
And when you go out into the nation, you don't do it by charging fifty bucks a person to attend an event. You're not Oprah. You're working for a political party that needs as many voters as possible. Stop sending out the party "stars" for fundraising and start sending them out to excite the public.
You can set up an area for donations but the idea that you send Teresa Heinz Kerry to an area that John Kerry's never visited and that she hasn't either and charge a hundred bucks to attend is insane.
Billie was for John Kerry, [Billie is] a Common Ills community member. When I did my post on Teresa Heinz Kerry, whom I respect, she e-mailed me about how John Kerry never came to her area, John Edwards didn't, Elizabeth Edwards didn't. Teresa Heinz Kerry did. Billie got the invitation. And if she could fork over a hundred bucks, she could attend.
This was while we were trying to win back the White House, people.
That's insane. Billie wasn't for Howard Dean in the primaries but she did go see him because he spoke to people for free. That's why she eneded up supporting him for DNC chair.
And think about that for one second. She wasn't for him, but he came to her area and she heard him speak. When he went for DNC chair, she wouldn't settle for anyone else. That's the power that face to face can have, perfect example.
You want to have your fundraising luncheon, have it. But you damn well better provide something in the same area for the voters who can't afford that or else you're sending out a message that you don't care about them.
Get your butts out there before the people. Word of mouth on the events will be more than worth the monies spent to stage them. Citizen D may only make $18,000 a year, but he or she will not just go to that event and then forget about it. He or she will tell his or her friends about it, "Well you know when John Conyers was in town last month, he said . . ." Or, "I don't agree with that and neither does Shirley Tubbs Jones. She was in town a couple of months back and I got to hear her speak . . ."
That's what you want. That's what the 527s can never do. They do great work and I'm not slamming them and I think people who do should be ashamed. But the only way for the party to reach local people is to interact with them.
Then when you're on Meet the Press, for instance, and Tim Russert starts trying to put on his "just an average Joe" persona, you can stop him and say, "Well actually Tim, I was just in Shreveport and what I heard people saying was . . ."
Gas bag Cookie Roberts can repeatedly say on NPR, "The Democrats have no message" because the party wastes time responding to nonsense instead of taking a question and turning it around.

When we told Rebecca we were going to feature this as an interview, she wanted to add this.

Rebecca: I'm not trying to come off as the next guru for the party. They've had more than enough of those. The things I'm talking about are common sense things. It's not about crafting your message or catering, it's about getting it out there.

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