A series of unfortunate events.. (and a new website!)

Fanfare greeted the arrival in Dublin last night of Obama’s online mogul, Joe Rospars. He trades under BlueStateDigital and they’re a pretty serious outfit.. (If you don’t immediately get the blue state thing just go listen to Obama’s convention 04 speech)..

Obama is credited with an unprecedented online campaign

Joe was in town to announce a new partnership with Fianna Fail on the parties new website. Whilst in town there was a gig organised to allow him share his wisdom.

I received an invite via the normal channels (FF press office) and it was fairly standard, FF hosting an audience with an online guru, etc etc so far so excellent, and I was really hoping to get along. I was a bit miffed at the short notice and as it turned out logistics would not permit my attendance but it was a great step in the right direction. As someone interested in Obama, FF, politics and technology it pretty much ticked all the boxes for me.

So far, so good. Unfortunately things started to go wrong. The firm charged with pulling the thing together was in hybrid mode, as an FF Cllr who runs his own media firm. Nothing wrong with that, and contrary to popular perception perhaps, Cllrs. do actually need a day job, being slightly (well actually majorly!) less well paid than our town cousins in the big house.

However the problem was whilst one audience were invited to an FF event (albeit a small ‘ff’ – a public talk hosted while he was in town with the party) another section seemingly had no idea there was a political tie-in. A separate invite had been fired into the blogosphere via the tech/media wing of the organising outfit which alas skipped over the basic premise. Result was a crowd of bloggers turned up to hear Rospars but seemed to pop a fuse when the FF logo hovered into view. I can’t speak for the quality of the event not physically being present but reports vary on whether Rospars spoke for 40 or 5 minutes. I certainly would have been annoyed had I cancelled other arrangements and travelled specially to Dublin (as I almost did) only to hear a 5 minute talk but a 40 minute one may have been worth it. Who knows but I will check out the video which I believe is coming onstream shortly.

Long story short an online backlash ensued here here here and here for starters. Some wailing, some gnashing, some grumbling and some grievences. Some gems and some gyrations. I can understand why the guys are complaining btu I can’t help wondering would there have been the same reaction had it been a Campbells soup ad he was in town to launch (for example). But absolutely, the thing should have been made clear what it was all about from the start. I have a slightly different grievance to the rest of the gang possibly, in that I can’t understand why it wasn’t shouted from the rooftops that Rospars was in town and here with FF. Well it was in the invite I got but not in the one that went out through Stawberry media. Lets all sing off the same hymn sheet in future is the message fairly loud and clear and there’s been lots of public mea culpa from the principal protagonist / central cuplrit.

I’m looking forward to getting the vid-cast of the talk itself, and hopefully distilling some nuggets, also looking forward to taking the new site for a test drive. I have a personal reservation as to how well online tactics can be applied on a local level (e.g. for a local election campaign) as opposed to a massive (300 million) catchment for a US presidential one. I’ve been trying out some tools, obviously the blog itself but also twitter and facebook and so forth and have some mixed views. Twitter is an interesting social tool. The blog is an excellent way to disseminate information. Facebook I’ve a few complaints about. But I may return to that theme another day.

Anyway make your own mind up – here’s the new site: www.fiannafail.ie

10 Replies to “A series of unfortunate events.. (and a new website!)”

  1. Daria

    Hi James,

    I have to say, that I’m disappointed in the photograph you pulled from the BSD website. That photograph combined with the first sentence of your Blog is MISLEADING in capital letters! It appears that the photo was taken in Dublin and they are Americans or other US supporters out to greet him and waving their flags. Which, of course is totally untrue. If I understand correctly this was about making a Business arrangement with BSD and FF; and has nothing at all to do the American or Obama support or Americans Abroad. Just a suggestion from a friend; but I would consider pulling another BSD photo or even the logo. This strategy could both backfire and offend. The ‘true’ grassroots internet work, was in fact done for free by Americans and other supporters at home and abroad who gave their own time and effort sending thousands of e-mails and postings on various sites. Joe is NOT credited with Obama’s Grassroots Campaign, of which on-line was only a portion! Also, a small clue in, FF most likely does not enjoy majority support among Americans living here (especially Democrats, Obama’s supporters) so you want to approach those voters with sincereity, not misrepresentation. Again, this is coming from a FRIEND. Good Luck with this, Daria.

  2. James Lawless Post author

    Hi Daria, hadn’t even considered that but thanks for the tipoff, have changed the image. Keep up the feedback! James

    PS Disappointed to hear most Irish democrats do not support Fianna Fáil as I can vouch it’s about 90/10 the other way around (in favour of the Dems)!

  3. Daria

    Hi James,

    I’m just home and checked it all out. EXCELLENT! Great job
    on choosing the diagram. It’s cool and makes a good clear
    point. Also, the new caption is great and accurate! Well done.
    I would hate for you to get caught out….could be very messy.
    Glad it’s sorted before the wrong person reads it first. I guess
    the best way to describe the possible lack of support, is that
    in terms of U.S. Politics, Fianna Fial would be much closer
    associated with U. S. Republicans, not Democrats. So, from
    an idealogical point of view, it’s just a case of opposite sides
    of the fence. Also, the majority of Irish-Americans would be
    Democrats, and like myself that makes up a large number of
    Americans living here. So, Good Luck with the rest of it.
    Fianna Fail needs people like you! Daria

  4. Darragh

    Hi James,

    I’m looking forward to getting the vid-cast of the talk itself, and hopefully distilling some nuggets…

    I just want to share withyou why I am so disappointed with Fianna Fáil by standing by this event.

    As you say:

    Obama’s online mogul, Joe Rospars. He trades under BlueStateDigital and they’re a pretty serious outfit…

    As StrawberryMedia’s invite said:

    This event is open to all, and would be particularly suited to bloggers and those interested in technology and politics.

    What Rospars said at the event: (paraphrased obviously)

    – This is what we did and these were the results
    – We built real authentic relationships with people and used them in a concrete way
    – Good campaigners talk to people and engage them at a grass-roots level
    – Make sure your web presence is a big part of what you’re doing

    Now, I don’t know about you, but this, to me would be like me going to say the George Hook show to do an indepth post-match analysis on a rugby game and saying “Well, loads of men in different jerseys went out onto a field, played with a ball and the team with the highest score won” and then leaving it at that. So much for indepth.

    Bloggers and those interested in technology are those ALREADY ENGAGING with people online. The launch of the Fianna Fáil website – heralded by “exciting emails” and “YouTube videos from the Taoiseach” – could have been an opportunity for FF to open a dialogue of both trust and open communication with the people who are the online experts in this country. This is why the Irish Internet Association, the Marketing Institute of Ireland and so on run courses to teach companies how to engage with people. This is why semi-state bodies like Bórd Gáis are also engaging with people online. It’s where people are talking. Take a look at the statistics of sites like Boards.ie as a perfect example *

    Bloggers give opinions – no one asked our opinions. This was not an authentic relationship building exercise – it felt more like a “Well shure we showed them it, it’s not our fault that They got it wrong.” FF have spent what is presumambly a lot of time, money and resources on this site and the entire consultation process with BlueStateDigital but don’t seem to have a clue how to properly engage with and deal with the tools at their disposal.

    Surely then that’s the whole point of any exercise rendered futile?

    All I can do is point you towards this comment on Blake’s website: http://www.damienblake.com/2009/02/joe-rospars-dublin-event-new-ff-online-strategy/#comment-14859

    I didn’t distrust Fianna Fáil before this event. I do now.

    (* disclaimer – I am employed by Boards.ie but commenting on this blog in a personal capacity)

  5. James Lawless Post author


    Thanks for stopping by. I don’t think we’re particularly in disagreement.

    You guys got a different invite (to the one I got) and are miffed and I get that.

    I got an invite to an FF web event (a little miffed myself cos the way too short notice meant I couldn’t make it and obviously not pleased at the messing that seems to have surrounded the other invite). But I’m still looking forward to checking out the video and seeing can I learn anything.

    I’m not sure if the guy had much by way of new material for experienced bloggers but maybe some of the information was useful for other folk there.

    Re the comment on Damien’s blog I was also out canvassing last night and Rospars didn’t come up on any doors for me either but that’s hardly the point. (I did have a conversation about SOA recently on a doorstep which was interesting but that’s another day’s work – literally!). Blogging is still a niche craft and reaches a niche audience. But the same could be said for the church newsletter. They’re all relevant to their own audiences. And they all should be engaged with.

  6. Darragh

    James, I respect that completely but do me a favour – Google “Fianna Fail new website” and see how many blogs come up in the first ten results. Results four to ten deal with how it’s either a badly done job or the Rospars event. It may be “niche” to an offline audience, but more and more people are going online and I think it’s fairly safe to say that a lot of people use Google?

    Search Google for Fianna Fáil and see how many blogs come up there in the first ten results. Have a read of what they are saying.

    What is Fianna Fáil doing to engage with people and start changing minds and attitudes?

    FF have the chance to get in now and impress people with what they’ll do and how they do it or continue to struggle to catch up and look out of date to an audience that has already adjusted and is engage by the parties that are aufait with both the technology and the communities that use them.

    Exactly like Obama did, which is what, I thought, the point of the Rospars event was in the first place. Of course Rospars wasn’t known at door to door canvassing – he wasn’t meant to be. How many people knew anything good about the new Fianna Fáil website (or even that there was one) though?

    I’m not miffed at the event – I’m not miffed even at the duplicitous information (or omission) or whatever, I’m just utterly utterly frustrated and disappointed that a political party that is SUPPOSED to be one of the best in the country can still be so close minded in their outlook.

  7. James Lawless Post author

    @Darragh that’s a good point about the google results actually.. I was putting the other guys comment in context though, the one you had highlighted..

    I ran the search another thing it highlights is the sheer volume of anti-FF commentary that is online.. Some those sites have been setup specifically to satirise or demonise the party.. There is a hate wave out there in some quarters (I’m not suggesting for moment that this is across the board just that there is a lot of negative energy in cyberspace and disproportionately more directed at FF than any one else).. I used be a virtual P.ie addict but gave it up as it became futile, was impossible have a meaningful discussion, site just crawling with trolls..

    But I digress.. Yeah it was a pretty unfortunate way to kick off but lets see how it goes.. there’s definitely some PR issues at the top right now and I think that’s starting to be acknowledged..

    I should point out, maybe there isn’t general awareness yet but it’s pretty standard now for individual FF candidates to have at least a Facebook page and most are online in various forms.. It’s good to see head office getting on board but a lot of our guys are already doing it for themselves.. In terms of what FF are doing, certainly this generation of candidates, (which includes myself i.e. the class of locals 09) are out there every night on the doors at the meetings and also online.. that’s how we engage on daily basis..

  8. James Lawless Post author


    Have reread your last comment. Don’t fully get you though – leaving aside the invite fiasco, is FF not doing, or trying to do, exactly the things you describe? That is the whole point of this new website surely. What is it you think the site/party should be doing differently?

  9. Janis

    FF walk down the left hand side of the street, everyone protests at why they didn’t walk down the right hand side of the street.

    It is very hard to satisfy all the people all the time.

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