Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Utilizing Political Influencers to Reach Undecided Voters

3:30 p.m. Still here at the Politics Online Conference and things are winding down. Since lunch, it has been a whirlwind afternoon. I've spent the last hour trying in vain to get my Internet connection back. Well, not exactly a full hour. After about fifteen minutes in the area near the cocktail lounge, I became exceedingly frustrated. That's when I turned to the nice gentleman sitting in the chair to my right. He turned out to be Neal Gorenflo, V.P. of Client Services for FAS.research, a network analyst for businesses and other enterprises. Neal helped clear out my cache, but the flippn' PC still wouldn't connect.

May have been our location. My favorite blue chairs at the edge of the downstairs lobby were already taken.

Deciding to make lemonade out of lemons, I agreed to watch Neal's online presentation about market media. His company created a social statistics model from their affiliation with the Vienna Green Party to identify hubs of influence. These hubs are undecided voters with a bent toward the political middle. The company's objective: influencing people I have previously identified as the de facto third party to support a particular candidate. One of yesterday's conference sessions touched upon this very subject, so Neal had my undivided attention.

The two of us had a great time discussing Independent voters, Hillary or Obama, the need for less rancorous political discussion, and Neal's presentation. Yes, social statistics are not imperial evidence. There is margin for error. Still, it is a better model than what candidates work with now -- well worth investigating. FAS is hard at work, identifying parties and/or voters like the Vienna Green Party here in America, hoping to spread a candidate's message by targeting their political influencers.

But how does one influence a voter in the middle who may not necessarily agree with an influencer's political perspective? I say agree to disagree and be nice about it. Neal says the answer is more definitive.

Frame the message in such a way that it becomes palatable. For example, a hardline conservative voter is against crime, wants to reduce crime, but thinks crime is committed by lazy shiftless people. A more liberal voter believes people who commit crime have been dealt a bad hand and shouldn't be blamed for their anti-social behavior. How can the swing-voter influencer reach both kinds of voters? Tell the conservative voter society benefits by keeping people out of jail. Therefore, their best solution is to support a political ideology likely to accomplish that objective. Create jobs, start social programs, that kind of thing. The liberal voter is already onboard.


Actually, the presentation was much more detailed and comprehensive than that, but it is the message I walked away with at the end of the presentation as I, once again, packed up my PC and conference materials to search for greener connection pastures.