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A good campaign harmonises all tools: Roger Fisk

Interview with PR expert associated with US President Barack Obama's campaigns

Sanjay Jog  |  Mumbai 

Roger Fisk, PR Expert

Roger Fisk, the public relations expert associated with US President Barack Obama’s campaigns before the 2008 and 2012 polls, believes a person-to-person model alone can persuade and motivate people. On the sidelines of Ficci Frames 2014, he speaks to Sanjay Jog. Edited excerpts:

Tell us about the media campaign you conceptualised for US President Obama.

It was a combination of a couple of things. Our campaign had a thoroughly 21st century approach that combined a unique candidate and some innovative online tools. Together, it became a dynamic and nimble organisation that captured this moment in American history.

How did you take this ahead in 2012, when Obama went for re-election?

We conceived the idea of engaging with voters through a medium that spoke to them—the internet and social media networks. We started Obama’s social media campaign through an interactive part of our official website, www.mybarackobama.com.

It was an open platform to maximise the growth of supporters. Through the website, we taught them to self-organise, to become the campaign themselves. We relied on these supporters to clinch the win for us by personalising the campaign through their own connections and relationships with family, friends, acquaintances and co-workers. The focus of the 2012 campaign was to start conversations with voters months before election day.

A year earlier, in November 2011, we had a goal of a million person-to-person conversations…face-to-face meetings, door-to-door, sometimes phone calls; a person calling others and having long conversations. Though the scale of re-election was bigger, we had the values of self-organising. We only had to bring it up to scale. Person-to-person contact has to be consistent. That motivates or persuades them and they are involved. So much money was spent on television during the last 45 days. We found the person-to-person model was the only thing that could actually get to people and persuade or motivate them.

How did you succeed? Can your model be replicated in India?

What is required is constant involvement of the organisation, as well as improvement, which requires agility and nimbleness. Sometimes, a lot of organisations say they want to change, but their organisational culture actually fights against that. I do not know enough about Indian politics to speak about them in detail.

Organisations should pick social media tools they feel are compatible with their organisation. A lot of people think they need to be present in every single media platform and end up doing 10 things, but not too well. Select two or three things and do these really well.

The BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party)’s prime ministerial candidate is aggressively campaigning through social media.

I do not know enough to answer that. I am very careful to know what I am talking about. I don’t know about a lot of things; a couple of things I do about.

What is your message to those using social media in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections in India?

Again, I do not want to comment on India. But in general, the organisational culture of the campaign plays a crucial role.

How is the combination of traditional and social media important?

For a lot of people, it is very easy to be fascinated by the most recent tools or something which has just come out. It all depends on how you create the most attractive combination of everything from newspapers or the social media platform to free media and paid media, not just TV and advertising. Radio is still effective and can target specific constituencies and leaders. All these tools have to be harmonised. That’s what a good campaign does.

First Published: Sat, March 15 2014. 21:39 IST