High Risk, High Yield in Politics

This morning, I was a guest on the Media Bullseye podcast. I’ll link it when it becomes available. One of the topics of discussion revolved around the tactics (not the politics) being employed by the candidates in the Presidential race.

The analogy I drew was investment in the stock market. You can invest in high risk, high yield stocks and make a killing or get hung out to dry. I remember a few years ago, around the time I started blogging actually, I worked with a gentleman who made it a hobby to invest in penny stocks. He invested in Sirius Satellite Radio (SIRI) at approximately $4/share and scarfed up 1000 shares. One day, not long after his investment, the stock price dropped to just over $2 and he was down half his money if he would have gotten out at that time. Within a few weeks, the stock soared to an all-time high of $7.95 and he cashed out on a short term investment and doubled his money.

Investment doesn’t always work like that and sometimes causes investors to drink heavily (ok, anyone who knows investors know they drink heavily anyway!). Some people take a more conservative, yet reliable approach to investment that involves in stable stocks that, over time, will almost always return a profit if you’re patient.

What we see in this presidential election are two approaches to “getting a message out”. On one side, you have McCain’s campaign running a largely traditional political campaign. Sure, they are embracing some bloggers, but largely the GOP machine (which is actually a historically highly efficient machine) is running a tried-and-true campaign, engaging the media, putting out press releases, accepting high dollar donations, etc. Low risk, yet will inevitably be effective as it’s tested and Republicans are very good at it.

On the flip side, the younger, more internet-savvy Obama campaign is running a guerilla campaign based largely in small, recurring donations en masse, the use of social media tools and engaging an army of Generation Y new media enthusiasts who put out compelling, and sometimes viral content. Take this video for instance (which I will avoid the discussion of the politics around – just to note that it is viral and effective in reaching the masses with over 280k views in just the past two days since publishing).

The problem here is that this is a high-risk move. Social media is so new that no one yet has it figured out. Jeremiah Owyang thinks companies should be using FriendFeed to do social media press releases but pitches this idea as an early adopter. We’re all early adopters. Social media is in the age of early adoption and though there is a lot of attention to blogs, YouTube and all the other social services, it is unclear what the actual tangible results will be. No one knows and though it looks promising now, the landscape is changing so fast that, come November, the use of social media and small donation policy could have a backlash effect on the Obama campaign.

It’s a high risk, high yield investment.

By the way, we also talked about the FriendFeed thing on this morning’s podcast.

Update: The Media Bullseye Podcast I was on this morning. Thanks Sarah and Jen for having me!

2 Replies to “High Risk, High Yield in Politics”

  1. It was great talking to you this morning Aaron! Terrific post elaborating on the discussion.

    That video I’m sure will go beyond 280K views…thanks for posting it, great example.

    Have fun at Blog Potomac!


  2. Alright so I had to think about this and come back…

    I’m not going to debate the element of risk, however I’m not sure how ‘high’ it may be, considering any blogger can write anything at any time and any campaign can choose to ignore and not be associated.

    For instance, let’s take my favorite (snark) Michelle Malkin- she keeps mouthing off with some widely viral stuff- yet the McCain campaign has little risk because they won’t associate with her.

    I have to see when it comes to ‘official’ social media outreach by the campaigns it’s been as controlled as any typical media effort.

    While I see risks in using any forms of communication, period…I’m not sure calling it ‘high’ risk is responsible in a time when we’re trying very hard to show the world all the wonderful things social media can do. (you rolling your eyes at me yet? yeah, thought so)

    I think maybe these tools just give more people voices, and the power of many to be able to affect change on a grassroots level scares the hell out of some people.

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