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Memo for Team Romney: The Deaver Era Is Over

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If you visit, the welcome screen invites you to join the campaign. That makes sense.

Then a click on “continue” takes you to a home page with a lot of options, and these options rotate in a display of quality appeals and opportunities.

Scroll down and you will find a “video of the day” and the “blog of the day” and then a “featured news article,” which yesterday –another click– was this one from the Washington Post, which hasn’t been updated yet this morning.

That’s not messaging. That’s conceding the right to shape the news to Politico, RealClearPolitics, and of course the White House. To get ready for the summer and fall campaign, Team Romney needs to do two things.

First, Team Romney needs to get an aggregator up and running, a continually updated feed of stories and clips that they want their supporters, undecideds and yes the media to read and watch.

This is the reality of 2012: The candidates and the campaigns are seeking to influence the producers of news, the few hundred people who program network and radio cable, assign stories, and post on the most widely read blogs. From these sources flow the content of most social media.

The current has the kernel of this idea but it is simply not content rich enough or fast enough to matter. My own experience: I have never, ever consulted the website in the hour before I go on the air. Duane and I are busy sweeping the news aggregators, looking for late-breaking stories and clips that tell the day’s news. Yesterday afternoon, for example, the Obama Administration had to admit that Social Security was draining its assets at a much more alarming rate than previously thought. Big story, and one that underscores Romney’s message of deep incompetence at every level of the president’s administration, but we got it from the Washington Post without any help from Team Romney, which in this new media age ought to have up a site where not only is there the post story but three or four other stories and key video clips.

If you want the media to reflect the stories you think matter the most, then prep the media. It isn’t hard to do, but requires only news judgment and technological competence.

Second, what matters most to television and radio producers are video, audio and guests. The campaign is very helpful on guest requests, finding and scheduling the candidate and surrogates, but not on the delivery of key clips. If the campaign wants the country to hear what Mitt Romney or Barack Obama is saying about something, it needs to push that tape out.

National Review’s Jim Geraghty joined me on yesterday’s program, and we discussed how the campaign is figuring out new media and its use for the general campaign in record time, but how they still are working off of the old “ten minute” availability model.

The Deaver Model of presidential communication emphasized getting one message and one picture out per news cycle. (This obit of the master strategist provides a sense of his technique.)

That was fine in an era of three networks and a thirty minute nightly newscast and morning papers, but the latter don’t matter and the former are greatly diminished in their influence.

The vast sprawling network of new media is the key to 2012, far more than even in 2008. It has to be fed. All day. Every day.


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