Wednesday, July 11, 2007

YouTube PR 

Mainstream media have written at length about the use of YouTube videos in the current presidential campaign. This article looks at the claims and comes up with a different conclusion. That conclusion is use of YouTube for PR is overrated in most campaigns to date. Most video clips are talking heads and boring. Viewership is low. The article speculates that use of YouTube will improve as the election cycle continues, but it has a long way to go today.

Here’s the deal: To the extent that candidates use YouTube to distribute animated “brochure-ware,” they will generate the same lack of interest as their printed campaign brochures traditionally have. Duhh.

To garner mainstream attention, the videos must be entertaining a la “I’ve Got a Crush on Obama,” edgy as with the “1984 Big Sister” anti-Hillary video, snarky as in the “I Feel Pretty” video about Edwards’ combing his hair -- or Hillary singing (off key) the national anthem, or gotcha as with the “macacca” video about (former) Senator Allen.

Any person with a cell phone camera can now produce homemade political commercials, and each and every one of them now has his or her very own online TV channel – called YouTube! Think about the implications of that.

It will turn Tip O’Neill’s adage that “all politics is local” on its head. A clever, snarky, gotcha video can make a local candidate a national and even international figure. A funny, clever video that they make themselves can do the same thing if it strikes a chord or touches a nerve.

The revolution will be televised, online, on YouTube.


Carol Darr is currently the director of GW’s Institute of Politics, Democracy & the Internet. In the fall, she will teach “New Media and Contemporary American Politics” at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

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