Like many of you on the Bold Progressive’s campaign list, I saw an email recruiting new media directors for congressional campaigns. As a close follower of how politicians are adapting to the shifting campaigning landscape, I had a few questions to ask. This interview is with Jason Rosenbaum of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.
Organizing 2.0: I hear you are looking for a few good organizers….
Jason: Yes! New media directors, to be precise. [Job details here.]
Organizing 2.0: What’s the likely profile of these NMD’s? Are these positions that a congressional campaign would fill on its own, or are you supplying something they simply won’t have without you?
Jason: We’re looking for folks that have both great tech skills, but are also (and more importantly) talented strategic organizers who are motivated to help progressives run and win boldly. These are positions that a campaign might fill on their own, but is often filled with a Washington, DC based consultant or by someone less talented and committed.
Organizing 2.0: Are you saying that there’s an evolution going on, where certain tasks once dominated by consultants are now shifting in-house?
Jason: I’m not sure I’d describe it as so movement-wide, but certainly, we at the PCCC believe there are lots of consultants in DC who are highly paid to do poor work, and lots of that could be done better and more cheaply in-house.
Organizing 2.0: Last season, I heard that the DCCC was placing interns who had tech/data skills into campaigns in the summer before the general election. Do you know anything about that? My impression at the time was that an intern a) had no power, and b) was showing up too late for a lot of the strategic planning necessary. What’s your take?
Jason: I don’t know anything about that program specifically. But I would say in general, it’s important to get there early and important to have power within the campaign. We’re really pushing our campaigns to hire new media directors early on. The first thing a candidate does is raise money, but when they’re ready to announce to the world that they’re running, they set up at least a basic website to collect emails. So from that point forward, there’s a program for a new media director to run, and getting them in early helps them earn their seat at the table.
Organizing 2.0: Is this the first time PCCC is running this kind of placement effort?
Jason: The PCCC has a dual mission — one focuses on issues and one on candidates. We try to marry the two when we can. In 2010, we did work with a few select campaigns, placing folks and other things. In 2012, it’s much more expanded and systematized.
For 2012, we plan to work with 10-15 campaigns on the federal level. Most of them are trying to flip a seat from R to D or running for an open seat. For new media only, that means hopefully placing 10-15 folks, and we hope to place in other departments like field, finance, and the like.
Organizing 2.0: Every year, candidates have to hire folks for campaigns, pick consultants, etc. For many, we’re talking about whoever they had last year. Are you working with mostly new candidates running for Congress the first time?
Jason: Yeah, that’s definitely an issue — certainly part of the reason we’ll be doing more House races than Senate races this cycle
Organizing 2.0: I’m curious, because…. I wonder if the solution to helping candidates with new media isn’t just placing the ‘right’ people but something broader that ensures all progressive campaigns are meeting a checklist of campaign behavior around new media and data.
Jason: We want to talk to folks who are interested in our model, particularly how we work online and marry that to offline organizing, and if a candidate has an entrenched group around them already, sometimes that’s harder. But certainly not always.
Organizing 2.0: It occurs to me that because PCCC is a well known brand by this point, with potential dollars to bring to the table, you will be listened to much more than another ‘campaign friend’ who ‘knows this stuff.’
Jason: yes, we’ve definitely found that, and we feel we’ve proven ourselves over the last few years. So far, we’re getting a very good reception. But we are largely working with challengers at this point.
Organizing 2.0: Not to plug our friends, but…. would you expect that some of your placements will be New Organizing Institute’s bootcamp graduates?
Jason: Yes, lots
Organizing 2.0: What advice would you give to an NOI bootcamp grad, or someone with more experience, as they pursue a campaign job that will allow them to practice what they know? (Given all the horror stories of consultants enforcing a ‘no good ideas’ rule.)
Jason: I’d say be purposeful about where you choose to work. If you have talent and drive, there’s a real need for new media folks out there. And if you’re a campaigner, you only get one chance every two years to really go out there, improve yourself, and help candidates you believe in. So make the cycle count and find the job you really want, not just the flashy job or the job that’s there.
Think to yourself, is this the best place for me, is this where I’m doing the most good, is this where I’m necessary? If not, then someone else can probably fill your place while you work somewhere more vital.
Organizing 2.0: What’s a reasonable salary for a new media director, and how can you avoid the fate of getting paid/treated like a glorified intern?
Jason: Salary varies by cost of living, though from our perspective, candidates will waste way more money hiring a bad online ad consultant than they’d ever spend on salary, so we’re encouraging folks to price themselves competitively.
In terms of avoiding the intern fate, I think it’s a real buyers market out there — if you’re talented and driven, you have negotiating leverage, and if you’re hired early, you have ample opportunity to prove your value and justify your salary, even before finance directors, consultants, pollsters, and campaign managers are hired.
Organizing 2.0: Want to name any candidates you know the PCCC will be rooting for this time around?
Jason: So far, we’ve endorsed Eric Griego, running for the open seat in New Mexico’s 1st and we’ll be working with Annie Kuster in NH-02, who we endorsed in 2010 and almost won (she’ll win this year)
Organizing 2.0: What is the one piece of advice you’ll be giving to all your NMD’s this year:
Jason: Think big and think broad — figure out how you can help other departments on your campaign do their work better (field, comms, finance, etc…). And think about how you can engage with a more national debate and media, and how you can push issues your candidate cares about forward by being bold and working with other candidates around the country (and the PCCC of course).
Organizing 2.0: This is great. Thank you so much!
Interview conducted by Charles Lenchner on July 19, 2011, using instant messaging.