Online political guru on the importance of dialogue with punters

A leading expert on online politics sees a wonderful future based on user interaction.

Phil Noble believes members of the public will enter into dialogue on the websites of politicians and political parties, who in turn will respond to negative as well as positive comments and be more open about what they really think.

w00tonomy attended a video roundtable at the US Consulate in Edinburgh with Noble, who is, according to his bio:

one of the leading experts in the US and internationally on the Internet and politics. Noble is the founder of PoliticsOnline and its affiliated company Phil Noble & Associates, an international public affairs consulting firm. Noble is a veteran of over 300 political campaigns and public affairs projects in 40 states and 30 countries. He has worked to elect the head of state in 15 countries.

Noble said that engaging the user in dialogue was the salvation of newspapers (following on from a debate sparked by John McGurk on BBC Scotland ) . Asked if that same principle of user comment and interaction applied to politics, he painted a picture of the power of direct user participation with politicians online leading to a more frank and open public discourse.

(This is something we at w00tonomy believe in, too. The best way of handling negative opinions online is to engage with them. Content marketing is very much like this new type of politics. Proactive and reactive, it engages with people to understand their behaviour in order to develop a message that resonates. It is through content marketing that the process of continuous engagement can take place online.)

Noble said: “The great sin of the new media age is phoniness. The first commandment is ‘Don’t bullshit me.’ New media can provide a broader, richer window on who these people are. That is its great strength. It works when its warts and all.

“It’s about your motives. You can say: ‘Sorry, we screwed up. And we’ll screw up again but this is what we were trying to do.”

He also believes (and hopes) that Barack Obama is going to stroll into the White House in the US presidential election, leaving Hillary Clinton and John McCain in his wake. And he’s going to do that thanks to the power of his online campaigning. “We first saw a glimpse of the power of online with the [Howard] Dean campaign in 2004. Obama is light years ahead of where Dean was.”

Noble praised the vastness of Obama’s online fundraising but also his ability to recruit activists online, with one million participants as a conservative estimate.

“In terms of the primary, it’s over. It ain’t even close. I think Obama is going to change the world. He’s going to win the general [election]. He’s going to raise so much money online and have a unified campaign, fully funded from top to bottom with consistent messages. John McCain is going to be relegated to a bit player. I wouldn’t be surprised if Obama won all 50 states.

As for the next UK general election, Noble has two things to say: “It’s hard for a party to stay in power for more than ten years. And David Cameron is better than Brown at online but he’s been better at everything.”