Politics trounces technology in political campaigns - Obama aide

Posted at 02/22/2013 4:21 PM | Updated as of 02/23/2013 8:30 PM

MANILA – No matter how high tech political campaigns can be, for expert Harper Reed, it is still the politics that matter.

“The tools matter very little [on determining the success of a political campaign], what matters is the politics,” said Reed, who is Chief Technology Officer for Obama for America.

“[For example], Mitt Romney's policy was very alienating to people, and turned them off. I don't think having a better tech team would have helped him [win the US presidency against President Barack Obama].”

However, Reed also emphasized the importance of technology during his keynote at the eDemokrasya conference in Manila, conducted over Skype straight from the United States, on how Obama won the US polls.

According to Reed, they created ways for voters and volunteers to use technology to encourage and help along participation, as one of the things they learned during their work was that voter suppression is real.

“We helped them get access, called in lawyers as needed. Technology and social media helped us,” he said.

Aside from social media, the Obama campaign also used SMS or text messaging to encourage voters. However, they were very careful about its use.

“The thing about SMS is that it interrupts us. If you send a message that isn't relevant, people will be frustrated...we empowered our users to send messages to their family and friends. [The SMS] became a message from Harper to his friend, not from a campaign manager,” he said.

In creating applications, they invested a lot on user experience. “We wanted to build apps that users actually wanted. You should focus on what the user actually wants, not what we think they want.”

Other things they learned, during the Obama campaign, Reed said, is that the future is leaning towards microtargeting, microlistening and micromedia buying; traditional voter contact forging will become less efficient; cyber attacks will become a very real threat; and people must continue to have hope.

It is also vital to get the best people, he said. “Innovation really was the team. Make sure your team is the number one thing you invest in.”