My search for all things webcastish led me to a website/blog for and about the city of Boston. I have no association with Boston other than having presented there a few times to the many industry analyst firms in the city. I also dated a girl who lived in Boston, but it didn't work out well and I'd rather not talk about it.
Anyway, The Bostonist mentioned that a couple of candidates for governor of Massachusetts have created websites showing off audio and/or video podcasts. The columnist gave a quick review of one of the candidates' sites. I decided to take a look, as this is going to grow more and more important in political communications over the next few years. By the 2008 presidential election, you can expect masses of carefully produced webcast material.
I'll start with Christy Mihos, an independent candidate. His podcast page lists four entries. Two of them are basically radio ads. One is a fake interview carefully set up to let him make his pitch points. And the fourth is a strident direct pitch for "Why I should be your next governor." Mihos suffers from the Al Gore syndrome... He lays out factual point after point, beating them into the listener's head with the subtlety of a jackhammer. These kinds of presentations appeal to a minority of the general public. It turns out facts are boring. Especially when presented over a depersonalizing mechanical device like a PC or iPod.
Contrast this with the spots featured on the website of Deval Patrick. One is a man in the street interview with "a normal Joe." The guy reaches for words and seems to be passionate about his support for the candidate in a real way. I fully acknowledge that this could be good acting-- I'm about as cynical a guy as you can find when it comes to political persuading. The second speech is called "Pass It On" and is so heartwarming and perfectly delivered that it instantly makes me both syrupy happy and mistrustful. Patrick relates an anecdote, makes it personal, and turns it into an emotional pledge of service to the crowd. They go crazy. No facts, no proposals, just a general feel good group hug. It must drive Mihos absolutely crazy.
Remember when Gore produced fact after fact during the last presidential campaign and Bush kept repeating "Freedom! Liberty! Family! Country!" Guess who is president today. Given a choice between Mihos and Patrick, guess who I would put my betting money on.
The point, my friends? If you are producing material designed to reach out to a mass audience and persuade, enthuse, and motivate them, don't forget a bit of showmanship and a call to base emotions. Successful presenters know their subject, but they also know what makes audiences pay attention.