A closer look at my Rock the Vote interview

If you all think far back, you may remember that during my presentation on social/ political advocacy I mentioned that I’d been lucky enough to score a phone interview with an employee at one of my organizations of interest, Rock the Vote. I was pretty excited to get the interview. My initial efforts to reach out to my organizations came up short and I didn’t receive feedback after attempts through email, Facebook and Twitter. However, Caitlin got back to me in what seemed like minutes of my sending an inquiry to gather more information for a school project. Given the relatively brief time of the in-class presentation, I was only able to tie in a couple of important points from the interview. I thought the blog post would be a great opportunity to share more, because I felt like the interview was really informative and interesting. Below I’ve attached the questions I asked during the interview. Caitlin’s responses are not precise or in complete sentences, but my aggressive typing during the interview, I believe, was sufficient accurately capture what she said in note-form.

  • What is your job at Rock the Vote?
  • Support marketing team, focus on supporting superiors on the marketing team, managing social media and rock the vote blog
  • How does Rock the Vote use the internet to communicate its message?
  • In a lot of different ways
  • Online voter registration tool accessible through website
  • Way to register most voters in organization
  • 1.6 million voters in 2008
  • widget
  • print and mail to correct count board of elections
  • can install to other websites
  • fully functioning website w/ volunteer hub to sign up to volunteer, join events, create own events
  • list concerts, ticket giveaways, asking for volunteers registering voters at the concert
  • merchandise store online
  • social media
  • twitter: election reminders: local election days, voter registration deadlines, breaking news, updates, ticket giveaways
  • same type of updates on Facebook
  • blog: in-house or out-house writers, write about issues pertinent to young people
  •               ex. college grad wrote on Obama’s plans for student debt
  •                out of the box, opinions
  • press clips
  • interns compile important daily news clips
  •             news in technology, entertainment, breaking
  •             google list serve and on blog
  • What are the most beneficial aspects of the internet for your organization? Do you see any cons?
  • Online voter registration tool is most beneficial
  • Easy, big #s
  • Young people are so into the internet, make process simple, do it in a way that they know
  • Ease of process
  • No downsides to rock the vote’s use of internet
  • Press enter, actually process registration online
  •            What they are encouraging
  •             Encouraging modernization of voter registration
  • Rock the Vote was founded in 1990, prior to the surge of the Internet. How has Rock the Vote adapted to changes in technology over the years, particularly the rise of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter?
  • Signed on and used Facebook and Twitter to their advantage
  • Used to make a lot more cold calls, more utilization of phone-athons and going door to door
  • Reaching more people
  •             Now emails
  • There are concerns that the internet makes activism more passive. For example, someone might “like” a group on Facebook but fail to take action beyond that. Do you think this is valid? How does Rock the Vote avoid passive involvement?
  • People who participate in the Internet are probably people who wouldn’t have involved in the first place.
  • This is their way to do it
  • People that would actually do it: internet or not because they have the motivation, reasons, passionate people
  • How do you think that your demographic of young people effects the way that your organization uses the internet, or the overall importance of using the internet to connect with members?
  • Great tool
  • Voter registration tool
  • Modernize to fit them and what they are used to
  •             Doing things online

Update on political/ social advocacy online…

So…I am still finding myself having a hard time engaging actively with my chosen advocacy groups online. I have continued to reply to news posted on twitter or facebook, and “like” things now and then and what not, but like I said before, the community aspect of providing engaged feedback is somewhat missing so my interactions remain largely at the surface. After my attempts to reach out on Rock the Vote and Amnesty International’s Facebook pages (by disclosing that I was working on a project and would love to know how the organization and its’ members used the Internet to organize and connect) were denied, as they both immediately deleted my posts, I was discouraged about my ability to gather information on their internet use directly. Yesterday, I contacted via email both organizations, as well as Domestic Abuse Intervention Services, the smaller local organization I have mentioned. Amnesty International directed me to their international secretariat. I also emailed their U.S. organization. This is what I said to Amesty International:


My name is Katherine Thibeau. I am a senior at the University of Wisconsin- Madison. For my communications class titled “Critical Internet Studies” I am doing a project on advocacy groups and their use of the Internet. I selected Amnesty International both for its personal appeal and worldwide recognition. I was wondering if you could help me, or help me to get in contact with someone, who could offer some insight into the ways that Amnesty International uses the internet (including social media, twitter, the website, email etc.) to communicate, organize and connect with its’ members. I realize that your organization has higher priorities than this, but I believe that your information would elevate my project/ presentation and potentially motivate eager college students to join AI or reinstate the UW- Madison chapter.

Thank you in advance for your help!”

My other emails were very similar… I am skeptical about the likelihood that I will here back from Amnesty International and Rock the Vote as they are both very large organizations. I am optimistic that Domestic Abuse Intervention Services will get back to me because they are local here in Madison and I pointed out that my presentation would bring more awareness to the group.

I really do hope that I hear back from the organizations, and that my attempts to dig deeper aren’t rebuffed once again. While I can certainly make inferences about how these organizations use the website based on my own observations and knowledge about how organizatoins in general use the internet, their direct input would provide more credibility and specificity to my understanding. I’ll let you know if I hear back! I’ll be posted again soon “profiling” members of Amnesty International, as well as posting prior to my presentation on wednesday.

#2: Social/ political advocacy groups online: Sharing news

I have spent quite a bit more time since my last practiucm post trying to get more involved with my chosen social/ political advocacy groups online. To recap the bulk of my focus is on the large, global advocacy group known as Amnesty International (AI). I started by checking out the website, joining the facebook group, following them on twitter etc. I did the same for Rock the Vote, which encourages youth political involvment; mainly voting. I’ve alway checked out smaller, local advocacy groups…certainly not all groups have the scope or audience as Amnesty International or Rock the Vote. (I intend to discuss these smaller groups, as compared to larger organizations, and their use of the internet in another post- so look for that!)

So far my attempts to socialize and get involved in Amnesty International and Rock the Vote online have been largely unsuccesful, leading me to think that these organizations prefer to use the internet, particularly social media, as a way of sharing information. Engaging directly with their audiences and encouraging their audiences to engage with each other seems somewhat less important. I’ve come to this conclusion for a few reasons. First, the far and away majority of posts/ tweets by Amnesty International and Rock the Vote share information, rather than ask questions. That is, they tend to be news stories which concern their cause. In the case of Amnesty International, their posts bring attention to news articles and events concerning human rights. These news posts/ tweets are highly frequent. Second, my attempts to engage in debate/discussion through Facebook and twitter were largely unsuccessful. I commented on and tweeted in response to several of the news stories posted by AI and didn’t get much back. Sure, I got a few likes on some of my points or comments (PHOTO), but didn’t received any engaged feedback by the organization or other users. It seems like the posts are published and users proceed to voice their own opinions, but there isn’t that much actual building on the prior comments. Communication is somewhat one way…

Also, I tried to put myself out there on AI and Rock the Vote’s Facebook pages by giving a brief rundown of my project. I posted on the wall that I chose these organizations due to my interest in their causes and I asked members/ users to share how they got involved and they used the internet to facilitate in their engagement in the advocacy group. Both AI and Rock the Vote deleted my posts nearly immediately 😦  I was surprised that my questions weren’t accepted by the organizations. I think they should encourage such questions to highlight the positive affect that the internet may have on garnering member invomnlvement. Specifically for AI, I feel like their message may be lost by the constant posting of current events. Their content is updating so quickly that members’ focus (and AI themselves) seems to move too quickly to facilitate effective, satisfactory discussion focused on specific issues they would like to take action on. Advocacy draws its strength from sustained, compelling debate so they should not miss this important opportunity!

Look for my continued attempts to get involved online, as well as a comparative look at large vs. smaller organizations’ use of the internet. Also looking forward to profiling the users/ members of these advocacy groups to better know what types of people are attracted to and get involved in online advocacy.