25 Oct / My Evolving Career
Throughout my career I have worn many hats, often at the same time. At the core of this is my passion for my work and my commitment to ensure that whatever I do professionally helps make the world a better place. Which is why I am excited to add my new hat as Director of Digital Research for Lake Research Partners to my haberdashery comprising strategic consulting as SVP of Digital Strategy for turner4D; teaching graduate school at George Washington, American and Johns Hopkins Universities; my SocialMediaToday.com column; and hosting The Dr. DigiPol Show on Shindig.com (on Facebook, too).
As the Director of Digital Research for Lake Research Partners, I am once again in a position to pioneer new ways for digital and social media to change politics. Digital and social media turn the historical fiction of the “national conversation” into a reality. The opinions people express on social media provide not only a window into their minds, but also into a better understanding of which opinions they are willing to share in front of their family, friends and peers. This is a rich vein of data that is inadequately considered in political and policy research and strategy. My new role at Lake Research put us in a position to change that.
This expands on tools I originally developed at turner4D – where I will continue as Senior Vice President of Digital Strategy. Working for both Turner and Lake allows for more great collaboration opportunities between the two firms – combining the very best of opinion research with some of the smartest communications strategic design around. I will continue to work with the Turner team to help progressive advocacy organizations, universities, think tanks and media outlets more effectively leverage digital and social media to achieve their goals while I build out the digital and social media research offerings at Lake.
And my ongoing role as a professor, a columnist, web show host and social media influencer allows me to continually ensure that the work I do will be accessible to a broad audience. It means I can continue to work to make the world a better place.
This work at the cutting edge of politics, communications and digital media is only the latest step in a lifelong journey. I started my career as an academic—as a student and then a full-time professor—in Political Science. From the outset I wanted to make sure that the academic work I did made its way to a mass audience. Too often, academic research wallows in the pages of seldom read scholarly journals, never making a real-world impact. I even came up with the idea in 1984 to create a custom, kiosk-printed magazine based on subscriber profiles, with available a la carte articles. Choosing first to build out my expertise in content, rather than technology, I was heartened that I made the right choice when I saw Mosaic, the first web browser, in the Spring of 1993. The printer kiosk was no longer needed.
Upon seeing Mosaic, I immediately realized that the world of politics would never be the same. The web created a communications revolution that allowed people to connect to each other in small and large groups to share opinions and information. And while we would not start calling this social media for another ten years, that is what it was. And now, as we all can see, social media has seized the political conversation in transformative ways.
Over my career, I helped pioneer many aspects of the digital political strategy sector. I taught the world’s first college course on the topic in the spring of 1995. I was among the first to blog from presidential conventions in 2000. I produced and hosted live webshows from those same conventions. I created the first state and local online advocacy consulting practice in 2001. And I was among the first to champion to use of social media to directly petition the government in 2009—long before the 2015 #SocialCongress report from the Congressional Management Foundation solidified it as a mainstream tactic.
This is the current state of my evolution. My friend Beth Becker often likes to joke when introducing me that I crawled out of the primordial sludge and evolved into a digital and social media strategist. She likes to make fun of the fact that I am older than she is. In fact, being in my mid-fifties, I am older than most of the people working in the digital politics world. That is just fine with me. And while I know I have been ahead of the curve throughout my career, I also know that digital and social media is not, as popularly conceived, a career just for Millennials. The best of us, regardless of age, bring a deep understanding of campaign strategies, socio-political history and political-governmental processes that are essential for using digital and social media to make the world a better place.