“Strategy is the most important part of any campaign”
Rahaf Harfoush was a member of Barack Obama’s new media team, as a fulltime volunteer during his 2008 campaign.
Rahaf is a Digital Innovation & Foresight Strategist currently co-authoring a second book entitled “Decoded: What if we understood our talent as well as we understand our customers.” She is the co-founder of Red Thread Inc, a consulting agency that provides clients with out-of-the-box thinking to tackle strategic challenges.
She currently serves on the board of directors for Taking It Global, a non-profit organization that enables the world’s largest online community of youth to create positive changes in their cities.
1- The Barack Obama’s online campaign in 2008 was a real success: more than 6 million views on Facebook, 22 million visits to the videos on You Tube and 13 million subscribers across the web. You were just 25, how did you end up in this campaign?
I was full-time volunteer who ended up with an amazing opportunity to work on this incredible campaign from inside Obama’s headquarters in Chicago.
2- What do you remember from that time?
I remember being amazed and impressed by how bright and creative my colleagues were. They were brilliant and I learned so much from them every day about how to build an incredible grass roots movement from the ground up and completely change the way political campaigns were managed.
3- What was the reason for the success of that campaign?
One of the main reasons the campaign was so successful was in the strategically linking online activism to concrete actions. It wasn’t just about watching a video online or clicking a link, but really about making sure people understood the importance of campaigning in the real world: knocking on doors, organizing events and donating money.
4- How would you define the importance of social networks?
I think social networks are redefining how we see our relationships. We have the power to stay connected with a broader group of people from around the world enabling us to maintain friendships and links that wouldn’t have been possible without these platforms.
5- Do companies take advantage of the online opportunities?
I think many companies are focused on the content creation and not on using these platforms as new channels to provide unique and customized levels of customer support. There is an incredible opportunity for this space to learn from consumer feedback and actively help to build a brand by delivering great services.
6- Which characteristics need to have an online campaign?
Honestly is really important. I think that in todays’ world, the truth comes out so quickly that if you are seen as deceiving the public it will kill your reputation in a way that is hard to recover from. Look at the slew of politicians in the US who were caught being dishonest and ended up having to resign because of this public breaking of trust.
7- Is the strategy the most important part of an online campaign?
Yes, strategy is the most important part of ANY campaign. Online tools are just tools, an extension of the traditional methods available to campaign organizers. Without strategy the campaigns ends up focusing on tactics, which may or may not be linked to an overall objective. This is a common mistake and one that needs to be rectified.
8- Now you are working on your second book, “Decoded: What if we understood our talent as well as we understand our customers.”
We are currently living in a data abundant world. There is so much information inside of every company and many organizations don’t know what to do with it. They don’t realize that if they purposefully tracked and measured the information around them it would help managers make better decisions and ensure that the talent – the most important resource inside a company- remains happy, productive and motivated. Data is giving us a new opportunity to make sure the people get the most value out of working inside companies. It’s so exciting to realize there is a new management philosophy that applies a quantifiable approach to what has traditionally been labelled as “soft HR.”
9- You were just 25 when you started working for Barack Obama. Now you are 28 and you are leading a consulting agency. Which are the advantages of the youth? What do they bring into society?
I think our generation has a great understanding of technology and we can bring that intuitive grasp inside big business. We bring our passion, our enthusiasm and a new pair of eyes to help generate creative solutions to old problems. That being said, I have a lot of respect for those who have been in the business for a long time and have many years of experience. In a perfect world, we would form mutually beneficial mentoring arrangements where both sides could learn from each other.