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Today’s Email Interview is with Raz Shafer.
Raz describes himself this way on twitter: Christian, Texan, Entrepreneur, Politico. Sigma Chi, Singer/Song-writer, Cigar/Fly-fishing/Gun Aficionado. Winger & Political hack.
I know him as the American Majority guy who has more twitter followers than anyone I had ever met. Raz doesn’t just have a future in conservative politics, he is the future of conservative politics.
The Email Interview: Raz Shafer
BB: Let’s start off with the obvious. You have over 13,200 twitter followers. How the heck did you do that and what advice do you have for other conservatives that want to dominate twitter like yourself?
RS: I’m a long way from dominating Twitter but I’ve come to love the medium. I actually was motivated to get online with Twitter by reading Seth Godin’s book, “Tribes.” My uncle gave it to me for Christmas in ’08 and I got online with Twitter about halfway through reading the book. Ever since then I’ve pretty aggressively used it as a way to track news, build relationships and share opinions. 3.5 years and 28k tweets later, here we are!
I would recommend that anybody looking to be effective on Twitter check out the American Majority “Twittivism” manual at www.AmericanMajority.org in order to get a good grasp of how it works and some basic strategies for dominating the network. From there, the recipe for success is equal parts engagement and interesting content with a dash of personality.
If I was to give one piece of advice it would be to let your personality shine through in your Twitter interactions. Show that you have multiple facets and interests. That’s going to attract followers from each of those directions rather than seeming to be a very 2 dimensional personality.
BB: So I hear American Majority has invested millions in developing campaign management software for conservative organizations and conservative candidates. Is this true and what distinguishes your software from other political software packages?
RS: I don’t have the dollar figure in front of me but we are putting some significant muscle behind developing and deploying cutting edge political software. The tool is called Gravity and with it we are reengineering the way that campaigns contact voters.
Most conservative campaigns you come across today are still using excel files of voter contacts and printed call sheets. We provide campaigns, organizations and TEA Party groups with a cutting edge voter database, automatic walk-route optimization, integrated smart-phone application for block walking and VOIP phone-banking system. It’s all very competitively priced and sold exclusively to conservative campaigns and causes. TEA Party and Liberty type organizations can actually apply for a free license to do voter contact in their localities.
I’ve been very proud to be working on the project for the last year and have been heavily involved in the development and testing of Gravity. Having worked campaigns for years as staff and volunteer I’m confident that Gravity will dramatically increase the efficiency and reach of any campaign. Groups like FreedomWorks and campaigns like Ted Cruz have been using it with great effect.
Anyone who is interested in more information about Gravity can contact me directly for a demo of the software.
BB: Traveling the country and all across Texas training conservatives give you a pretty good feel for the mood of the conservative movement. Are you more optimistic or less optimistic about November 2012 than you were going into November 2010?
RS: I’m more optimistic. 2010 was the beginning and showed the start of the TEA Party movements growth into maturity. People realized that rallies and waving signs had been great but weren’t going to have a direct impact on the votes cast in Congress unless we changed the people casting those votes.
As we move into this year we have seen most of the rallies replaced with more sophisticated political action. Candidates that we have been grooming over the past 3 years began running and winning races as the ballot boxes. Issues that TEA Partiers had been lobbying representatives from city councils to congress began to catch traction.
2012 has a different set of very high stakes than we faced down in 2010, but I believe that the maturity of the TEA Party movement and the political infrastructure that it has built will go a long way to sealing the wins we’re all hoping for on November 6th.
BB: You are young man, just 25 years old. Why did you decide to get involved in the crazy world of politics and do you really think you can make an impact when so many of folks your age historically don’t vote.
RS: I first kicked off my political activist career at 10 years old. A friend of my parents, and now one of my mentors, was running for State House and I helped my mom knock on doors in our neighborhood to get out the vote for Becky Farrar. On election day we lost by 12 votes and my heart was broken. What I took away from that loss though was that you have to give every election everything you have. In the words of football coaches everywhere, “leave it all on the field.” As in football, points scored after the clock runs out don’t count.
Since 96 I’ve been involved in every election cycle and have kept true to my promise that I’d leave it all on the field. On election night I’m the guy in the back of the watch party glued to his computer, a Jack & Diet in hand and barely keeping his eyes open.
There’s no doubt in my mind that I can have an impact. I believe I already have and look forward to growing that impact in the future. After 3 years full-time in the trenches I’ve helped train candidates that are running and winning from school board to congressional races. I’ve trained over 4500 conservative activists and ran a successful independent expenditure effort that helped elect 10 of 12 endorsed state house candidates in hotly contested races.
Here are a few keys that I’ve found to have an impact in politics as a young person:
- Find someone who believes in you and work your ass off for them. My boss, Drew Ryun, took a big chance on me and continues to give me opportunities that most people in their right mind wouldn’t give me. The reason is that we’re dedicated to the same cause and I work like a rented mule to make sure I never let him regret giving me those opportunities.
- It has to be about passion, not profession. What gets me through 60-70 hour work weeks is not a glamorous job title, big paycheck or big office. It’s the fact that I know I’m fighting for something worth saving and that if I’m good enough at it I can make a real difference.
- Make sure you have people to hold you accountable. It’s really easy to start off in politics as an ideologue and then let it just become a business over time. The only way to avoid the co-opting nature of working in politics is to surround yourself with people who are going to encourage you and make sure you stay true to what you believe in. I’ve been blessed to have a strong network of guys who do just that.
BB: I see you talking about music all of the time on twitter and Facebook. Do you care if your favorite artist is a liberal Obama supporter? Or is it all about the music?
RS: It’s all about the music. I listen to them because they write good lyrics, play good music and perform with everything they’ve got.
I’d be surprised if any of my favorites are Obama supporters but I know at least one of the bands I like a lot, Reckless Kelly, wrote a pretty strong anti-Bush, anti-Iraq war song. While I disagree with a lot of what the song says, it’s still pretty catchy.
Follow Raz Shafer @razshafer
Pinterest is not just for girls.
At least I hope not, because I have just joined the movement and I’m a dude.
In fact, it seems everyone is joining Pinterest: men, women, clothing companies, PR Firms, political consultants and even my alma mater LSU.
Just about anyone these days who wants to stay relevent in the social media world has signed up for Pinterest.
Oh and one more thing:
In honor of the South Carolina Presidential Primary our Email Interview today features South Carolina political consultant and internet entrepreneur Wesley Donehue.
Wesley is the owner of Donehue Direct that specializes in online branding, political consulting, campaign management, issue advocacy, fundraising and advertising.
Wesley also co-hosts Pub Politics, a weekly web cast that combines beer and politics.
The Email Interview: Wesley Donehue
BB: Of all of the Presidential candidates, who is winning the social and digital media game in South Carolina?
WD: Mitt Romney is dominating online by investing real resources on development and advertising. No one else even comes close.
BB: Has social media made the South Carolina Presidential primary more negative or less negative than in the past?
WD: Most people would argue that it allows for more negativity, but in South Carolina, I find that it has cut down on the anonymous dirty tricks. Because everyone is carrying around a photo camera and video camera in their pockets with access to the web, campaign operatives know that they can’t get away with stupid stuff like in the past.
BB: What are your top social media pet peeves from candidates?
WD: Boring and insincere social media. Social media is supposed to be just that… social, not some one-way communication platform. Would you go up to a person, just start talking, never let them get in a word and never answer their questions? It’s rude as hell and it’s how most candidates are treating social media.
BB: When are you going to write a book? Seriously.
WD: As soon as I can find the time. I have some fun stories to share, but I’m having trouble pumping out two paragraphs a day for my blog (which you should be reading at www.wesleydonehue.com).
Seriously, I’m trying to write a motivational book that lets people know that you can come from crap and do great things with your future.
BB: How many hours a night do you normally sleep?
WD: I try to get eight hours of sleep a night. A lot of operatives judge work ethic by lack of sleep, but I find it to be pretty silly. The less sleep people get, the less creative they become.
Instead of cutting into sleep time, I block off every single minute of the day from the time I wake up until the time I go to bed. I cut out needless conference calls, meetings and Internet surfing. I also only check my email a few times a day and watch little to no TV. I just work and sleep.
Today I’m starting a new series called The Email Interview. It’s simple. I’m going to email 5 questions to someone influential in politics, digital media or food (my favorite subject) and post their answers.
Specializing in political consulting, new media and grassroots strategy, Phillip Stutts and Company touts an impressive lineup of clients in the nation’s Capitol and across the country.
Phillip is also a die-hard Alabama Crimson Tide fan, but we won’t penalize him too much for that character flaw.
The Email Interview: Phillip Stutts
BB: You have several clients that are on the front lines in the fight for education reform. Be honest, is there hope in America for education or is it too late?
PS: Hell no it’s not too late. It’s just beginning and we have “right” on our side, so we will eventually win. The seeds of education reform were planted 20 years ago and the American public is finally fed up and ready to change.
It’s an exciting time as our culture adjusts to market forces. Those forces are saying we must adapt or fail. Slowly we are getting there.
BB: Do you see technology making a difference in the ability to help our kids learn?
PS: There is an immense amount of technology in the education marketplace that will make American students #1 in the world. The only thing holding us back is government bureaucracy and politicians beholden to the education union (whose only agenda is to protect the jobs of teachers – whether they are teaching our students or not).
BB: Your company specializes in grassroots and social media. How many years before social media overtakes grassroots as the more effective voter contact mechanism?
PS: Great question. It’s changing rapidly. Political campaigns are adapting much faster than corporations or non-profit organizations.
Political campaigns have to adapt now in order to win elections. Some core traditional grassroots methods will always work no matter how much social media and technology advance.
My disappointment is in the lack of investment into new technology/social media for non-political campaigns.
BB: With the major debt and operational problems at the US Post Office and the emergence of email and social media do you think direct mail is dead?
PS: Snail mail, newspapers, traditional radio, traditional TV – hell, even desktop computers….will all be dead in 15 years. It’s an on-demand world and the people behind these businesses are slowly dying.
BB: Who is a better coach? Nick Saban or Bear Bryant?
PS: Wow, I’m finally stumped. I think each dominated during their generation. If I have to make a choice? Well, Saint Nick is amazing, but Coach Bryant will always be #1 (fyi – it’s respectful to call him Coach Bryant – not Bear Bryant. What are you? An LSU fan or something?)