FF hires web firm that worked on Obama campaign


FIANNA FÁIL has drafted in an internet expert who helped Barack Obama to win last year’s US presidential election.

Blue State Digital, based in Washington DC, has helped to redesign the party’s website, fiannafail.ie, which is offering web visitors the opportunity to put questions to Taoiseach Brian Cowen.

Founding partner of Blue State, Joe Rospars, took leave from the firm to work on the Obama campaign. Mr Obama’s website eventually had 13 million registered members, and was used to recruit tens of thousands of people to become involved directly in his campaign.

For now, Fianna Fáil is showing modest ambitions for its revamped website. A spokesman stressed that new elements will be added in the coming months.

In Dublin for a 24-hour visit, Mr Rospars said a successful web campaign offers a voice to the public and allows them the opportunity to become involved in a meaningful way, and increases an organisation’s transparency, he added.

Blue State has a base in London and was involved in Ken Livingstone’s failed campaign to retain the London mayoralty, and a campaign by the Communications Workers’ Union protesting against the far-right. However, Mr Rospars said politicians will find it ever more difficult to win voters’ attention using the internet.

“There are a lot of people in the US who are used to having interesting relationships with their politicians through the web. So their inbox is already a very competitive place. People will only open up about one in four e-mails that they get,” he said.

The work Blue State has already done for Fianna Fáil is “only the beginning of the relationship” between the two groups, and will help the party “to hear directly what people are interested in, and what they are angry about”.

Around 200 people attended a talk by Mr Rospars in Dublin city centre last night. However many bloggers were annoyed, saying they had been invited via twitter and blogs to the event, but were not told it was associated with Fianna Fáil.

“Promised Obama’s guy but gave us Cowen’s guy,” one person said on twitter. “I feel completely duped. How does FF think this is a good way to engage with bloggers?” said another.

A Fianna Fáil spokeswoman said the party was keen to have bloggers to ensure they got to ask technical questions. Mr Rospars mainly spoke about his experience with the Obama campaign rather than Fianna Fáil, she said.