It’s the end of 2013, and that means lists.  Lots & lots of lists.

Top Political Related Reading

Top Political Related Reading

In this Buzzfeed type of world, we present to you:

Top Political Related lists for 2013

2013 Digital Media Stories

This article from AdWeek, These Stories Dominated Digital Media in 2013, discussed all the things that the cool, digital media kids are chatting about.

  • Native Advertising
  • Social Ad Race heats Up
  • The Mobile Cliff
  • The Mobile Shakeout … and the Spending Surge
  • Programmatic Soars
  • Questionable Traffic
  • Responsive Design
  • NewFronts
  • Viewability
  • Yahoo Buys Tumblr, and All Eyes on Mayer
  • Snowfall’s Shadow
  • Content Gets Money
  • Adtech IPOs

For Ozean, the two biggest take-aways in digital media in 2013 are:  the serious & significant amount of fraud in the digital advertising space and the continued rise in the importance of content marketing.

Best of Neuromarketing – 2013

Neuromarketing fascinates us at Ozean Media.   The fact that we can now peer into your brain versus only making observations of your actions is really cool stuff.

The biggest take-aways from Neuromarketing in 2013 is the power of metaphors – especially visual ones.  We also found the monkey and social media article very interesting.

10 Most Popular Psychology Articles from 2013

The biggest take aways from Psychology in 2013 are the power of choice in persuasion and the importance of the anchoring effect.

The 31 Most Important Political GIFs of 2013

Finally, we must give credit to BuzzFeed for curating the post that made us laugh the hardest this past week.  If you don’t laugh for a good 20 minutes at The Most Important Political GIFs of 2013, then we suggest you see a doctor.

breaking-walk

Shameless Plugs

Finally, a shameless plug for one of Ozean’s popular blog posts:

Top Reads in Political Science for 2013

While you are in the reading mode: Don’t forget to check out Ozean’s Political Research Library.  We think it will serve your political nerd needs.

To begin, I need you to think of the most stereotypical politician you can.  Yes, we are talking three piece suit, monocle, the whole 9 yards.

Kinda like this guy:

conservativearchetype

This is the guy that asked for a meeting with me yesterday.  It was a great meeting….until the walk to the door.

I have friends who are doctors, and they have continuously warned me about the walk to the door accompanied by the “oh, one more thing doc…..”

The one more thing? “and, by the way, I want a digital campaign that will go viral.”

Alex Patton's reaction to Viral Request

My reaction to a request for a “viral” digital
media campaign

DAMN IT! DAMN IT! DAMN IT!

I haven’t lost it this badly since the request for big data.

Besides my cynical problems with authority, I get a little flabbergasted when people take flippantly very complicated concepts, especially things we do as political consultants.

In an attempt to be more patient, please allow me explain myself.

The Science of Going Viral

Besides Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, there are two main books to look at when attempting to understand why and how things “go viral”:

Made to Stick by Chip & Dan Heath

Contagious by Jonah Berger

If we look at Heaths’ 6 principles:

  • Principle 1 – Simplicity - an idea stripped to its core.
  • Principle 2 – Unexpectedness – we must generate interest and curiosity
  • Principle 3 – Concreteness – sticky ideas are full of concrete images
  • Principle 4 – Credibility -
  • Principle 5 – Emotions – we must make them feel something
  • Principle 6 – Stories – we tell stories

If we look at Jonah’s 6 principles:

  • Principle 1 – Social Currency – How does it make one look to talk or share?
  • Principle 2 – Triggers – what trigger are we going to use?
  • Principle 3 – Emotion – some emotions increase sharing, others actually decrease it.
  • Principle 4 – Public – can we see others engaging in our desired behavior?
  • Principle 5 – Practical Value – How can we craft content that seems useful?
  • Principle 6 – Stories – What broader narrative can we wrap our idea in?

“There are six principles of contagiousness:  products or ideas that contain Social Currency and are Triggered, Emotional, Public, Practically Valuable, and wrapped into Stories.” (Contagious, Berger)

So as we can see, there is a bit of actual science and heavy lifting that goes into creating a viral video.  It is no flippant matter.

I would highly recommend reading all three books, but Heath sums up the main issue we have with politicians & their desire to “go viral.”

As Heath writes, “The most basic way to get someone’s attention is this:  Break a pattern.”

According to Alex Patton’s Grand Unified Theory of Political Communication, in order to get a voters attention in this fragmented, cluttered world – we must be novel or shocking (break a pattern).

Immediately, we run into issues with a stereotypical politician’s request to “go viral” !

The Risk Tolerance of Politicians

If you have done any work with politicians, you will find the most risk adverse set of clients you will ever come across.

Let’s think back to our stereotype.

Do you think that guy’s natural inclination is to take wild risks and break patterns?

Getting a politician or candidate to agree to even explore the fundamental requirement of going viral is extremely difficult, at best.

Political Positive Deviance – Going Viral

Let’s search out some positive deviance to learn from specifically from the political world:

A Google search of “Political Viral Videos” is illuminating:

Politico:  10 best viral political videos of 2012

Why is is illuminating?  In the top 2012 videos – not a single one of them was made deliberately by a politician.  Yes, several of them star politicians, but none of them were designed or created by a politician.  NOT ONE.

There are two three examples that I can recall off the top of my head of politicians purposefully creating ads that went viral. They also happen to be some of my favorite ads:

We are Better that that! – Dale Peterson

Demon Sheep Ad

We may even include a third:

Pigs – Ted Yoho

What do all of these have in common?

The candidates were desperate enough to take risks.

I’ve spoken with the gentleman that created the Demon Sheep ad, and they were desperate to change the conversation at the time of the ad.

Dale Peterson had little money, little name ID and was most likely going to get creamed.  What did he have to lose?

Ted Yoho was running against a 27 year incumbent in a Congressional primary and did not nearly have the resources available to him. At the time of the ad, according to what polls you believe, he was down 5-9 points.

Again, ALL DESPERATE enough to take risks and break patterns.

Interestingly, when you study risk & human behavior, humans become MUCH less risk adverse when they “have nothing to lose.”

Conclusion

There is a point to this post.

In every case in which our firm has won national recognition, it was because a client was willing or desperate enough to take risks.

There is something about having your back to the wall.

The problem with risk? We may fail. And as we all know, when one fails on the Internet, one fails for all of mankind to witness and share.

So, before you flippantly request your political consultant to make you a digital media campaign that will go viral, you need to assess your tolerance for risk.

Because, the only way to make a video of your talking head tax presentation ‘go viral’ may be to loosen the screws in your chair so that it collapses ending in an uninterrupted stream of your cussing while a cat slinks by to close the video.

PS Finally, IF we are lucky enough to strike gold and have something go viral, we may want to discuss the value to your campaign of getting 100,000 karma on reddit and 1,000,000 you tube views comprising of people outside your voting district. (but that is another post)

2013 Top Reading List for Political Consultants

2013 Top Reading List for Political Consultants

During each odd number year, I set a goal to get better at my political science craft.  Part of that goal is reading.  Odd number year = take advantage of some down time = goal of 50 books related to political consulting.  In 2013, I exceeded the goal by 5. #humblebrag

I believe the job of a political consultant is to study how people make decisions and then figure out how to affect the decision making process.  This means our area for study is wide and vast.

In attempting to categorize the areas of concentration of my reading, I’ve come up with Behavior Decision Making, Cognitive Brain, Game Theory, Political Psychology, Advertising, Neuromarketing, Branding, Argumentation, and Philosophy.

I would say that this year’s main focus was on attempting to read more about how the brain works, makes decisions, and ways to potentially influence voters.

When people find out about my reading goal, I am often asked for recommendations.

Here you go:

Alex’s Fancy 2013 Top 10 12 Reading List for Political Consultants

(Note:  The links provided are NOT affiliate links.  They exist only for your convenience.)

12. Political Game Theory: An Introduction (Analytical Methods for Social Research), McCarty, Nola

Regardless of what the title says, this is not an introduction.  There is math, lots of math, lots of advanced math.  It is not for the faint of heart, and approximately 57% of the math went over my head.  The part I did retain was fantastic.

11.  Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Pirsig, Robert M.

Read this book on my digital sabbatical.   It is a philosophy book, but a classic, welcome relief on a beach weekend.

10.  Oxford Handbook of Political Psychology (Oxford Handbooks) Sears, David

A great anthology on political behavior, group relations, theoretical approaches, and change politics.  I admit, I only skimmed the International Relations section.

9. The Persuadable Voter: Wedge Issues in Presidential Campaigns, D. Sunshine Hillygus &, Todd G Shields

The science behind wedge issues and cross-over voters.

8. Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman

Additional Reading on the two major systems of the brain.

7.  How Voters Decide: Information Processing in Election Campaigns (Cambridge Studies in Public Opinion and Political Psychology), Lau, Richard R.

Behavior Decision Making Theory.  A very interesting methodology used by Lau to study how voters actually decide.

6.  Follow the Leader?: How Voters Respond to Politicians’ Policies and Performance, Lentz, Gabriel

I loved, loved, loved this book.  In fact, I wrote an entire blog piece about it.  Essentially this book tells us that in agreement with cognitive studies that issues mean little in the voters decision making process.  Again, a novel methodology to studying the issue.

5.  The Gamble: Choice and Chance in the 2012 Presidential Election, Sides, John, Vavreck, Lynn

An absolute must read.  This book takes a deep dive in Romney / Obama, separating the “political science truth” from the talk show pundits’ “truths”.  If you are interested in the science of politics and what really happened in 2012, you should read this book.

4.  Predictive Analytics: The Power to Predict Who Will Click, Buy, Lie, or Die, Siegel, Eric

If there was ever a book I read this year that made me read every single footnote, it was this one.  This is fascinating stuff, but it also carries over into your clients’ request for “big data.”

3.  The Thinker’s Toolkit: 14 Powerful Techniques for Problem Solving, Jones, Morgan D.

While this book contains practical methods to critical thinking, the major revelation in this book is that our minds are liars.  This book started my year long journey into biases, cognitive research and humility.  If you consider yourself a true political analyst, you must do some meta-thinking about your biases and adopt some methodologies to counter them.   If the smartest analysts in the world implement methodologies to attempt to minimize bias, political consultants should also.

2.  The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom,Haidt Jonathan

While this book is additional reading into the two major systems of the brain and how our brains fool us, the book’s other key insight is the importance of metaphors.  It uses the perfect metaphor for the two system brain: the rider and the elephant.  This one metaphor wrapped up all the research and reading of cognitive biases into one simple to understand package; thus stressing the need for metaphors.  Eureka moment!  It has the added bonus of adding to our understanding of human nature and the concept of happiness.

1.  Affective Intelligence and Political Judgment, Marcus, George E.

This was the one book that allowed me to pull together “Alex Patton’s grand unified theory of political communication.”   I had just completed reading the book and was ruminating on it while doing a 50 mile bike ride.  Then came the Eureka moment, the proverbial lightning strike.  I had to stop my bike and find my phone voice recorder as soon as possible.  Yes, it was that dramatic.  The book is dry and academic, but for me it was the most important book I read this year.

Re-reads

The Prince, Machiavelli, Niccolo

Classic and must be read at least once a year.   It is a political consulting law.

Influence, Cialdini, Robert

Another classic, it should absolutely be required reading.  Want to learn how to use social proof in politics?  This is the start of your journey.

The Black Swan: Second Edition: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, Taleb, Nassim

This book significantly changed the way I think about and make sense of the world.  It is a discussion of how highly improbable events have massive influence on our lives.  Once you read this, you can no longer give ‘guarantees’ and you become aware of the fact that “you don’t know what you don’t know.”

Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting, McKee, Robert

What does screenwriting have to do with politics?  EVERYTHING.  Political Consultants are story tellers, and there is no better book on the structure of stories and how to tell better ones.  Looking how to construct a hero narrative?  Look no further, read this.

The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion, Zaller, John

Read this in college, and Zaller’s four axioms have stayed with me ever since.  I normally re-read this every other off year for a refresher.

Final Words

Noting that political consulting has few professional credentials other than reputation, it is imperative that we take ownership of improving our craft.  If you are still relying on decades of accumulated rules of thumb, I think you should make a change in your behavior.

Our minds are tricky little devils, and we owe it to our clients to get better.

Happy New year, and I hope the cycle is prosperous for you and your family.

All of these selections and more are included in the Ozean Political Library.

Happy Holidays!

Happy holidays from Ozean Media! May you be blessed with a better 2014 than this guy!

In all seriousness, Happy Holidays and we hope you all are blessed with a better 2014!  

 

 

OzeanHoliday

I am a sinner, a practicing Catholic (because I have not perfected it in any way, shape or form), and I think Rush Limbaugh is wrong about the Pope.

In fact, Rush Limbaugh is so wrong in relation to what he said about the Pope’s words, he should apologize.

Background

It is always dangerous to discuss politics, let alone religion in such classy company; however, when one combines the two, one can get in real trouble.

Before we start, here are my biases:  I am a practicing Catholic – that is I’m trying.  In no way do I hold myself out to be a perfect Catholic or Christian.  I am a highly flawed individual that attempts to strengthen his relationship with God, Christ and his teachings, and at times fails miserably.  Please, do not accept this blog post as preachy or holier than thou.

I simply like this Pope.  I like his style, and I am not the first to mention it.

There have been several articles about what the GOP can learn from Pope Francis:biographer14n-3-web

In case you don’t want to click, these many articles – all with similar titles – are making the basic same points:

  • Make the institution more approachable and welcoming
  • Be humble
  • You don’t have to change the fundamentals, but maybe what you focus on & spend time on
  • Be respectful – especially when addressing those who disagree with you
  • Focus on the things that unite us, not those that divide us, and
  • You don’t have to cow tow to the base

The Pope has the goal of building a church by appealing to people, the GOP should have the goal of building the party by doing the same.

However, last week in the midst of Black-Friday and the commerce surrounding it, the Pope released another document.  This document is called the “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel), a 50,000-word statement that calls for church reform and addresses a myriad of issues.  It is a remarkable document that ranges from money to the role of women in the Church, and yes, I am such a nerd that I read it.

Rush Limbaugh and the Pope

I have listened to Rush Limbaugh off and on since I was in college, and I fully realize he is in the rating business.

However, I think his reading of the document (if he read it at all) is wrong.  He went so far as to put his comments online:  here is a link to Rush’s rant about the Pope.

Here is an excerpt from his rant:

Now, if government wants to deregulate and get out of the way, then job creation will take place.  What is capitalism?  The value of anything is established in the private sector.  That’s where the value of money is established.  That’s where the value of work is established.  The value of whatever it is you want to buy or trade, the private sector, capitalism, is where that value is established, not by government proclaiming it.

Here is the problem, Rush is flat wrong.

In my opinion, Rush never quotes from the document, but instead quotes from a press story about the document and then goes on to make a political statement.

In Rush’s own words, he states:

But the pope here has now gone beyond Catholicism here, and this is pure political.  I want to share with you some of this stuff.

Pope Francis attacked unfettered capitalism as ‘a new tyranny’”

The problem with Rush is fact:   If you read the document, you will see that the word “capitalism” is never mentioned in the entire 50,000 words.  Not once.  Do a search, and I will wait.

So, I ask you, “who is making the pure political statement?”

Pope Francis and Markets

What the Pope does speak of, in my humble opinion, is the need for a self check on the deification of markets and the idolatry of money.calf

He is speaking, not of capitalism, but of those of us who place consumption and markets above all else.

As you may recall, I have written a strong critique of Libertarianism and why it is wrong, and I think, in my humble opinion, the Pope is saying some of the same things in a more eloquent way.

Here is some of what the Pope actually wrote:

56. While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.

60. Today’s economic mechanisms promote inordinate consumption, yet it is evident that unbridled consumerism combined with inequality proves doubly damaging to the social fabric.

Markets are a relentlessly efficient way of allocating resources and maximizing profits.  They are ruthless, merciless, and cold-hearted.  There is no value judgements being made by markets, just allocation.

The Pope is NOT critiquing capitalism per se, but how human ideologies and human behavior react to markets.  The Pope is warning those who place free-markets above everything else that it may be time for a tune up.

Before you start calling me a commie, I believe in free-er markets, just not absolute unfettered, unregulated markets.  There is an important difference.

Conclusion

I think this Pope is offering a PhD level course on how to change a large institution steeped in tradition and values.  As many have said, I think the GOP could learn a lot from this Pope – especially when it comes down to how to chose what to talk about and more importantly humility.

I would urge Mr. Limbaugh to actually read the document and not a press story about said document.  Please don’t fall into the trap we accuse many liberals of falling into.  Why trust a press article, when the source document is there for all to read?

Mr. Limbaugh you made a mistake, you should NOT twist or trust a press article to make a political point, and frankly I think you should apologize.

Happy Holidays to all.  As you shop, keep in mind the Pope’s words regarding unbridled consumerism, you may just have a happier holiday!

PS.  You should follow the Pope on Twitter!  (I find it tremendously amusing that one can follow the Pope on Twitter!)

declassified

 

Analytical Thinking & Presentation for Intelligence Producers

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, during a Tofurkey induced political-nerd Internet session, I came across a copy of the CIA’s Training Manual & Handbook written for their analysts entitled: Analytic Thinking & Presentation for Intelligence Producers.  Analysis Training Handbook.    

The handbook was originally published in 2000, and I was enthralled with the document.  After all, in a sense, political consultants are producers of Intelligence.  It just happens to be political consultants trade in mostly open-source intelligence.

At first, I felt I was being respectfully subservient.  I was going to go behind the door and learn the secrets to being a great CIA analyst.

However, as I read the document, it became apparent that what I had stumbled upon was the government’s version of Strunk & White.

It is a good read, but you will learn no secrets, only helpful hints such as:

  • The importance of a title
  • How to gist your reading (actually a very helpful section)
  • The need for focus and clarity
  • “If you can’t summarize your bottom line in one sentence, you haven’t done your analysis.”
  • One idea – One Paragraph
  • The inverted Pyramid writing style, i.e. begin with the core assumption.
  • The importance of precise language (no jargon, no abbreviations, allow no possible misunderstandings)

Again, there is nothing earth shattering, but it is an interesting read.

Developing Analytical Objectivity

The part that I found most interesting is the section entitled “Developing Analytical Objectivity.”

In a world filled with talk radio and infotainment, it is an important point to raise awareness about.

We have talked extensively about the cognitive nature of our brains and some of the fallacies and tricks our brains play on us – especially in the political arena.

This warning given to some of our country’s brightest thinkers acts as a reminder that if the smartest person in the room must protect against biases, so must we.

While there are no state secrets in the document, we all can use a refresher on how to write and think more clearly.  I strongly urge you take a quick read.

Read and enjoy for yourself.

PDF-download-icon

Download the Study

I got myself into a little trouble yesterday with some comments on Senator Harry Reid’s redefining of the cloture rule so that a mere majority of the Senators present is needed to limit and debate and move on, the so-called “nuclear option.”

I hate that he did it, and I think my Democratic friends will rue the day they did it, when they return to the minority shortly.

For me it was a case of the Democrats not being able to win, so they changed the rules. Straight up Kobayashi Maru! (warning: that was nerd talk, look it up!)
reid-cheats
However, none of that got me in trouble.  Later in the evening, I was thinking about it and wrote on facebook:

If I am truly being honest, I hate what Harry Reid did with the nuclear option, but I kinda respect that he found his cojones. I hope the GOP finds theirs. Reid is straight up gangster politics. #respect

Yes, it was a flippant comment, but I was completely unprepared for the backlash from my conservative friends.  There were expressions of strong dislike for Senator Reid, accusations were thrown out, but I was completely unprepared for one comment.

One went so far as to say that me and people ‘who think like u r causing the downfall of our country.”

Really, the downfall of our country?  Come on, you give me way too much credit.

However, instead of writing “You, Sir, are feeble minded person located smack dab in the middle of the bell-curve when rating intelligence!”, I thought I would explain myself more.

Why Harry Reid gets an ounce of Respect

Again, let’s start with it was the wrong move.  I want to make that clear before I get blamed for the Kennedy assassination today.

We must also separate the man from the political move.  Niccolo_Machiavellis_portrait_headcrop

When we do both of those things:  We must congratulate the Democrats on their raw, Machiavellian political calculation.  Remember, one of the biggest sins you can commit in politics is to under-estimate your opponents.  

Here is the calculation:

BOTH sides at one time or another have flipped flopped and threaten to use the nuclear option; therefore, the Republicans can’t do jack squat about it without hurting ourselves or looking like big babies.

 

Yes, Republicans could STILL use the Senate rules to slow the Senate to a crawl – make them read each bill and that kind of crap.   Problem?  Republicans would only look spiteful.

However, here is the REAL danger and Machiavellian calculation:  the move that both parties have discussed, but the Democrats actually had the cajones to do – could “work”.

When I say “work”, I mean the Senate starts confirming people.  We may hate the nominees’ values, etc, but they will get confirmed.  The American people see this movement and re-act favorably to the movement.  After all, people are tired of a gridlocked nation, and deep down most reasonable people will admit a President should have his choice of people unless they are disqualified due to scandal, etc.

This leads to the biggest danger for the GOP – when things start moving, obstructionists will realize they can’t just obstruct, leading to the biggest horror of them all:

The US Senate moves to a reasonable, sound, common sense, bipartisan Chamber that it was designed to be.  

Conclusion on the politics of the Nuclear Option

So, when you are honest and you look at just the politics as Niccolo would, one must reluctantly tip their hat to Senator Reid.

Ozean announces Political Library

Ozean announces Political Library

Announcing the opening of  Ozean’s central repository & political library

We have heard your request, and we are making some small changes to our website.

As you may know, we love the science of politics.  We are true political nerds, and we embrace that aspect of our personalities.

Many of our blog posts are driven by what political studies, political research, or political books we are currently reading.  Some are even driven by Ozean Media’s original research.

Over the past year, we have been asked repeatedly to create a central library of our research.

You asked for one place for all political research, and we listened.  

Today, we announce the opening of the official Ozean central repository of all political information & political library.  political-nerd-alert

On one convenient page, you will find Ozean’s Political Case Studies, Ozean’s Original Political Research, and links to any political science studies that Ozean discusses or cites in our political blog.

BTW, did you know Ozean’s blog was listed by Campaigns and Elections Magazine as a must read?  You do now!

The political libray is a work in progress, and Ozean hopes you will bring any errors to our attention by contacting Ozean.

Enjoy the homework.

No need to thank us, you’re welcome!

Link to:  Ozean’s political library

Guest Lecturer of the Year

Alex Patton: Guest Lecturer of the Year

It was my absolute pleasure to be a guest lecturer at the University of Florida’s graduate political science program.

I was extremely impressed with the engagement and intellect of the students.

My only concern is 90% of the students in the graduate program self identified as Democrats.

Come on fellow Republicans, don’t fear SPSS. We need you!

As you can from the photo above, I was aiming for Guest Lecturer of the Year!

Knowing my fellow Gators, I believe the probability of me winning has increased dramatically……just saying!