A ton of positively gushing commentary has been written about how the internet will come of political age in the 2008 cycle, ushering in wonderful new forms of citizen participation and engagement. Unlimited information on the candidates. Unmediated views of the candidates. Citizen reporting on the campaigns. Small gift fundraising nirvana. Power to the people.

Blah, blah, blah.

Sure, the internet brings a lot of good stuff to the political process. But before we all collapse in ecstasy …

Here's an article by political writer Carla Marinucci in the San Francisco Chronicle that explores the “dark side” of the emerging — often unaccountable — online political arena.

She concludes with the views of ad agency exec Steve Harty:

“Campaign consultants in 2008 must be prepared for what may happen to a candidate's brand when “political dirty tricks in our winner-take-all political system meet an unregulated but highly influential media channel,'' he said.

Videos may “whip around the electorate at gale speed'' — too fast for mainstream media to understand, interpret and report, he said.

That means such “viral accusations and innuendo” may represent a whole new generation of October surprises that could undo “years of careful policy articulation” and political branding literally overnight, he said.”

Most nonprofits don't operate in the “kill or be killed” environment that presidential campaigns do. Organizational character assassination might be more difficult to pull off than the personal variety.

Still, this article is food for thought for everyone marketing a cause or charity. Because it describes the dangers posed to any brand by any individual agitated enough to exploit an easily-accessed media channel that offers little by way of authentication, redress or accountability.

Tom

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