This review covers three articles, namely: Tracking the Blogs: An Evaluation… by Wicks, Bradley, Blackburn and Field (2008); Online Relationship Management in a Presidential Campaign: A Case Study… by Levenshus (2010) and; YouTube-faction of Political Talk: An Examination… by English, Sweeter and Ancu (2011).
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The first article examines blogs as an avenue for political communication. Wicks et al. (2008) used Benoit’s functional theory of presidential discourse to examine how presidential candidates used blogs to express their strengths, attack opponents, and express rebuttals to opponents’ attacks during the 2008 U.S. presidential campaigns. The article reveals that blogs have become so popular in political campaigns to the extent that presidential candidates have individualized blogs for their political communication. The authors analyzed three types of blogs, namely: candidate’s blogs; blogs belonging to their political parties, and; politically nonaligned blogs. The results show that individualized blogs were preferred when expressing acclaims while party blogs were preferred for attacks and, to a limited extent, rebuttals. On the contrary, politically nonaligned blogs had minimal acclaims but were preferred for attacks and limited rebuttals. The authors concluded that Benoit’s functional model applies to both politically aligned and nonaligned blogs.
In the second article, Levenshus (2010) use the relationship-management theory to examine how the internet was used to manage President Obama’s grass-root campaigns in 2008. The article is a case study of President Obama’s 2008 Internet-Integrated Grassroots Effort. The study analyzed the Obama for America website and the associated news on the internet campaign but also conducted interviews with the campaign staff. The results of the study revealed that the internet played a critical role in managing grassroots relationships in President Obama’s campaign. Six themes emerged concerning the use of the internet to strategically manage campaign relationships, namely: resources for relationships; openness and adaptability; volunteer empowerment; strategic variation of communication; staff as active listeners and; evaluation and research (Levenshus, 2010). The author concluded that the internet can offer a great opportunity for politicians to dialogue, empower, and build significant relationships with the public.
The third article examines the influence of YouTube videos on shaping the perception of viewers. Having noticed that YouTube political videos ranked among the top three most popular online activities during the 2008 political campaign, English et al. (2011) were interested in establishing the impact of YouTube political videos on consumers of the information. The Authors subjected participants to three YouTube video clips with different persuasive messages, i.e. source, logic, and emotion. The results show that participants were more persuaded by the source video clip while logic and emotions ranked second and third respectively. Authors concluded that YouTube videos can play a critical role in political communication, but the users have to be careful as viewers are most likely to be persuaded with information whose source is credible and not by logic or emotional videos.
Ideas, Arguments, and Strategies Presented by the Author(S) Useful in Political Communication
Internet technology has advanced to accommodate different types of users including politicians. Unlike in the traditional days when presidential candidates had to incur high costs of media coverage to deliver political messages to the public, the internet now offers a relatively cheap and wide coverage avenue for politicians.
According to Wicks et al. (2008), politicians have to strive to be better than the other candidates for them to be recognized by voters hence the need for acclaims, attacks, and rebuttals. The authors state that blogs are an important avenue for political communication and can be used by presidential candidates to help them gain popularity. From their article, President Obama’s popularity in 2008 was, to a greater extent, attributed to his campaign strategy, which focused more on the use of his blog to express acclaims. Levenshus (2010) also adds that politicians can use the internet to manage grass-root campaigns and as an avenue for fund-raising as well.
The focus should be on building beneficial relationships with the public to earn their approval by making them feel part of the campaign and not just consumers of the political message. Wicks et al. (2008) demonstrate that political communication should be strategic. It is for this reason that attacks and rebuttals were mostly directed to party-aligned blogs and not candidates’ blogs. Candidates do not use their blogs to attack, but leave that role to the political party’s blogs. Besides, attacking is considered bad as it leads to negative campaigning hence candidates do not want to be directly associated with it. Strategy in political communication also comes out in the article by English et al. (2011). According to the authors, the credibility of the source of information is very important in persuading consumers to believe the message being conveyed. As a rule of thumb, the authors warn that the use of humor and technical logic is counterproductive when using the internet, especially video clips, to deliver political messages. The authors also add that politicians should strive to ensure that there is a connection between the message being delivered and potential consumers.
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An Explanation of the Significance and Implication of the Readings to Strategic Communication
These articles are significant in strategic communication in that they all bring out the role of the internet in political campaigns. The internet does not only provide a medium for delivering political messages, but also a forum for political debates.
According to Wicks et al. (2008), over 33% of internet users read blogs hence politicians channeling their campaigns through blogs are sure of capturing the attention of this group. While blogs provide an appropriate avenue for political communication, the authors posit that attacking opponents directly using candidates’ blogs may be counterproductive as people may perceive such politicians to be engaging in dirty campaigns.
Further, Levenshus (2010) demonstrates that incorporating internet use in political campaigns provides a good strategy for managing grass-root campaign relationships. President Obama’s popularity in 2008 was, to a greater extent, contributed to by his internet relationships management strategy. The internet provided a forum for discussion and led to fruitful public relations between President Obama’s campaign team and the voters. Using this strategy, President Obama was not only able to engage grass root voters in his campaign, but also raise funds for his campaign. This is a strategy that politicians can borrow from and use in their political communications.
English et al. (2011) also enlighten politicians on the best way to take advantage of YouTube in political campaigns. According to the authors, the power of YouTube video clips in disseminating information and persuading viewers into liking information being disseminated cannot be underestimated. However, the authors warn that the credibility of the source of political messages in the video clips should be validated before uploading them. According to the article, viewers are more likely to be persuaded with information whose a source they consider credible. Further, newscasters should also strive to connect with viewers for the information they are delivering to have a greater impact.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Just like any other research work, the readings presented in this review have strengths and weaknesses. The article by Wicks et al. (2008) is strong in that it was based on an established theory, Benoit’s functional theory of presidential discourse, and analyzed different categories of blogs to analyze and compare their results as well. However, the authors used data from a single campaign period and in just one location, which could be misleading. It would have been more reliable to compare the use of blogs during the U.S. presidential campaigns with another country to see if the results remain the same. The conclusion that candidates do not use their blogs for attacks based just on the U.S. situation may be misleading.
Similarly, Levenshus’ (2010) article was based on theoretical background and the author opted for a case study, which allowed for in-depth analysis of the problem. Reading through the article, the role played by the internet in building beneficial grassroots relationships come out clear. However, the article is limited in that the findings cannot be generalized to the U.S. as a whole. It could be that the region sampled for the case study had several internet users and this may not be the same in other regions.
Finally, the article by English et al. (2011) used a post-test approach where participants were shown health-related videos and the results analyzed and used to conclude political YouTube videos. This approach is good since the authors were more interested in examining factors that would make a YouTube political video appealing to consumers of the information. However, the study is based on a small sample of only three videos, which makes it limited in scope.
Agreements and Disagreements
The three articles reviewed in this paper agree on the significance of the internet as an avenue for political communication. The three articles are driven by the assumption that the internet can be used to reach a large number of voters within a short period hence a good medium for political campaigns. The articles also agree on the need for strategy when channeling political campaigns on the internet.
However, the articles disagree on the best approach to use when channeling political campaigns on the internet. While Wicks et al. (2008) advocate for blogs, Levenshus’ (2010) seems to prefer the website while English et al. (2011) advocate for viral videos channeled through YouTube.
English, K., Sweeter, K.D. & Ancu, M. (2011). YouTube-ification of political talk: An examination of persuasion appeals in viral video. American Behavioral Scientists, 55(6), 733-745.
Levenshus, A. (2010). Online relationship management in a presidential campaign: A case study of the Obama campaign’s management of its internet-integrated grassroots effort. Journal of Public Relations Research, 22(3), 313-335.
Wicks, R.H., Bradley, A., Blackburn. G. & Field, T. (2008). Tracking the blogs: An evaluation of attacks, acclaims, and rebuttals presented on political blogs during the 2008 presidential election. American Behavioural Scientists, 55(6), 651-664.