Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Unified Message and the Candidate to Carry It

Laurie Byrd (Whizbang!), in the audience behind me, said that the independence of people like Bill LuMaye and Fox News, neither of which lockstep with talking points, is what makes them successful.

Jeff Katz calls the "unified message" idea "a recipe for disaster"; conservative media is already portrayed as Republican shills. "A good talk show host knows his audience and what they want to talk about. A great talk show host is not afraid to occasionally tell his audience, 'I don't agree with you.'" Rush Limbaugh was always most popular when there was an opposition candidate in office, and he has suffered from the perception that he has been carrying water for the Republicans. "You believe what you believe, advance that, and do it without reservation, with hesitation, and without apology ... without saying 'This is what the Republican party should be doing', 'This is what the Democrats should be doing'."

Nathan Tabor said he doesn't mean talking points, but linking together to help one another out.

Someone said conservatives don't have a George Soros funding our own, but Tabor asks, "Are all conservatives broke? ..." but re-emphasized that we need to be working together wherever we can. Mittan said recently a legislator (Susan Fisher) clearly presented different positions on LuMaye's program in Raleigh than she had said on Mittan's in Asheville; a mutual listener tipped them and the two programs shared that information. However, it was the listeners, not the hosts, that made that happen.

Curtis Wright said, in response to a question why conservative candidates have difficulty getting on the radio, that the liberal network better understands sales, and that conservative candidates don't do the job about returning calls and emails. Jeff Katz said that supporters and staff need to be working on the candidates to make them interesting guests, too. "If you want your guests on the air, you have to remember this is an entertainment medium." He continued, "We had better decide what conservative means --" such as whether Rudy Giuliani is really a conservative, to be speaking at this conference, for example. "Fundamentally, your guy has to be interesting ... it's about grabbing as many human beings as possible and force them to listen as long as possible." And Bill LuMaye says the problem he sees is that no candidate has emerged with enough conservatism to attract the energy and excitement which he believes is latent in the community.

Nathan Tabor asked how many bloggers were in the audience. I saw at least eight hands; just in my corner of the room, literally within arm's reach, are myself, Scott Elliott, and Laurie Byrd. Tabor said there are local commentators blogging in every county about local issues and events, and activists need to get their candidates in touch with these people, too.

Ric Martinez said we have to remember that dealing with ideas and facts is not enough; we have to remember that emotions are legitimate too. Limbaugh is successful because he not only communicates the ideas, but engages you with humor and emotion too. Wright also points out that we have to work hard and share information to make this happen.

Donna Martinez said the liberal message is, "We care and we want to help you." Conservatives have to communicate that too.

Elizabeth Torres is a young woman in the front row, and she told me before the session she intended to be part of the Q&A. She just asked how we should get the message to the young people. Mittan said that the largest bloc is people who don't listen to the radio; he is reaching out to people who don't tune in to Limbaugh and listen to Mittan on their way to Hannity by speaking at college campuses. Elizabeth told me that her older sister is the one who was talking with Howard Lee in yesterday's education panel.

Penultimate question is coming from a young man who is vice-chairman of the UNC-Greensboro College Republicans. His comment is that liberals are targeting young conservatives on campus, and the only air they've been able to get is Wright's station in Wilmington and Mike Adams on Wright said the reason Greensboro got on the air in Wilmington is there was a connection with UNC-Wilmington and the Star-News wouldn't cover it; it was newsworthy so his station carried it all day. The key is finding news and then packaging it.

Coming from my own experience leading a nonprofit advocacy group, I can say "Amen" to that. Ric Martinez told him, no offense, but, "Too bad. You don't decide what's news. You have to be persistent." And that, I think, is quite true.

Session over, on to lunch ...



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