Joe Rospars Dublin Event, New FF Online Strategy

I’m just back at a computer after an event in Dublin that I was able to organise through work. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working with Fianna Fáil and Blue State Digital on a new website and a new web strategy for the party.

It’s been a busy few weeks, but a great experience. The team in Blue State are fantastic; they really know there stuff about online campaigning. In particular, they focus more on strategy than on technology, and that’s something Fianna Fáil will hopefully benefit from greatly.

Joe Rospars, one of the founding partners of the company, was in Dublin today as part of a wider trip to Europe. I pushed Fianna Fáil to organise a public event rather than a private, party only event. I put out the invite through Strawberry Media, and organised the event.  We were delighted with the turnout, about a hundred people showed up and we were able to get a good Q&A going with Joe himself afterwards.

I spoke to a number of people afterwards, the majority of whom were very positive about it. One person did mention that a few people were unhappy about the way it had been advertised, and that it hadn’t been publicised as a Fianna Fáil event, and I see messages on Twitter about it as well.

The idea to have the public event, rather than a private one, was mine, and the decision to push it from Strawberry Media was mine as well. Why? I wanted as wide an audience as possible to hear Joe’s talk, and to get the opportunity to question him directly. I felt that some people would have not wanted to attend a Fianna Fáil event, but would love to hear Joe Rospars. This wasn’t the launch of the Fianna Fáil website.

So rather than organise a glitzy launch with banners, posters, videos or the like, we had an open, free event, with a short introduction to say why Joe was in town.  Sean Dorgan, party General Secretary spoke to introduce the fact that Joe was in town in connection with his work for Fianna Fáil, and that the party wanted to have his expertise out in the open rather than tied in for the party only.

The event was 10:1 Joe Rospars to Fianna Fail; we’ll have the video online in a few days. Joe’s content wasn’t affected by us, we didn’t discuss it with him before hand, and he spoke for over 40 minutes as opposed to less than 5 from people from the party.

I’m genuinely sorry that anyone is upset about the way I handled the run up to the event; I hope that the quality of Joe’s talk, and the ability to hear first hand his impressions of Irish and European politics, in some way makes up for it.

I’m thankfully for everyone who turned up, and for all the great feedback I received on the night.

Update: (26/2/09) Here’s the text of the Press Invite (PDF) sent to members of the tech press. It features an FF logo and details of why Joe was in town. He also discussed this on RTE Radio 1 with Mary Wilson around 5pm on the day.

This post is one of a few that have been mangled recently; I’m working to restore all the comments that I possibly can. They will return here in the coming days.

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