Moving at the Speed of Social Media: Obama Digital Director Teddy Goff on Achieving Agility (DBW 2013 Video)

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

During his keynote address at last week’s Digital Book World 2013 Conference & Expo in New York, Teddy Goff, Digital Director for Obama for America, shared his own experiences successfully creating a nimble digital skunk works within a larger, more bureaucratic organization.

In this interview, Goff acknowledged the challenges and complexities that publishers and other established companies face when trying to update internal cultures, but cautioned against over thinking the process.

“I do some work with nonprofits and they all wrestle with this issue of how can they move faster and be nimble and develop processes that move at the pace of social media. It’s obviously very challenging to change organizations, but at the same time, it’s not that challenging. Hire a couple people, give them the authority to put out the content that needs to be put out and to approve it themselves and trust in them and give them space and it can work.”

As the Digital Director for President Obama’s 2012 campaign, Goff managed a team of more than 200 people nationwide who collectively:

  • Raised more than $690 million;
  • Registered more than a million voters online;
  • Built Facebook and Twitter followings of more than 45 and 33 million people respectively
  • Generated more than 133 million video views;
  • Ran the largest online advertising program in political history;
  • Built groundbreaking tools for online fundraising and campaigning, and organized hundreds of thousands of volunteers and events through their proprietary organizing platform, Dashboard.

All while serving under the umbrella of one of the largest bureaucracies in the world–in a technology environment so new, that the first iPhone hadn’t even been released yet when then Senator Barack Obama kicked off his first campaign for President just a few years earlier.

“It seemed to me that all of us in publishing could learn something about targeting and social marketing efforts from what Teddy and his team accomplished,” said Mike Shatzkin, Digital Book World Conference Chair.

Of the challenges facing the publishing industry and other media organizations, Goff was blunt: “We’re all screwing up if we can’t figure out how to take a situation where billions of people are getting access to information and education and content and make that a good thing for the publishing industry. That should be do-able.”


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