OFFICIAL BLOGHER '10 LIVEBLOG: White House Project -- Call to Action

BlogHer Original Post

Welcome to the liveblog of the White House Project panel: Call to Action: We are the ones we've been waiting for!

Background:

Jill Miller Zimon is the embodiment of what this workshop is all about. As both an active BlogHer community member and political blogger, and an alumna of The White House Project training, Jill decided to run for local office, and she used social media to help her cause. Jill is explaining how she moved from political commentator to politician, and describing her experiences along the way.

Jill became a political blogger in 2005, she worked with The White House Project on trainings in Ohio, went through the training herself, and worked briefly with traditional media as well. Finally, she received an accolade as "most influential person" in her city due to her blogging, which precipitated her run for office. However, her decision to run was not easy and she had to overcome a number of obstacles both to run and to win.

Steps to take in transitioning from political blogger to candidate:

1) Listen to what compels you.

2) Identify and build on the methods to your madness. What you have written may look rough or indirect, but you can find the patterns that link them together in common themes.

3) Accepting that resistance is futile. The excuses why not to run for office run the gamut, not the least of which is sexism, particularly in the media. But when you get to run, you frame your candidacy and give voice to others.

More advice from Jill: There is always a next level you can go to with your passions... no matter the barriers and whatever it is that you're able to do with your blogging and the skills and connections you're making, you are (whether you realize it or not) crafting a direction you can take. There are women in this room who have tools that will help lead you to a more political life. She also emphasized that as bloggers, we are more adept at mastering tools and information online that are at our disposal - election databases, social media tools, etc..

Q& A (mostly paraphrased)...

Q (from Lisa Stone): What were the obstacles you faced as a blogger?

A: Bloggers and others were accustomed to transparency from her blogging, which had to be reduced as a matter of practicality, but she kept a personal private feed and knew that most voters are not on Twitter, etc.. If you are active communicating online, you are going to be more comfortable communicating with those who disagree with you as a candidate. You will very easily be able to listen and you'll have a sense of how to respond.

Q: What do you do when you have an opinion that differs from others?

A: Being a blogger is a lot like being a constituent. You have the luxury of just advocating one position. You don't have to care about any other stakeholders. But women have a knack that can allow us to transition into a place where we can advocate better for others. Elected officials must be able to think about how to help everyone in the community.

Q (Rebecca): How do you deal with a nature that says all you think and a history of videos and blog posts that were highly opinionated?

A: We don't have to accept the history of how people have run in the past. We can run differently. "And I've done it!" It's not about what you did; it's more about what you bring to where you're going. People will still look at your past, but what are they going to do with it? Those lines are always changing. (Everyone should watch the Women's Media Center video of Hillary Clinton in 2008 and learn from it.) People do scrub blogs when they run for office, but I left mine up.

Q: What experience does your advocacy work bring to serving in office?

A: I spoke with people in the gov 2.0 community to learn how elected officials should communicate online. There's a blogger not far from me in Ohio who is vicious; I'm not going to engage in that. I'm more interested in open government and engaging with constituents. There are some serious drop-offs in terms of age demographics and who runs for office. "I'm going to be 48 and I'm the youngest by 8 years." Some of the members of the city council don't even use e-mail. The mayor has adimitted he doesn't understand social media, criticizing her blog as an elected official, but it has been a great tool for engaging with the local residents individually.

Takeaway Quotes from Jill: "Don't get mad; get elected!" and "We do not have to accept politics as usual. We can re-make it."

...

Next session, not on the schedule: Q&A with Linda Tarr-Whelan, ambassador and author.

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