Cyrus Krohn: RNC post-election report raised ‘more questions’

The recent report commissioned by the Republican National Committee raises “more questions than answers,” according to Cyrus Krohn, who led the GOP’s digital operations in the 2008 cycle.

Krohn left the RNC in 2009, less than two years after he was brought on to revamp the committee’s online infrastructure. He’s since founded Crowdverb, a digital outreach and advocacy firm.

The RNC post-2012 election report, issued last month, contained a potpourri of suggestions for how the party can match the Democrats’ online efforts.

One idea was to expand the RNC’s digital and technology teams with new staffers recruited from beyond “the traditional political sphere.”

Krohn, who himself was recruited after working at Microsoft and Yahoo, says of the report: “We're introducing more questions than answers.”

One of those questions—how can the RNC implement any kind of reform when its leadership is on a two-year election cycle?

Speaking to C&E at the CampaignTech conference Friday in Washington, Krohn said the RNC is in a “perpetual state of resetting” because of the changes in chairmanship.

“In most cases you’ve got a two-year chairmanship, they bring in their own people, they reset. There’s not a lot of documentation or analysis,” he says.

“I do not believe the political party apparatus to be the conduit to continuity. If a chairman wants to put a stake in the ground and say, ‘we’re going to fix this,’ well, the next chairman might have a different perspective on how they want to fix it.”

That kind of leadership and personnel flux is an anathema to technological innovation, says Krohn. “Technology cycles and campaign cycles are always overlapping and the committees by nature are risk averse in terms of R&D and experimentation and rather formulaic in their approaches. I think that holds truth for both sides of the political aisle.”

That means the committees have a “very narrow window of opportunity to test and develop new capabilities and then experiment with them in live environments.”

Krohn thinks the GOP’s technology innovation will come from operatives developing a “hybrid skill set” that allows them to bridge the political and technology worlds.

“You can’t be a comms director or a campaign manager without having some form of technical prowess—and that doesn’t mean knowing how to tweet,” he says. “It means being the conduit between the development community and the campaign community.” 

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