NRCC to launch ‘digital college’ to train Hill staffers

NRCC to launch ‘digital college’ to train Hill staffers

The National Republican Congressional Committee is starting a “digital college” for Hill staffers in an effort to improve the GOP’s online outreach.

The program, which begins in May, will train House staffers who do campaign work in setting up webpages, conducting email outreach and navigating Google AdWords. And to make sure it sinks in, the staffers’ bosses will be held accountable by the NRCC for their development.

“We’re prioritizing that at the top so that the members each week get a sheet of metrics boxing in [their] office that say, ‘these are the metrics you have to be held to, staff’s accountable.’ The member is going to see that every week,” Garrit Lansing, NRCC digital director, said Thursday at C&E’s CampaignTech conference in Washington.

Republicans are making the push on training after having limited success recruiting top Silicon Valley talent. Still, that hasn’t stopped the GOP committees from nurturing “the myth of a savior,” said Lansing. “There is no one guy from outside who can come in and solve [all the problems].

“In fact any person from Silicon Valley who tries to come into a party committee and thinks they can [be a savior] will get eaten alive by the vendors, internal politics or just D.C. in general because they don’t understand how the game works. It has to actually be a D.C. person who understands the maneuvering situation.”

Republicans have experimented with talent from outside the political realm before. For instance, Cyrus Krohn, a veteran of Microsoft and Yahoo, joined the Republican National Committee in 2007 with the task of revamping the party’s online infrastructure. He left two years later.

Liz Mair, a Republican tech consultant who worked under Krohn at the RNC, countered Lansing. 

“I actually don’t think that it’s at all essential” for technology staffers to have a political background, she said during the panel discussion, which also included Sara Deneweth, a former digital strategist with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Greg Greene, a former online strategist with the Democratic National Committee.

“I think what you need is a personality type,” she said. “You need someone who is not going to be a shrinking violet. Somebody who basically takes the job not for the purposes of making friends or stroking egos but to get stuff done. At the end of the day, if you have that that’s going to be successful.”

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