The Republican National Committee announced Tuesday it is searching for a new chief technology officer to lead a digital makeover that will put data and technology at the center of its operations.
It's part of a broader effort to modernize the party in the wake of its 2012 election losses.
In hiring the new CTO, the RNC hopes take a page out of the Obama campaign playbook and look outside of politics, with the goal of recruiting someone from Silicon Valley or the "private data world" to fill the post by May 1.
According to RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski, the CTO will be responsible for developing a data/digital strategy — and a budget that reflects the RNC's new digital priorities — and then integrating that strategy throughout the entire committee organization.
It's a first step toward regaining some of the digital ground that Republicans lost in 2008 and 2012, when Obama's campaign geek squad used analytics, voter data, and social media to dominate the GOP on the web.
" The idea is to center the committee around technology moving forward," Kukowski said. "While Obama did something similar on the campaign, a committee hasn’t done this before so it’s a big step to have complete buy in from the top to restructure this way."
The RNC's also plans to expand its digital outreach efforts to "develop digital campaign colleges in 'high-tech cities'" to deepen relationships between the party and the tech community, and embark on a "road show" to educate state parties and activists on the GOP's new digital strategy.
As we have previously noted, Republicans have technologically lagged behind Democrats, in terms of both their digital tools and their efforts to foster a culture in which data and technology are viewed as integral to any campaign efforts. Following the 2012 election, Republicans have demanded the party solve these digital disadvantages, and the tech gap is a central focus of the 2012 election audit the RNC plans to unveil Monday.
But while the RNC's new tech plans are being touted internally as a digital revolution at the highest levels of the party, it remains to be seen whether the GOP can make the fundamental changes needed to make the party competitive in the digital realm by 2016.
" They're certainly saying all the right things, but that's only half the battle," said Vincent Harris, a veteran Republican digital strategist who ran Sen. Ted Cruz's digital campaign strategy, among others. "I hope for the sake of the Republican party at all levels that we'll be able to implement them as well."
"Simply hiring someone from Silicon Valley for the sake of it won't fix the issue, it's one that will take time and a fundamental shift in the culture of the hierarchical structure of the GOP."
Below is the full list of the RNC's new digital priorities:
- Recruit and hire chief technology and digital officer before May 1 st to fundamentally change the role of digital, technology and data at the party committee level
- Task this chief technology officer to integrate digital, technology and data teams at the RNC
- Craft budget that integrates digital, technology and data into the entire RNC organization
- Create internal staff training programs to bolster digital capabilities across all RNC staff/departments
- Expand RNC Political Education to develop digital campaign colleges in “high tech” cities to foster relationships within the tech community
- Road show to ensure state parties, campaigns and activists understand how data and digital can benefit them and educate them on what the RNC has to offer
- Develop and test political technologies dedicated to driving voter turnout in the 2013-2014 cycle
*This post was updated to add Harris' remarks.
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