Fianna Fuckup – Government party trick bloggers into event

Update: Damien Blake who organised the “getting the bloggers and non-hacks to come along” bit has a blog post on this, apologising for the cockup and taking blame for it. He has also left comments below.

So Fianna Fáil got one of Obama’s web people to come and give a talk to the public about what he did. Or rather, an event billed to be a talk by Joe Rospars was advertised and bloggers were asked to put it on Twitter and their blogs.

It was far from transparent that it was going to be a Fianna Fáil supported event though it was obvious given Fianna Fail were twittering it themselves. It’s fine if they are getting this guy over as a consultant and then getting him to talk to the public, while here. However it seems very much that this was a Fianna Fáil event with a waving monkey for a few seconds and the rest was a party political broadcast. So Fianna Fáil without saying they were Fianna Fáil invited a load of bloggers to this with the (no pun intended) hope of seeing one of the Obamanointed ones but as I write this these bloggers are completely and utterly pissed off. Twitter is alight with their ire and it even seems Fianna Fáil are already trying to placate some journalists:

@unarocks on the phone with FF – they just called to try and control the situation.. too late guys!

Some of the ire here:

LIVID having been ambushed by Fianna Fail, lured with bait of Joe Rospars (Obama campaign director).

and here:

@fionnkidney i feel completely duped. How does FF think this is a good way to engage with bloggers?! TOOLS.

and here:

#rospars event over. People running away. Not a good event at all.

and here:

this event was NOT advertised as FF event. Recruitment was not through FF. But we went to a FF launch plus # Rospars with his FF account

When you start down the route of engaging with an online public, starting off with dishonesty won’t get you far. Events like these are meant to build trust, instead Fianna Fáil will now be even more hated and mistrusted.

More posts on this:

A very good summary from Suzy Byrne.

More on IrishElection.

And on Fionn’s site.

Green Ink on it.



Irish Times coverage.

48 thoughts on “Fianna Fuckup – Government party trick bloggers into event”

  1. @Sean – why wait until 2012 – the local and European elections are coming up in just a few months… even if you aren’t old enough to vote, you are old enough to campaign!

    @Damien – I almost wish I was there – I’ve had some great ‘skirmishes’ with the FF machine locally, and those HQ clowns are pussy-cats by comparison to the animals around here!

  2. Just wanted to add my ire to the list. It was such a bizarre setup. I really thought this was going to be an interesting event. And a chance to hear from a tech person who’s made a huge difference in the world.

    I really felt ambushed by the whole thing. It was just bizarre. I still reckon Joe wasn’t in on the setup, and will likely be royally pissed off when he finds out peoples reactions.

  3. Didn’t know they had started to Twitter. They don’t make it too obvious on their website.

    Have to laugh at their flickr account which simply states ‘fiannafail doesn’t have anything available to you.’ Might as well have said ‘fiannafail doesn’t have anything TO OFFER you.’

    Oh. And bad buzz this …

    They’re screwed in *any* upcoming election already – no need for this to add insult to injury. What a mess they’ve made of things, and how badly are they handling the current crisis ? Shocking.

  4. I am glad I didn’t head along in the end.. Sounds like they really don’t understand the effects of social media well hopefully we will be rid soon enough

  5. This is rather extraordinary. I figured out earlier that BlueStateDigital (run by the guys who worked for Obama) had been doing work for Fianna Fail.

    This is what Strawberry Media said

    “Strawberry Media are pleased to organise an open seminar with Joe Rospars, founding partner of Blue State Digital and New Media Director of the Barack Obama Presidential Campaign.

    Joe will be discussing the lessons of the Obama campaign, how it can be applied in other fields, and will take a Q&A on his talk. Attendance at the seminar is free.

    This event is open to all, and would be particularly suited to bloggers and those interested in technology and politics. Numbers are limited, so please register your interest below if you are able to attend.”

    So clearly it was pitched for bloggers to talk about how to use the tools (and lessons) form Obama (and Dean’s) campaigns and apply them to their work.

    How did it become a Fianna Fail press event to launch their website.

    I cannot fathom how the two can be reconciled.

    I was kicking myself this morning that I was going to miss the event, but it looks like what I missed was something completely different.

  6. I’m actually disappointed that Fianna Fail and their PR people got this so wrong. There are so many people in Ireland (Damien in particular) that are trying to encourage organisations to engage with bloggers, and then someone like Fianna Fail comes out and makes a mess and the backlash will deter others for a long time.

    Has anyone else spotted the irony of the Fianna Fail thing going so wrong on the back of a presentation on the ultimate success story of the political use of social media.

    I do have to make an apology to fellow bloggers. I saw the version of the invite sent to Fianna Fail party members (I’m not a member, but was sent it on by a friend) and the sanitised version sent out via bloggers. I didn’t make the connection that this might actually be a party event and not worth going to. Sorry.

  7. You all attend an event organized by FF… what did you expect? Instead of complaining why don’t you simply put a proposal together, and get your thoughts organized?

    I am not a FF supporter but when I see people attending an event organized by FF, a PR company hired behind this and a tech-world famous personality, I don’t expect them to go there to hear about how someone used his wordpress (or whichever blogging software) and how he made his web platform scalable.

    Seriously, get your acts together because this is the real world. I reckon this is a typical move that badly managed campaigns like FF would do but… what did you expect?

  8. @Eoin

    The general invited public weren’t told it was a FF event. Look at it this way:

    You (by your own admission) are not a FF supporter. However, you attend an event promoted as an “open seminar” with world-renowned Joe Rospars. One of the assembled press photographers takes a picture of you, and it appears in tomorrow’s paper with the caption “Eoin O’Riordan at the launch of Fianna Fail’s new website”.

    Would you be happy?

    Bottom line – Fianna Fail made a mistake by deliberately misleading people, and those people have the right to do everything in their power to damage Fianna Fail in return for this insult.

    It’s just as well this Damien Blake character is retiring from politics – they don’t accept this kind of bull in Donegal. Kind of ironic – he said he was stepping down because there weren’t enough hours in the day to combine business and politics, but here he is, doing a pretty good job of it!

  9. Damien I’m so sorry all your work had to be brought down by this Strawberry Media crowd. I really hope this gets some coverage in the papers and FF aren’t allowed to once again get away with treating an entire community like complete idiots.

  10. Sorry, but what did you expect?

    Did you seriously think that a) FF was adopting a sea-change in its web strategy and b) that it would choose to announce this with bloggers?

    This was a patronising invitation to a bunch of people that political parties believe to be unsophisticated kids on the web with little or no influence. Anyone think political parties think otherwise?

    No offence, but if FF had a serious event to promote, they would have concentrated on senior pol corrs, broadcast media and other mass-market organs. They don’t take bloggers seriously and, to be honest, it was naive to think they had suddenly decided that bloggers were a key influencing group.

    I’m sorry if this sounds cynical and hardened, but journalists are used to this kind of hoodwinking.

    FF — and every other party — don’t give a goddamn about the web. Their ‘new’ website is a joke, anyway.

  11. Perhaps that last post was too harsh. Was it just Strawberry Media that did the invitation? If so, then perhaps my previous comments were misdir)ected.
    (I was called by FF press office on this, but declined to go, assuming was a trumped up FF launch. So I assumed that they had done likewise with bloggers.)

  12. I’ve tried to post a few times here, hopefully this will work.

    I’m really sorry about this; the idea behind how it was put out was mine, I work for Strawberry Media and we’ve been helping FF with some stuff on this.

    I’ve put a full post on my own blog, and an outline of why I went about it the way I did, over at

    The intention – which clearly didn’t work out as hoped – was to have as wide and diverse an audience as possible, so that people could interact with a brilliant digital strategist. We wanted to keep the FF side of it to a minimum, to encourage people from any and all political sides to come and hear what he had to say. We had no logos, no banners, no pop-up stands, but definitely left the screenshot of the website up for too long.

    I’m sorry about this, it was my idea and I got it wrong.

  13. I was wondering how long it would be before a political party in Ireland decided to go beyond using some of Barack’s rhetoric and actually implement some of his online strategy.

    When your back is up against the wall – you will try anything; how a PR machine of the supposed ferociousness of FF could get it so wrong is both astonishing and frightening in equal, heavy measure.

    Whatever about the publicising of this event – I would ask the more fundamental question : do the guys really think this online strategy is appropriate for the current environment, or does it match the mood?

    I don’t think it does. However openness, interaction and communication was obviously going to to be a major plank of this weekends Ard Fheis.

    Looks like the scripts will have to be rewritten….

  14. Ah lads this is a bit harsh. I am a party member (election candidate in fact all of about three weeks) and I did get an invite and I was pretty excited about it as someone every interested in a) FF b) Obama c) New Media. In fact I tweeted these last night “Obama-Fianna Fáil-Blogs-Blue States-(Red States?)-New Media = my personal nirvana – tomoro nite –” and “did you see that link i posted looks fab ff hosting a talk by obamas new media director” and “@damienblake is it an ff thing or a public thing or both?” and more all pretty transparently up there on the public timeline. I don’t think there was any great conspiracy I think the organiser may not done a great job of making the distinction but am sure the guy had a lot on his plate getting things sorted for the night. Now I couldn’t go to the actual event unfortunately but was it really that bad? It was a talk about politics after all, am sure he mentioned the Democratic party once or twice in his last engagement. Long story short appears to have been some confusion but lets not make a mountain out of a molehill here..

  15. 20 people read your Twitter profile. Of the 20, how many were there tonight?

    Just because you knew it was a FF event does not mean everyone going did and maybe the link that Damien Blake asked me to send around could have informed people it was a FF event to the core. Why did it not?

  16. At least two of my twenty (10%!) And I mailed loads other folk some did some didn’t make it. I just fwded the FF invite which I had received – no secret as far as I was concerned but I can’t speak for the organisers. I did tweet Damien to ask about this. I personally was more peed off that I heard about it with less than 24 hours notice rather than the actual content of the talk. I would have loved to go but couldn’t as had a prior engagement. After all that was the actual talk any good?

  17. @damien

    The reason it didn’t say that is because it was not our intention for it to be an FF event. We had Joe in town, and rather than have him speak at a party-only event we wanted him to reach as wide and diverse an audience as possible.

    Joe is a very engaging character, well worth hearing. He was introduced by a party official, and we tried to keep the FF side of it as limited as possible. We had no banners, no signs, no pop-up stands and no members of the Dail or Senate at it.

    I screwed up on the invite and the way it was handled; I didn’t want people to be scared away by an FF badge on it. As I say in my post, the event was 10:1 Joe Rospars over Fianna Fail.

    I’m really, really sorry about how I handled this. We had the chance to give something good back – bringing in a world-class speaker – and I’m sorry the way I handled it has cast such a cloud on the event.

  18. Damien (B),

    The issue people had with the event wasn’t that it was a Fianna Fail event, but that there seemed to be an active attempt on your part to hide this from them. Hence, rather than thinking “Hey, that’s nice of Fianna Fail for giving us a seminar with Joe Rospars”, they thought “Those Fianna Fail fuckers lured us into a website launch”. Had you included in the invitation the line “Joe Rospars is in Dublin to launch the new Fianna Fail online strategy that Blue State is involved in, but this is an open, public seminar targetted particularly at the blogging community.”, nobody would have been scared away, but the lack of any reference to Fianna Fail at all made it look like you had something to hide. As Joe Rospars said himself during the evening, the very first thing you have to do when interacting with people online is to ensure transparency, and you seemed to have forgotten that before you even started.

    You say that it was 10:1 Joe Rospars/Fianna Fail, however I think this is somewhat misleading. Aside from the obvious fact that Brian Cowen’s face was plastered up on the screen for most of the event (including the entire Q&A session), the seminar was opened by the Fianna Fail General Secretary, which set the tone for the entire evening. Furthermore, there were clearly a considerable number of Fianna Fail members and staff in the audience (unsurprising, given that it was advertised to them as a Fianna Fail seminar), and in fact most of the questions seemed to be either from Fianna Failers or about Blue State’s work with Fianna Fail. Given that there wasn’t time for many questions, I can understand the frustration of bloggers who came to an event to ask a question to Joe Rospars about running online advocacy campaigns, only to find that there wasn’t time to ask it because he was too busy being asked by Fianna Fail staff members about whether he was going to teach FF TDs how to use the web.

    That all said, I will thank you for the apology, though. I must say it’s unfortunately rare, and much appreciated, to see someone involved in politics apologise and accept responsibility for his mistakes.

  19. Very little to add to this that hasn’t been said except to say (a) It was a trick, (b) bloggers – and by extenstion/association anyone who talks online (IMO), like Adrian says above, are obviously not respected or taken seriously, or acknowledged as having anything to offer and (c) It’s put me right off engaging with them in any professional or personal way. If approached, either blog or wise, there’ll be very strict guidelines on transparency, honesty and respect – three things very much missing from last night.

    Damien B, fair play for the hands up but prove it now by never ever allowing anything like this to happen again.

  20. Reposting content of comment I made on Slugger O’Toole..

    There can be no doubt that Strawberry Media were incredibly stupid in organising an event and not stating the FF connection up front. If I’d gone to it, I’d have had exactly the same reaction.

    BUT, what actually bugs me more now is that I went to some effort yesterday to try and find someone to cover for me in the shop so I could go to this event. I read about it on your blog – I wouldn’t have heard about it otherwise.

    I find it hard to fathom that you did not make the FF connection especially since you got notified about it by Damien Blake himself. You know who he is. I did not, and therefore knew nothing of a possible FF connection until the outraged Tweets and Retweets started appearing in my twitterstream on the bus home. I did a quick google and immediately made the connection – wow aren’t I clever…

    If I was operating at the level you do in media circles (and indeed others who I see posted in advance of the event), I would have advised my blog readership that this is a FF sponsored event – approach with caution.

    Why not expose Strawberry Media’s connections before the event and save bloggers the hassle?

    This just smacks of controversy for the sake of, well – I don’t know what.

    Very pissed off ordinary blogger who expects a bit more from people who know more about these things….

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