The Woman Pulling the Strings at the RNC — Via Snapchat - OZY | A Modern Media Company

The Woman Pulling the Strings at the RNC — Via Snapchat

Samantha Osborne, the Republican National Committee’s first female digital director.
SourceAlvaro Tapia Hidalgo for OZY

The Woman Pulling the Strings at the RNC — Via Snapchat

By Nick Fouriezos


Because if you can’t tweet or snap or Instagram it, did it even happen?

By Nick Fouriezos

From the stands of Quicken Loans Arena just weeks ago, Sam Osborne witnessed the culmination of a dream held by many a Cleveland sports fan in the last half-century — a pro championship for Believeland. But while her friends and family celebrated, the 29-year-old redhead’s real work was only just beginning, this time for her other great fandom: the Grand Old Party

In the wee morning hours following that victory stupor, the transformation was already underway. Ideally, organizers would have had six to eight weeks to turn an NBA arena into a home for the 50,000 expected visitors, politicos and journalists descending on tomorrow’s GOP Convention. Setting up a robust digital infrastructure for all those people texting and tweeting is equally challenging, and Osborne is puppeteering it all as the Republican National Committee’s first female digital director. 

The key is having interesting content, says Osborne, a 2012 Romney Campaign alum, and her half-dozen or so staffers are pushing out the good word through Snapchat and Instagram, while partnering with Google, Facebook and Twitter. Social media should “amplify the moment,” Osborne says, so the (hopefully) positive vibes of the convention still reverberate in November. “We’ve never built a digital operation the way we’re building this one,” she wrote in an op-ed on Refinery29, and she’s organized media campaigns that include the journey of “Liberty the Elephant” across the country and a Fourth of July special that had convention staffers talking about what the holiday, and freedom, meant to them. 

Technical parts aside, an even more daunting task remains in Osborne’s path: How do you communicate the aspirations and appeal of conservatism to a base that is increasingly disenchanted — so much so that it ignored conventional leadership to overwhelmingly back a brash outsider in the primary? “Interesting question,” she says before noting Donald Trump’s adept use of social media without commenting on his ideology when asked. “It’s hard to make a candidate appear authentic sometimes,” Osborne says. “Donald Trump is authentic.”

But while she praises the chronic tweeter, her own social-media presence is markedly safe, even cautious. There are structural reasons for that, of course, since an official spokesperson can’t commandeer the megaphone. (To see a few of her tweets, revisit her digital interview with OZY below). “The party can’t be the voice piece,” says Josef Ansorge, a political theorist. Still, Osborne’s reservations — as well as those of her colleagues at the RNC — could also speak to a larger need to wrest control from a Wild West election season that has largely seen the party stripped of its influence over many voters and its star candidate. “It turns into a psychoanalytical theory of compensation,” Ansorge says. “The party needs to be more of the middle ground for building consensus, a vehicle for which Trump comes to power, not just Trump.” 

Missed OZY’s live Interview with Osborne over Twitter? Flashback to it here:

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