A speaker at Tuft University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy graduation ceremonies, which I recently attended, quoted journalist Edward R. Murrow about the critical link in international relations of “the last three feet,” taken up in direct personal exchange, face-to-face. Apparently, Murrow who died in 1965, was fond of the phrase as several versions of the quote come up in a quick Google.
A sourced quote comes up in Edward R. Murrow: Journalism At Its Best (Washington DC: Department of State, 2006),
“ It has always seemed to me the real art in this business is not so much moving information or guidance or policy five or 10,000 miles. That is an electronic problem. The real art is to move it the last three feet in face to face conversation.”
— Edward R. Murrow, ABC TV’s “Issues and Answers,” August 4, 1963
In modern campaigns, the electronic problems (opportunities!) have multiplied but "the last three feet" remains critical and neglected. There is plenty of room for innovation because for all the “social media” window dressing, most campaigns are impersonal and not individually empowering. The focus seems to be on using new communication technology to "sell" essentially old political solutions.
New technology has the potential to generate new solutions. Combining fully integrated communications with an organizational structure truly rooted in “the last three feet” could give your campaign the power to succeed.