Washington DC interactive practice VP, Edelman
If the internet was the star during the 2000 presidential campaign, the people who built upon the new technologies afforded by the online environment were the celebrities in 2004. Joe Trippi is a hot commodity in the political sphere because he powered Howard Dean's early Democratic primary success through the internet.
And Morra Aarons, 29, who oversaw online fundraising, organizing, and marketing as director of internet marketing for the Kerry-Edwards campaign and later the Democratic National Committee (DNC), is another one of those heralded young professionals. While the result didn't go as planned for Aarons' side, she leveraged her work there into a job creating and running Edelman's DC interactive practice.
Although Edelman's interactive division has been an important practice for the agency for many years, it had not set up an interactive presence for public affairs clients in the DC office.
"We knew we had an opportunity to combine our historical strengths in advocacy on the web with public affairs," Edelman Vice Chairman Leslie Dach says. "And it was obvious that Morra was the perfect person to do that."
Dach met Aarons on 2004 presidential campaign trail and was instantly impressed.
"Morra is contagiously passionate about what she does and brings an immediate sense of confidence," Dach says. "In this business, that [composure] is critical." Dach describes her as a person that can oversee strategy, but also has the technical ability to get the "bits and bytes" done.
For Edelman, Aarons has created word of mouth campaigns, led the creation of its proprietary database of over 10,000 influential blogs, and otherwise built on the agency's framework of e-mail marketing, blog outreach, and search engine marketing. One surprising thing about Aarons' assent was that her job with the Kerry campaign was her first in traditional public affairs.
Aarons entered the corporate world at the height of dot-com boom, handling PR and public affairs for iVillage.com. During the 2000 election cycle, iVillage turned to politics, and Aarons did a lot of traveling for the job. That led to her England, where iVillage was expanding its presence. She soon made the decision to enter the world of politics, which ran in her family.
She says that Kerry's campaign was a traditional Beltway endeavor when she first joined, but soon everyone saw Howard Dean's success in the online realm, and pushed forward with internet initiatives. While she says that the campaigns were both won and lost by the traditional stump speeches and door-to-door campaigning, she envisions a great future online for many endeavors. She cites the work done by bloggers and the online community in the wake of the hurricane and tsunami disasters.
"I see great things in the combination of organizing and giving online," she says.
After the campaign Aarons contemplated starting her own business, but her conversations with Dach ? combined with the stability Edelman provided with a new opportunity to lead a new practice in the DC ? convinced her to try agency life. But in DC, the next election cycle is never too far away.
"It's always impossible to be in Washington and not talk about some race you want to volunteer on," Aarons says. "It's expected, and it's beneficial, because it also helps Edelman get more business."
She adds: "It's part of what you do. If you're a personal trainer, you have to stay in shape."