Katie Dowd, Hillary Clinton's digital director
Courtesy of Katie Dowd
By Nina Easton
June 1, 2015

With many of the power players from Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential run are sitting this one out, the big question is: Who’s in?

What follows is the latest installment of a Fortune series looking at the the most influential women on Clinton’s 2016 team. When this series wraps, we’ll turn our attention to the most powerful women on the GOP side of the race.

Katie Dowd, Digital Director

Katie Dowd may be in charge of the Clinton campaign’s digital strategy, but she’s not all about pixels. Indeed, Dowd is a self-described “people geek”—a sociology major drawn to politics because she’s interested in understanding what makes people tick. After graduating from Ohio’s Wittenberg University, she headed to D.C. and wound up working for a direct mail firm, learning old-style political persuasion that would later become useful in the exploding universe of social media. She worked at the two organizations charged with electing Democratic members of Congress—the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Most recently, Dowd worked on a State Department project called TechCamp, which helped civil society groups around the globe harness web tools for social action. A prime example: The Lithuanian activist who wanted to make the buildings in his town wheelchair accessible. Through TechCamp, he was able to use Google Maps to “tag” buildings and prove to authorities that physically disabled residents were being excluded. Before this project, Dowd worked on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) issues as senior adviser to the chief technology officer at the White House.

When Dowd started out in political campaigns a decade ago, early engagement with voters was mostly an exercise in fund-raising; operatives viewed the Internet as an ATM machine. That has changed dramatically. Now, engaging voters online means a lot more than asking them to write checks. On the Democratic side, the presidential campaigns of Howard Dean and John Kerry set the bar for using the web to create a grassroots network of passionate voters–a trend that Obama all but perfected in 2008. When Dowd was part of the 2008 Clinton campaign, the team experimented with new digital techniques, like enabling volunteers to make internet calls to fellow voters from their own homes.

This time around it’s a far bigger, more complicated ball game. Dowd and her staff (likely to grow to 150) will have to manage a range platforms, from Twitter and FaceBook to Instagram, Tumblr, Pintrest—and likely other emerging networks we haven’t even heard of yet. “We have to think about where the audiences are,” says Dowd. Real-time video platforms like Meerkat and Periscope will change how campaigns operate. In the 2016 race, says Dowd, the focus will be on “letting people feel like they are part of the real-time movement of a campaign.”

And of course, there is the low-tech, but essential challenge: How to give voters a lasting personal connection to Hillary connection. Already, Dowd has helped craft the candidate’s famous Twitter bio: Wife, mom, grandma, women+kids advocate, FLOTUS, Senator, SecState, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado, 2016 presidential candidate.

What’s her next move? Keep an eye on your screens.

For more about Clinton’s 2016 team, check out:

Meet the ex-Googler who is making Hillary Clinton more tech-savvy

This is the woman who speaks for Hillary Clinton

Meet Clinton’s staff basketball star–and consummate Senate insider

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