Melissa Ryan’s work lives at the intersection of politics and technology. For more than a decade she’s been a staple in the progressive movement, leading digital campaigns to raise money and awareness for left-of center causes. Currently her work is focused on understanding the so-called alt-right movement, and is the author of Ctrl Alt Right Delete, a weekly newsletter devoted to understanding how Trump and his army of right wing supporters organize online.
Ryan launched her career by writing about local and state politics for Connecticut Local Politics, then Connecticut’s most popular political blog. Her commentary about the 2006 Senate race –where Ned Lamont successfully challenged Joe Lieberman for his party’s nomination — brought her into national political prominence. In 2008 Ryan moved to Wisconsin where she served as Senator Russ Feingold’s new media director. In 2010 she organized a “CheddarBomb,” a coordinated fundraising push that raised nearly $500,000 for Feingold in a 24-hour period. Her team raised more than $5 million over the entire cycle. She also created ‘Fein’Tunes a series of YouTube videos where Senator Feingold recommended music to his supporters, that received positive press from both political and music news sites.
Ryan was instrumental in the #WIunion protests in 2010, helping organizers turn the occupation of Wisconsin’s State Capitol Building (to protest Scott Walker’s legislation that stripped public workers of their right to collective bargaining) into an international news story. She amplified voices of local Wisconsin bloggers and influencers at the protests and helped their work find an global audience, helping their stories be heard by millions.
As digital director at the New Organizing Institute, Ryan helped train over 500 digital strategists, helping build what The New York Times Magazine’s Robert Draper called “the yawning digital divide between the two parties.” She later signed on as digital director of EMILY’s List, which helps elect pro-choice women leaders into office. During her tenure there her team added 1 million new members to the PAC’s online reach, an increase of more than 50 percent. Ryan also worked on Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign on the digital team where she managed outreach to progressive media and other influential people.
Ryan was honored in 2014 with a Campaigns & Elections Rising Star award and was twice named by the Washington Post as a top tweeter for Wisconsin politics. She’s spoken on digital strategy at Netroots Nation, Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Take Back the American Dream, UConn School of Law, and Wellstone’s School of Campaign Management. She’s often called on by conference organizers and the press to be a source on tech in politics.