365 Days and Counting…

The June 2016 California primary is a year away. Many potential candidates are raising money, sporting an apron at pancake breakfasts and holding quiet conversations in their district with local opinion leaders and reporters. All while their consultants are plotting strategy and exploring themes, issues and demographics. A solid way to start– if this were 1985.

Political campaigns have changed. Campaigns used to be an insane sprint to get your mail out as close to election day as possible. With Top 2 voting, vote-by-mail and the Internet, a smart candidate starts building support now via the Internet. First and foremost now is the time to develop a digital strategy that is much more than just building a website and locking down a domain name.

A digital strategy includes:

  • Sentiment Monitoring​. Think polling for the 21st Century), unaided listening
    to the electorate.

  • Search Engine Optimization​. An SEO campaign will make your website easy
    to find.

  • Social Media​. Building an audience of supporters on social media and
    developing a useful email list that will engage those supporters and attract
    interested voters.

  • Search Engine Marketing. Linking specifics voters with the issues they care

Let’s say you’ve identified a talented group of creatives ready to build your campaign website. That website could be groundbreaking, absolutely beautiful and utterly useless if potential voters can’t find it. When people are searching for information on Google, and can’t find what they are looking for on page 1, most never make it to page 2 and virtually no one besides the candidate’s wife/husband or mom will stay interested enough to look at page 3 or beyond. Search engine optimization or SEO is the art/science of building credibility for a site that will move it to the top of page 1 on Google, Yahoo or Bing.

SEO takes time but it is time and money well spent. Whenever your website launches, that launch needs to be accompanied by an ongoing effort to move the website up in search results. And SEO requires an expertise and familiarity with search algorithms that are constantly changing. In short it requires SEO experts. In today’s elections your website is your walking piece. Make sure voters see it.

In the past, most campaigns expended significant amounts of early money conducting a poll. It has not been uncommon to see $25,000 to $50,000 (often more) spent to determine name recognition and attitudes obtained over the course of three nights– anywhere from six to nine months before the election. Campaign themes and issues are often determined by this one small sample over the course of one very short time period. For about the same money, sentiment monitoring allows you to monitor a variety of topics daily over the course of the entire campaign. Do you want to know what voters thought months ago or do you want to know voter opinions each and every day right up to the election?

In Obama’s 2012 election much was made of predictive analysis and micro-targeting. Predictive analysis is a great way to determine high-propensity voters who will likely respond to certain issues– taxes, education, the environment. Three short years later there is a better way to identify voters and the issues that interest them. Search engine marketing (SEM) moves voters to take a specific action. Tired of high taxes? Click here. Pro-fracking ? Click here. More money for the classroom? Click here. What you end up with is a list of voters that have told you directly their position on these issues–including their name, address, phone number and email. With predictive analysis you can ID broad segments across the district that likely feel a certain way on a given issue. With SEM you know who, they are, where they live and how to contact them.

All the information above obtained through SEM, sentiment monitoring and a variety of other digital tools and services can be rolled out across your connected and focused social media platforms. Through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and others, campaigns can position issues that will result in email addresses, volunteers and votes. Today a campaign’s social media strategy needs to depend on SEO, SEM and sentiment monitoring to ensure an effective focused message across all platforms. It requires a “community manager” who understands how all these pieces fit together.

The election is one year off but the campaign can start now. These are just a few of the tools that should be included in every campaigns’ digital strategy. A strategy that can be prepared and implemented now by the experts at Advocacy.Marketing​in conjunction with your consultant. Don’t spend 2016 dollars on a 1986 campaign.