Earlier this morning I received an email from the PAC of a major political figure and probable GOP candidate for President in 2012. The subject of the email demonstrates the problem fairly clearly:
Month in Review — February 2010
My goal in discussing this email is not to embarrass the sender, so I’m not going to mention who they are. The fact is, I see campaigns, candidates, and companies make the same mistake all the time. So this could apply equally to just about any organization who is simply going through the motions with their email program.
Are You Present For Your Email?
In this particular case, the email wasn’t as bad as some I have seen. Most of the content did, at least, have to do with the organization. In many cases, emailers use these “week/month in review” messages to cobble together an assortment of newspaper headlines under the “In Case You Missed It” theory of communications. The message assumes you either a) don’t read, or b) don’t have time to read the news. Frankly, someone who doesn’t have time to read the news probably doesn’t have a lot of time to read your newsletter. The theory that they missed interesting current events, but have plenty of time for your group, is probably wrong.
As I said, the PAC did, at least, share PAC related information. The trouble, however, is they shared it in a way that was neither compelling or timely. There were three feature stories and a collection of headlines from the month. Divided up separately, they would have amounted to less than one e-mail a week – hardly a burdensome load to keep your supporters engaged.
Two of the stories, however, related to the personal activities of the PACs head – either of which would have been much more interesting if that person had provided a first person narrative. Instead, a third person shared news of the events in a disconnected and distant way. Would your supporters rather hear you tell them of your experience? Or would they rather hear your web guy’s version of it? The post one article linked through to was, if oddly written, at least personal. None of that personality made it to the email, and the fact is the majority of your subscribers won’t click through to your site.
The other article related to a speech given, but again provided no personal insight about the crowd, the reaction, the sense of excitement – just a link to the speech and a link to the event website.
Tell Me About You
Your email list should tell me about you. Rather than sending a generic newsletter, if you are a candidate or the head of a PAC, tell me what you think and feel about the race, the event, your progress. Share with me your thoughts on the state of the state, nation, or world. I guarantee I will find it more interesting. I guarantee I will be more likely to read it. I will certainly be willing to click through to a link if you talk passionately about it; as opposed to just linking to something like a transcript.
Too often campaigns have the opinion that any word issued from on high is sacrosanct. But your supporters are not waiting with baited breath to read stale links about news that is days or weeks old. These are people connected to the Internet – a world that moves fast, and forgets even faster. If you’re not compelling, and your words are not engaging, you have lost my attention. With email, that also means you have lost subsequent opens and clicks.
Politics has changed considerably the last few cycles. President Obama’s campaign dominated the internet in 2008 with their impressive fundraising as did now Sen. Scott Brown in his historic January 19 win for the Massachusetts Senate seat. Twitter has become a dominating force within political circles for rapid response and sharing information but what about on a more local level?
The video tracker has become a staple of local campaigns from congressional, gubernatorial, to even state house contests. So how has the video tracker changed the way we run political campaigns? How have candidates changed because of trackers and who is winning the video tracking war? These are some thoughts I am hashing out for a Framework post, stay tuned.
Despite remarkable changes in technology, increasing fragmentation of traditional audiences, and rapid media convergence, most political consultancies are still stuck in a model that was perfected when Reagan ran against Carter. For the few traditional firms that wish to evolve, the typical “fix” usually consists of hiring a mid-level staffer to “do our Internet stuff”.
Most online operatives with any kind of track record have launched boutique firms that specialize in Internet communications. They are often singularly focused on online campaigns; and have little experience with, and often little interest in, traditional campaign organizing tactics.
For campaigns, this situation results in a disjointed world of competing media consultants all claiming that their specialty – direct mail, TV, or the web – is where all the money should be spent. Campaigns are often forced to employ multiple consultants with competing ideas for the best way to deliver a message.
These internal conflicts often harm the campaign, leading to infighting and finger-pointing rather than working together to benefit the candidate, committee or cause. Unfortunately, when vendors are competing for campaign resources – each trying to get the largest slice of the pie – it is usually the campaign that suffers.
But what if there was a different way?
Despite the dysfunctional silos that have been created by political consultants, the fact is all of these disciplines have one goal in mind – to communicate the campaign’s message.
Communications isn’t about forcing a choice between competing media. The craft of communications is about delivering your message across all platforms, to carefully targeted and segmented audiences, to achieve a singular goal – winning.
Your team should assess the campaign goals, your target audience, the media most often used by that audience, and develop the media blend that will be most effective. You shouldn’t have to worry that your media mix represents your vendors, not your stakeholders.
A team approach to campaign communications gives you access to multiple experts all focused on your goals. By taking the competition out of the vendor equation, recommendations are based on the interests of the campaign, not the interests of the consultants. A converged consultancy eliminates media choices that are based on personalities rather than sound strategies.
The converged agency is also able to apply different strategies and a different media mix based on the goal of the campaign – whether that’s rapid response, persuasion, fundraising, or GOTV.
Why Aren’t Others Doing It This Way?
To be fair, some are. The massive corporate firms (like Ketchum, Edelman and Burson-Marsteller) recognize the value of this approach.
Unfortunately, their sheer size and broad range of services – everything from lobbying and legal counsel to event promotion and clinical trial recruitment – have priced them outside the budgets of all but the most affluent political causes.
However, the benefits of convergence shouldn’t accrue only to giant corporations and organizations.
What Makes Us Different
There is a better way.
Craft | Media/Digital brings together top-tier operatives in direct mail, television, and the Internet. Our partners have worked in the trenches of local, Congressional, statewide, and national campaigns – merging traditional grassroots organizing and the latest in targeted audience segmentation.
By bringing together top talent in an array of media disciplines, under one roof, the converged agency can determine the proper media mix to achieve the goals of the campaign.
Yogi Berra once quipped, “The future ain’t what it used to be.”
The future of political communications isn’t what it used to be either. Providing converged media services without the hassle of vendor competition is here today. In the future, we’ll look back and wonder why we ever did it differently.
In today’s hyper connected culture, campaigns are vying for the attention of voters among an increasingly large and dynamic pool of competition. By re-thinking and re-working traditional activities in a modern context, campaigns are creating new opportunities to define themselves.
An announcement speech is one of the most traditional campaign functions. Today, this is little more than a formality and a moderately important opportunity for earned media. Reporters, bloggers, and party insiders have pegged the candidate for a run long before they reach the podium. As a result, these events are often checked off as a preliminary hoop to jump through rather than an opportunity to brand the candidate.
Recently RedState blogger Eric Erickson tweeted this video of Pete Domenici Jr.’s recent announcement speech. This announcement speech was a lost opportunity for an otherwise seemingly well-run campaign. Set against an incredibly bland backdrop, reading standard lines this speech does nothing to engage voters. Furthermore, the only publicly available footage is grainy and of low resolution.
Given today’s strong anti-incumbent environment, the image in this particular video is less than appealing. Why not have the candidate against a uniquely relevant backdrop that serves to convey his or her unique story? Obama’s memorable speeches were powerful largely because of their settings. The images of his speech from the steps of the Illinois State Capitol on a cold February morning were the gift that kept on giving. They allowed the campaign to underscore Obama’s outsider mantra and helped to establish the historic overtones of his campaign.
Voters want to see a narrative. Every public appearance, every news story, and every image should be viewed as a way to hammer home this unique narrative. If a candidate is from an area hit hard by the recession, why not have the candidate deliver the announcement speech from a local factory? During the spring and summer of 2008, energy issues were on the minds of many voters. Depending on the dynamics, a backdrop of an oilrig, refinery or distribution center may have been appropriate. Voters are giving candidates less and less time, every communication must not only be on message but also in context.
Yes, it is necessary for campaigns to have a presence with web video. However, as with every form of advertising, a particularly poor product can do more to damage a campaign than help it. The lesson here for managers is that regardless of conventional wisdom, (and what your consultants may tell you) unless you’re prepared to do it well, don’t do it.