Why The Best Data In The World Won’t Win You An Election

By Justin Gargiulo, Founder of VoterTrove
view article on VoterTrove

Justin Gargiulo is the Founder and CEO of VoterTrove, a powerful voter data and engagement platform, enabling campaigns and causes to create cross channel conversations with voters and advocates. You can follow Justin on Twitter @justingargiulo.

To extract the most value, campaigns will have to move beyond the idea of data as a solution.

Nowadays we talk about data as a solution to the problem of winning elections. It isn’t. Data is an object, not a technology, and objects by themselves do not solve complex problems. Technology does.

 

What do you think would happen if Joran Spieth gave me his personal set of custom golf clubs to try to qualify for the U.S. Open? I wouldn’t even come close.golfer

What if I tried to qualify for the tournament with a 30-year-old set of clubs that was just run over in the parking lot? It would be the same exact result. No matter the caliber, golf clubs are still just objects. The golfer, though, isn’t.

The best data in the world won’t win you any elections just sitting on a hard drive, the same way that Tiger Woods’ golf clubs won’t help me win the U.S. Open. Thinking data is a perfect tool is a common misconception in the campaign world. Moreover, big data can in fact put a smaller campaign on a fast track to diminishing returns.

At a certain level, data can just become noise. From what we’ve seen, the available volume of cheap data impacts smaller campaigns in a few different ways. When these campaigns get their hands on it, they believe they have an advantage because they feel their opponent may not have the same data. Based on this perceived advantage, they’ll spend lots of time building strategy around it, often too much time.

Learning that there are seven non-primary voters in Omaha’s 7th Congressional District who read Field and Stream is not going to help a candidate get elected. If you have the resources to execute a programmatic microtargeting strategy at this level, then reaching out to those voters might just make sense. If you’re the other 99.9 percent of campaigns out there, it doesn’t.

Now, it may sound as if I’m bashing data. I’m not. I have been a data evangelist since 1998, when I was handed a Connecticut statewide voter file in Microsoft Access on three separate CDs and told to “figure it out.”

It’s incredible how much data is now available to campaigns. But my concern is with how it is, or isn’t, being used.

There are three parts to the data-as-a-solution process: Data is purchased and gathered (object), decisions are made (strategy and technology), and then action is taken. Then it starts all over again. Those CDs I got back in Connecticut were not going to solve any problems on their own; they were just step one in the process.

Data Informs Decisions

It’s easy to understand why Big Data in politics is sexy. The granularity of data available beyond the voter file is incredible. Put this together with data gathered by the campaign through phone banks, canvassing, autodials, and online, and it’s not inconceivable to have over 30 data enhancements on a single voter.

But after you have the data, what then? Putting these data points to use is the hard part. You need to ask yourself what pieces of data are going to inform your decisions. Of those pieces, what’s the hierarchical structure—which pieces have more influence? What is the universe size? Is it a narrow, persuadable universe, or is it a broader segment?4375943

Data lays the foundation, and technology helps you build these targeted universes, but when it comes down to it, phase two is driven by real people, making real decisions on whom to talk to and what to say.

Where technology and data create real advantages is in the iterating that takes place on the backside of the feedback loop. How quickly can the campaign shift its assumptions based on the inbound, real-time flow of data?

What impact, if any, does the most recent data have on the campaign’s predictive models? This is where data and technology really begin to create huge advantages. At the beginning of phase three, technology becomes the solution, putting decisions into action and enabling fragmented datasets to be more easily digested by the campaign.

A Complex Mosaic

A mosaic is integration at its finest. Mosaics give meaning to disparate objects by weaving them together into a larger narrative. I’m not an artist, but if I were tasked with building a mosaic, I’m pretty sure I’d want to organize my pieces. Sorting all the available pieces together in buckets by color and size would enable me to more clearly evaluate the objects I have to work with, and it would greatly increase efficiency when I begin to create my mosaic.organized

Campaigns face similar challenges in informing decisions and executing strategy. For most, it is the task of effectively assembling data in a way to help them build a narrative. Failure to organize and standardize data will lead to mosaics that are either incomplete, inaccurate, or both.

This problem is not solved by more data. In fact, our work with campaigns has shown us that more data only worsens the problem. The problem is solved by integration, and enabled by technology.

Data is the Gas. Integration is the Engine

A system with a smaller amount of integrated data is more valuable than a larger amount of siloed, fragmented data. Integration gives data exponential value. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.integration

There is no clearer example of the benefits of data integration than in GOTV programs. Most recently, our clients in the June primaries leveraged our platform to consolidate positive ID data via CSV imports, web forms, phone banks, canvassing, Facebook, and more.

Not only does this integration generate a more complete mosaic, it also greatly increases operational efficiencies. Many political directors we work with estimate that a consolidated data platform saves them anywhere from five to 15 hours a week in time typically spent cobbling together fragmented spreadsheets.

When campaigns begin to implement their strategy, the integration of outbound messaging capabilities into a central data management system provides an added layer of value. As action is taken, data is fed back into the centralized platform, enabling the campaign to adjust its strategy as needed. Just like data, disparate technology platforms that can’t talk to each other can be a drag on a campaign’s resources.

Just as data integration saves time, so does platform integration. Learning one platform or interface that does 10 things is much easier than learning 10 that do 10 things. For the 99 percent of campaigns that need to operate lean and scrappy, platform integration can add enormous value.

Rapid response is a great example of this. After listening to her candidate’s opponent grossly distort the voting record of her candidate, the campaign manager on one of our campaigns acted. Within five minutes, she targeted and sent a “press-one” call to all of the campaign’s supporters urging them to connect to the radio station to defend her candidate.

There’s More to Come

Just as with the explosion of cheap data, the emergence of APIs, or application programming interfaces, has enabled technology companies to build products that do more for less. With each passing cycle, campaigns will have a growing selection of integrated technology platforms to choose from. To extract the most value from these advances, campaigns will need to move beyond the idea of data as a solution.

Five Common Campaign Mistakes

Five Common Campaign Mistakes
“Everything You Need to Know About the Five Most Common
Campaign Website Mistakes and How You Can Avoid Them”

by Mark Montini, Campaign Secrets

Websites have quickly become a necessity for campaigns at every level.

It doesn’t matter if you’re running for city council in urban Chicago or dogcatcher in rural Otero County, voters in today’s world expect you to have a website. If you don’t have one you run the risk of being written-off as not running a serious campaign.

This new reality of 21st century campaigning means a lot of candidates have been forced to learn about campaign websites “on the run.” And, unfortunately, for many of them that “learning” has been done at the School of Hard Knocks.

In 2002 alone, more than 1,800 campaigns all across America used the products and services offered by my company. Almost all of them had websites and, a good number of them will admit they made some big mistakes. A few will even tell you those mistakes cost them their elections.

This free special report reveals the five most common website mistakes I saw in 2002 and includes critical information you can use to avoid making the same mistakes on your campaign.

Campaign Website Mistake #1: Spending Too Much Money

The biggest mistake that campaigns make on their websites is spending way too much of their hard-raised money on them. Yes, websites are a necessity. And, yes, you want your website to look professional. But, the reality is that websites have not yet proved to be effective vote-getters.

On the other hand, things like direct mail, phone calls, and radio advertisements are proven voter getters.

So, the more you spend on your website the less you have to spend on proven vote-getting tactics. Imagine how you’d feel if you invested just $500 too much in your website and ended up getting beat by just a few votes. That $500 probably made the difference in your winning and losing. After all, with $500 you could have:

• Sent 1,800 more pieces of voter mail • Made 5,400 more get-out-the-vote- phone calls • Run 75-150 more radio ads • Published another 2-4 newspaper ads

Any one of those things would have made the difference.

Websites are cool. They can do fascinating things. But they just don’t measure up to traditional campaign tactics when it comes to delivering votes – and that’s what campaigns are all about.

The key to avoiding this mistake is keeping your priorities straight from the very beginning of your campaign. When Election Day is several months – or even years – away, it’s easy to spend more than you should on things like websites and other unproven tactics. You’re much better off saving that money until the final weeks of your campaign when you’ll receive the greatest return on your investment.

Keep in mind that you can always add to your website later in the campaign. You don’t need to build the perfect site right now.

Your #1 website priority early in your campaign should be to get a professional site for as little money as possible – even if that means forgoing some of the “cool” features you want to add later.

BEWARE OF HIDDEN WEBSITE FEES!

One critical thing to mention with regard keeping your website costs low is that you must protect yourself from hidden fees many website companies charge.

Here’s how this game works. Website companies lure you in offering to build a full-function website for a surprisingly low price like $599. It’s hard to pass up a deal like this when you know custom-built sites typically cost at least $1,500.

It sounds like a great deal until you start getting invoices for hidden fees like:

• $29/month for hosting • $19/month for personalized email • $49/month for credit card processing plus a fee on all contributions • $75/hour for edits and changes • $100 for your domain name

And don’t even think about disputing these charges or not paying the bills. These companies will simply shutdown your site. Unfortunately, they have all the leverage in these situations.

At the end of the campaign, you’ll have spent more on all the hidden fees than you did on the entire website.

Unfortunately, the hidden fee game has become standard operating procedure for a lot of website companies. It’s great marketing on their part – get you in the door with a low price then make their money back after you’ve sign a contract. It’s not a good situation for your campaign, though.

What these hidden fees are called and how much they cost varies from company to company, but 9 times out of 10 when you get offered a great price upfront, there’s usually some hidden fees lurking in the background.

To avoid this mistake, ask the company for complete breakdown of everything you might POSSIBLY pay for your website. “Possibly” is the key word. Really press them on this with the clear implication that you will not pay for anything they don’t divulge prior to your signing the contract. Be sure to ask them about all the items on the list above.

The best situation is if they offer an all-inclusive package.

All-inclusive pricing like this eliminates surprises and allows you to focus on your campaign rather than having to worry about how much you’re spending on your website.

Campaign Website Mistake #2: Paying for Everything Upfront

Raising money early in your campaign is incredibly difficult. But it’s also incredibly valuable -- even more valuable than the money you raise late in your campaign. Why? Well, it’s just like in business.

Your seed money allows you to invest in key areas.

For example, let’s say you have $3,000 in your campaign account and invest it in direct mail fundraising. That $3,000 is likely to produce $5,000-$10,000 by the end of your campaign. After all, every donor you get today will have several more months to contribute more money to your campaign.

On the other hand, if you spend that $3,000 on your website, that’s all you get for it. Sure, you might get a few hundred dollars in contributions through your website, but you can be sure the return on your investment will be much, much less than the $5,000-$10,000 return if you’d invested it in fundraising.

Sure, you’ll have to spend some early money on things that don’t have a good return on investment like literature. However, you should try to limit those expenditures as much as possible.

PAYING MONTH-TO-MONTH IS THE BEST OPTION

That’s why I always encourage candidates to look for companies that offer a month-to-month payment package rather than the typical “pay-it-all-upfront” package. It’s much better for your campaign if you can spend $100/month on your website rather than $1,200 upfront. It’s just like earning interest on your money. The longer you can keep it in the bank the better.

One other important benefit of a month-to-month program is that it allows you to get your website up sooner. The reason is simple. If you raise $100/day it will take you 12 days to pay for your website with the “pay-it-all-upfront” package.. However, if you choose a $100/month website package, you can have your website up after just one day.

There’s another “worst-case-scenario” benefit you’ll get with a month-to-month payment package as well. I hope you don’t experience it, but it has happened to other campaigns. Let’s say that you fall behind in your fundraising and make the decision to cut expenses everywhere possible. If you’ve spent $1,200 upfront on your website, the only money you can save is on hidden fees like those outlined in mistake #1. The $1,200 you spent upfront is gone. There’s no way to get it back if circumstances change – even if you’ve only used your site for a few months.

On the other hand, if you go with a month-to-month program, you pull the plug without losing everything you’d budgeted for your website Again, I hope this isn’t a scenario you experience, but it has happened and better safe than sorry.

Campaign Website Mistake #3: Not Accepting Credit Card Contributions

If you’re running a small campaign, you may think this mistake doesn’t apply to you because you’re not going to raise more than a few thousand dollars for your entire campaign. Let me assure you, however, it does.

Having a website that allows credit card contributions has an impact on more than just your website. If you have this feature on your website, you can also accept credit card contributions in every other area of your fundraising. You simply use the secure credit card processing page on your website to process the contributions.

In a slow economy, this is extremely important. It can make the difference between a $25 contribution and a $100 contribution – or whether you get a contribution at all.

USE CREDIT PROCESSING FOR MORE THAN YOUR WEBSITE

It’s just like in business. The easier you make if for people to buy things (i.e. contribute), the more likely they are to do so.

Just think about it. If you accept credit card contributions on your website, you can also accept credit card contributions with your fundraising mail, event invitations, and even your fundraising calls.

There is one warning I want to make about accepting credit card contributions. It goes back to mistake #1 – spending too much on your website. In order to accept credit card contributions you must have something called a merchant account. Many campaigns spend more than they should to get one. There are two ways to get a merchant account for your campaign:

1. Set up your own merchant account

This process usually takes a few days and requires that you complete an application, pay a setup fee that can run anywhere from $50 to $200, pay a transaction fee of $0.15 to $0.35 for each transaction as well as an additional 2-4% of each transaction. And this doesn’t include the extra money you’ll have to spend to have your website developer integrate the system into your website. I would never recommend this option for a campaign.

2. Use a credit card processing service.

With this option you simply pay for the right to use another company’s merchant account. The money from contributions goes into their bank account and they send you a check every month or so.

The big benefit of this option is the cost. Most companies charge a monthly fee of $19.95-$49.95 plus a 3-5% processing fee for each transaction.

A few companies have programs which charge a slightly higher processing fee, but no monthly fee. The industry standard for this type of program is about 10%. While 10% may seem expensive, it’s actually a great deal when you do the math.

Let’s say you process $300/month in credit cards (this is a very high number as most smaller campaigns only receive a few hundred dollars total). If you pay a flat 10% fee, you’ll be paying $30/month.

On the other hand, let’s assume you use the monthly fee + processing fee option and your monthly fee is $24.95 with a 4% processing fee. You would pay $36.95 to process the same $300 in contributions -- $6.95 more than with the flat 10% fee.

Based on this calculation, I’d always recommend campaigns choose a “flat fee” company – especially if they can find a company offering rates under 10%.

Two important notes here. First, this example is based on processing $300/month. Most local campaigns only process about $100/month, so your savings with the flat fee will be even more. Second, these costs don’t include any expenses associated with integrating the specialized code required for processing credit cards into your website. In some cases, you may also have to pay more for hosting in order to have a secure contribution page.

Campaign Website Mistake #4: Not Promoting Their Websites

Unfortunately, many campaigns take what we like to call the “Field of Dreams” approach to generating traffic for their websites. You remember, “If you build it, they will come.”

Well, it just doesn’t work that way. Here’s an example.

A few years ago I visited the website of a candidate for Congress in Indiana and made a shocking discovery.

The site was great. It had obviously been designed by a professional firm. I’d estimate the site cost $5,000 to $10,000. As I read through the information on the homepage, I stumbled upon a startling number.

At the bottom of the homepage was a counter. Counters display how many people have visited a site. You’ve probably seen them on other websites.

The counter on this site was at 183. That’s right…183. I was the 183rd visitor to the site. What’s worse, is that it was only about 5 weeks before the election. The campaign had spent $5,000 to $10,000 on a website that had been viewed by just 183 people. Let’s say the campaign tripled the number of people who visited their site in the final 5 weeks of the campaign. That means they would have had 549 people visit their site. That means they spent between $9.10 and $18.20 per visitor! And that’s not even unique visitors. That number includes people who visited multiple times -- even campaign staff who visited the site.

What a waste of money.

I have no doubt that the campaign had high hopes for their website when they launched it at the beginning of the campaign, but they didn’t take the time to determine exactly how they wanted to promote it. It simply got pushed aside by “more pressing” issues.

I guarantee that if the campaign had known they’d only have 183-549 visitors to their site, they wouldn’t have spent nearly as much as they did.

INCLUDE YOUR WEBSITE ADDRESS ON ALL PRINTED MATERIALS

Many so-called experts say the way to avoid this mistake is to get listed in search engines like Yahoo or Google. Not surprisingly, they also offer expensive packages to do it for you.

While their approach has a little merit for an eCommerce site, it has absolutely no merit for a campaign site. You can register with every search engine, including paying hundreds to be listed on Yahoo, and you’ll do very little to help your campaign. This is especially true for local campaigns.

Think about it. Have you ever done a search to find the websites of candidates for school board? Governor, maybe. School Board, no. The bottom line about generating traffic for your campaign website is that 90+% of the people who visit will do so because of something you did.

The #1 rule for generating traffic to your website is to include your address on every piece of printed material your campaign produces. From fundraising mail to push cards to press releases, be sure that you include your website address. It’s the best way to generate the maximum amount of traffic to your website.

Campaign Website Mistake #5: Letting Their Sites Get Stale

I can’t tell you how many campaign websites I’ve visited that have old events featured under their “Upcoming Events” sections. That’s not a good way to get visitor to return to your site.

There are several reasons this can happen.

First, the campaign may have gotten hooked into a contract with hidden fees for changes and simply couldn’t afford to make the changes. The details of this are outlined in mistake #1.

Second, the campaign may have submitted the changes to their website company and are just waiting for them to be made. Unfortunately, this isn’t all that rare, especially for small local campaigns. Think about it. If a website company has to choose between spending time with a $500 customer or a $5,000 customer, guess who they choose.

Third, and most common, is that the campaign had a volunteer build their site. Early on, when the campaign was slow and there weren’t many changes, the “volunteer” was able to keep up with all the requested changes. But, understandably, when the campaign began to heat up and changes needed to be made every few days, the volunteer fell behind on the changes.

That’s why I encourage every candidate to make sure they can make changes to their websites on their own.

If you know how to FTP files to and from your website, understand HTML coding, and have purchased a program like Microsoft Frontpage or Dreamweaver, this isn’t a big deal. If you’re a normal person, however, and have absolutely no idea what that last sentence means, then you’ll want to pay careful attention to the next few sentences.

There’s no reason for you to have a website that doesn’t allow you to easily make changes 24/7/365 without any special software or training. If your website company says they can’t provide that access to you, I will almost guarantee you that it’s because they have hidden “change/edit fees” they want to charge.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying candidates should manage their own sites. Candidates should focus all their attention on meeting voters and raising money. I’m just saying that they should be able to make changes if a worst-case scenario arises.

I spoke with a Republican State Party leader a few days ago and, believe it or not, she told me that they couldn’t find their “volunteer” website programmer and had no idea how to make changes to their site. Don’t put yourself in that position.

Be sure you have the ability to quickly and easily make real-time changes to your site.

If a website company won’t allow you that access, I’d recommend you use a different company. If a volunteer doesn’t have the time or expertise to program that technology, I wouldn’t recommend you let them build your website. Instead you might want to put them in charge of updating your site once you get it built.

How To Use the Internet in Campaigning (updated 9/1/2013)

How To Use the Internet in Campaigning (updated 9/1/2013)
By William S. Bike
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
In 1995, candidate Lamar Alexander announced he was entering the presidential race not at a rally or media conference, but on the internet. This action is credited as the beginning of a whole new world of political campaigning. The Jesse Ventura Minnesota gubernatorial campaign of 1998 conquered that world, because he could not have won without the internet. By 2009, for the first time the 18-to-29 year old demographic spent more time online than on watching TV, and the numbers and age spreads of online viewers have only grown since then.

E-technology will never replace grassroots activity, but it has become a mandatory part of campaigning in terms of getting your message out to voters, volunteer recruitment, communicating with staff and volunteers, fundraising, media relations, overcoming an opponent’s superior resources, doing research, and in defending against negative campaigning.

As early as the year 2000, according to Michael Cornfield of George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management, in six of the eight House and Senate races won by challengers against incumbents that year, the challenger spent less, but had a better web site, and won. That has happened many more times since then.

The Obama campaign of 2008 used the internet better than anyone else had until that time. Howard Dean had been an internet innovator in 2004, but discovered that just because people are clicking on your website doesn’t mean they’ll actually come out and vote. The Obama campaign, however, used the internet to get people engaged.

In February 2008, when Obama raised $55 million in one month, he did not host a single in-person fundraiser. The money all came from small-donation internet contributions.

Opponent Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, was tied to the old system where he time was spent courting the old big money donors and promising the status quo to them. Use of the internet freed Obama to spend his time courting donors and voters who wanted change.

The internet makes it easy to get involved, and creates the expectation that of course the viewers/voters will get involved. When Obama came to an event in 2008, there was an expectation that the audience would not just sit there or write checks, but would make phone calls, canvas, and become part of a movement encouraged and fueled by and organized on the internet.

The Obama campaign knew that if the same old Democratic voters were the only ones heading to the polls, Clinton would be the nominee. So they used the internet to create new voters—much like Ronald Reagan did in the pre-internet era when he got conservatives who had been staying home for years to actually vote.

Web site maintenance is inexpensive, and helps level the playing field between candidates with widely different monetary and volunteer and staff resources. A web site can raise money and volunteer staff, and also can take the place of broadcast and print advertising, particularly for the severely underfunded campaign.

Long before you announce, start buying up web site domain names for your campaign. Also, buy web site names that your opponents could use against you. Long before the 2000 race began in earnest, the George W. Bush campaign bought up web sites like www.bushsucks.com to preempt pranksters.

If you need to publicize a page on your site with a particularly long URL, log on to www.tinyurl.com and shorten it to something people can remember and type in easily.

Put your web address on all your campaign literature, and mention it whenever possible. Some candidates put it on the roofs of their cars and campaign buses so helicopter TV cameras will pick it up when covering a campaign caravan.

On your home page, be sure to provide a “share this” function with Facebook, Twitter, and other social media icons so they can share your message with their own friends.

There are many website templates available, so you can get a professional-looking website for the most low-budget campaigns. There even are many website templates already designed for campaigns. Buy one, plug in your information, and you are set.

Here are a few web page creation tips found in Writing Concepts from consultant Jeff Herrington of Jeff Herrington Communications in Dallas.

  • Keep quotations short. “Probably no more than one short sentence.”
  • Use lots of bullets. Lists are more appropriate for the internet than for print.
  • Get to the point. “People go online to retrieve facts fast, not to read.”
  • Rely on words, not graphics or design. A graphic may take time to download, and the person may not want to wait.

     Joy Hyzny offers a few more in The A3C Connection.

  • Use cascading style sheets. These make sure your pages have similar structures and layouts
  • Use “relative” font sizes. The user can then read the pages no matter what his or her browser settings.
  • Choose text colors that provide enough contrast from the background color. This way, the text will be easy to read both on screen and printed out.
  • Guarantee ease of navigation by not requiring multiple mouse clicks to get to basic information.

The home page should contain a photo of the candidate and links to a biography of the candidate, information from news releases, and the candidate’s stand on issues.


Indian politician Lal Krishna Advani has said “a political portal without a blog is like a letter without a signature.” And he was 81 years old when he said it. So make sure your website has a blog, but also make sure that someone else besides the writer vets the posting before it goes online, checking for both content and style.

Also, make sure your web page can collect the e-mail addresses of people who access it. This will be your database of online supporters, all of whom are potential voters, funders, and campaign volunteers.

Political consultants offer CD-ROMs or online links for sale that provide all the information a campaign could need for getting internet access, setting up a web page, and more.

The campaign must publicize the web page and Facebook page on all advertising materials. The pages must be updated frequently, and a staffer must be assigned to the task. For a barebones campaign, this could even mean a volunteer high school or college student, but spend the money on a pro if you have it.

It always has been difficult to get the media to cover lower-ballot races; with the internet, you can do the media’s job for them. You can load up your web site with all the information you want about you and the office you’re seeking.

This makes for a fundamental change in voter contact. Voters formerly were passive recipients of information from campaigns. Now, the internet allows the interested to actively seek and obtain information easily.

Not only will voters who are interested (or whom you make interested by your other campaign efforts) look at it, but the media will, too. With the information right in front of them with no digging required, the chances that they will actually cover your race are increased.

While the initial information on your web site home page should be short and sweet, you can link your home page to additional pages on your web site where you have put everything—news releases, speeches, position papers, and more—on the web. This allows the truly interested voters and the media to get all the information they will ever want.

The Jesse Ventura for governor campaign set up its page to be easy to link into, but difficult to link out of—on purpose. Once surfers entered the Ventura web site, they stayed a while.

Your web page also allows you to “cover” a large geographic area. If you’re running a barebones campaign that just doesn’t have the fieldworkers to get everywhere, heavily promote your web site in your literature, advertising, and e-mails to help do your “fieldwork” for you.

For campaigns with fieldworkers, e-mail and texting enhance the campaigns’ ability to communicate with those fieldworkers and with others related to the campaign, such as the party or multiple campaign offices. Campaign veteran Becky Carroll recommends e-mail or texting over phoning, noting campaigners used to have to “leave a message, call them back if you think they missed the message, plus spend time talking to them once you reached them. When you send an e-mail, boom, it’s there, and you wasted no time.”

E-mail also is vital when something big happens and you need everyone in the campaign to speak with the same voice and message. “In one minute you can send three pages of talking points to hundreds of people,” Carroll noted.

For campaigns without fieldworkers, the Internet can obtain them. The Ventura campaign used the Internet, and no other source, to announce a meeting late in the campaign. More than 250 people attended, and were persuaded to help run a “Jesse Drive to Victory” tour by which a Ventura auto caravan would travel the state. These volunteers contacted friends to attend rallies along the caravan route, and the tour was a huge success. Some of them also became “lead local organizers,” who got their instructions on how to organize a rally from the Ventura web site.

The internet allows even the smallest campaign to provide a daily update for the staff, the public, and the press. It also allows rapid response to a negative attack or other surprise development.

It may even allow the particularly financially strapped campaign to operate without a campaign office. That was true for the Ventura effort, which ran a full campaign through its web site and did not even open a physical office until very late in the race.The internet also provides a different way to interact with intelligent constituents. In one of her campaigns, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer of California placed a healthcare survey on the internet and averaged more than 100 responses per day.It also provides a different way to use volunteers. With no money to hire data entry professionals, the Ventura campaign asked for volunteers online. It mailed packets of information to the volunteers, who entered the data on behalf of the campaign on their home computers.

Consider also holding a chat session between the candidate and internet users.

Another use of the internet that encourages interaction between voter and campaign is contests—and they don’t even have to have a prize. In 2006, for example, Illinois Senator Richard Durbin held a contest to determine which of six Illinois Democratic House candidates was most popular with voters. Of course, the e-mail addresses of people voting for each of the candidates were mined for future use. And as the cherry on top, the e-mails for the contest contained an ask for donations to the Democratic Congressional campaign.

Monitor your web page constantly, and have a web pro, such as the person whom you’ve already assigned to do the updating, available to quickly deal with any dirty tricks. On election day 2000, a hacker broke into the Republican National Committee’s web page and posted a pro-Al Gore message. So if it can happen to one of the biggest political organizations in the country, it can happen to you.
But make sure the monitor is doing his or her job; neither the staff nor especially the candidate should spend a lot of time surfing the internet. It is a tool, not a toy. If the candidate is a tech-head, you have to get him or her off the computer and out campaigning.
The internet opens the possibility for success of the “flash campaign,” a last-minute development in the political process due to unforeseen circumstances, such as another candidate dropping out, getting involved in a scandal, going to jail, or changing his or her views on a hot topic.

MoveOn.org’s campaign to stop the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton was a flash campaign. On Sept. 18, 1998, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs Joan Blades and Wes Boyd launched their web site. By Sept. 29, they had garnered 100,000 names for an anti-impeachment petition. By Oct. 1, they had gotten 80,000 people to call or fax their representatives. They also raised volunteers. More importantly, they raised money: $5 million pledged to year 2000 congressional campaigns. They were racking up numbers that had never been achieved by political organizations that had existed for decades.

MoveOn.org proved that neophytes can enter the political process through the internet and, through judicious use of it, become major players immediately.

The organization is not resting on its laurels. For the 2006 campaign, MoveOn built two new technologies—a touch tone system for reporting on voter calling making it possible for MoveOn to hold calling parties, and an autodailer that allowed volunteers to talk to 70% more voters per hour. Thanks in part to the new technology, Democrats took both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House that year.
Make sure you let relevant online bulletin boards know about your campaign.

Social Media
As Chicago’s First Ward Alderman Proco Joe Moreno says, “there’s literally no excuse for elected officials not to utilize social media.” Candidates and campaigns too. Hundreds of millions of people are on social media, and some of them check it more frequently than hourly.

Before you start your campaign, Republican strategist Liz Mair recommends that you “do a comprehensive review of what exists about you (and even your friends and family) on sites like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter…then do what you can to get rid of anything that could be problematic.”

Social media can be used to increase awareness, engage supporters, listen to the community (social media are a two-way street and are not just about getting your message out), and monitoring the competition.

According to Zizi Papacharissi, a professor of communications at the University of Illinois at Chicago, using social media in politics allows you to sign petitions online, follow the feeds of opinion leaders, and organize and mobilize online, resulting in mobilizing offline.

Social media are viral; post or send something to your friends or followers, and they in turn post or send it to their own friends and followers—people who have no connection to the campaign, but end up getting its message anyway, from a source they trust.

Keep your social media postings fresh. The easiest way to do that is to draw from daily developments on the campaign trail.

Facebook is the world’s most popular social network, and every campaign should be on it. People actually go to Facebook and other social media more than they go to candidates’ and companies official websites.

The Egyptian revolution of 2011 has been called “The Facebook Revolt” because of the way anti-government forces used it to organize, inform, and get people to different locations. If Facebook can overthrow a political leader, it can help elect one, too.
David All of The David All Group and Jerome Armstrong of Webstrong Group recommend the following.

*Create a public page. On Facebook, the campaign can easily disseminate information

  • Add content. Videos, notes, blog posts, and news articles—and the campaign can monitor which supporters care about most.
  • Update your status. The campaign’s updates show up in Facebook followers newsfeeds and keep the campaign in front of them.
  • Ask your supporters to donate their status. Ask them to update their status with the campaign’s messaging.
  • Utilize FBML. With Facebook Markup Language, users can sign up for e-mail updates and regular donations.
  • Advertise. Facebook allows microtargeting.
  • Start a cause. This inspires activism and rewards those who work hard for the campaign.
  • Promote an event.
  • Use Facebook Connect. Followers can publish stories from the campaign site on their Facebook pages—which will show up on their friends’ news feeds.
  • Engage your supporters daily.

The old stereotype of the teenager lying on the bed talking on a princess phone went out with the poodle skirt. Young people in particular, but people of all ages text messages on their cellphones, and the number of text messages sent via cellphone is larger than that of phone calls.

When you think that 92 million texts were sent as votes for the winner of American Idol in 2008, while in the same year’s presidential race Barack Obama won with 66 million votes, you can see the potential of texting.

Dane Strother of media firm Strother-Duffy-Strother, offers some rules for political texting.

  • Acquire a shortcode and put it on everything a campaign disseminates. A shortcode is five or six letters or numbers that is essentially a phone number for a text.
  • Begin building a list by growing the network organically. Strother suggests holding a contest to see who can forward a text message to as many people as possible.
  • Send get-out-the-vote messages on election day.
  • Have the candidate hold up his or her phone at all events and encourage people to text in.
  • Use text to drive people to the campaign’s website as a way to raise money.
  • Deliver talking points from the campaign any time someone may be having a debate with a friend.
  • Raise money by texting people who have used a credit card to contribute and ask them if you can charge it again for another donation.

Use text messaging to drive turnout for fundraisers and other events, gather volunteers, or respond to negative attacks.

Both the Democratic and Republican National Committees are building databases of cellphones, so contact them about numbers in your area.

The 2008 Obama organization created a list of more than two million cell phone numbers and used texting throughout the campaign, even announcing Obama’s pick of Joe Biden for vice president via text.

Twitter is a constant conversation consisting of 140-or-fewer postings called “tweets.” It lets the campaign be in contact with followers constantly. In 2008, the Obama campaign amassed 175,000 Twitter followers.

Expect that number to grow substantially for every subsequent Democratic and Republican presidential candidate, and there’s no reason why candidates lower down on the ballot cannot amass thousands of followers as well. More than 100 million people were on Twitter as of 2010. According to a 2011 study by Kantar Media Compete, Twitter is more influential than Facebook in influencing consumer choices, and that presumably goes for political choices as well.

Make sure you add a Tweet button to your campaign’s website.

One thing you can Tweet about is contributions. Put a call out for contributions via Tweet, and Tweet when they come in: "@john_smith gave $25 to my campaign!” to create more excitement.

There’s almost nothing that goes on in the course of a campaign day that the campaign cannot Tweet about.

See Appendix Sixteen: Sample Political Text Messages.

Messages on social media can be nanotargeted, giving down-ballot races more visibility than ever before.

One’s online presence does not merely preach to the choir, as some candidates think. If a number of a person’s friends send a link to him or her, chances are he or she will click on it.

The young people on your campaign staff can easily apply what they already know from using social media in their daily lives—organizing events on Facebook and Twitter, posting photos on Flickr, putting up videos on YouTube. Tap this expertise that is second nature to them.

Speaking of YouTube, and other online video services like Vimeo, be sure and include them in your social media strategy.

By 2008, a Pew Internet and American Life Project study showed, 45% of adult internet uses viewed political videos online, and one-third of them forwarded online political material to friends.

Online video is credited with swinging the 2008 Missouri gubernatorial race to Democratic candidate Jay Nixon, even though the state went Republican in the presidential race on the same ballot. The Nixon campaign excelled at capturing Republican Kenny Hulshof or his staff making gaffes on the campaign trail and posting them on online videos that were viewed by voters and picked up by traditional broadcast media (at the urging of the Nixon campaign, of course).

Keep in mind that an online video doesn’t have to be a slick 30-second TV commercial. Timeliness about an issue that viewers are interested in today is more important than length or production values.

Social media should be used to go beyond chatter and to get people to do things—come to a rally, volunteer, vote. A company called WeTheCitizens has software that ties in online activity and real-world activity, such as calling voters and precinct walking. The software not only can spur action, but can help campaigns keep track of who is doing what.

A service called ooVoo lets up to six users talk together at one time. In 2008, ooVoo held an eight-day online conference for political bloggers. A webcam, microphone and computer are all you need.

Moreno concluded, “I have a closing message for the politicians who don’t use social media: Please stop being ridiculous. Hire someone fresh out of college, sit down with them, and learn it. Your constituents should demand and certainly deserve that.”

William S. Bike is the author of the book Winning Political Campaigns (Smashwords, 2012), a how-to guide on political campaigning now in its third edition, and is senior vice president of the media consulting firm Central Park Communications in Chicago, IL.

Don't Let Overhead Wiegh you Down

Don't Let Overhead Wiegh you Down
by Mark Martini, Campaign Secrets

Overhead. It's a killer in business. And it's a killer for campaigns.

The bad part about overhead is that it sneaks up on you. Thirty dollars a month here, a trip to Office Depot there, and the next thing you know, you're struggling to keep your head above water.

Here are two creative ways you can cut down on your overhead.

Remember, money isn't the only thing people can contribute. Office supplies and equipment are helpful as well.

Look to law offices on this front. They're gold mines. Just about every law office has phone systems, fax machines, printers, desks, chairs, and the like in storage. They won't be the latest and greatest, but they will be free.

You might also consider having a "Stock the HQ" open house when you open your campaign headquarters. Instead of asking people to give money, ask them to bring office supplies. Little by little, it all adds up. A notebook here, a fax machine there and you're talking an additional 500 pieces of GOTV mail.

Pinch pennies today. You'll be thankful in October.

Computer & Software

Computer & Software
by Carol Hess, Political Resources

The computer is vital element to the success of any campaign. As soon as you have decided to run for office, or are developing a grassroots lobbying effort, or trying to get an initiative on the ballot, you must assess how the computer will fit into your campaign. “Computer” is a shorthand for technology. Almost everything aspect of a campaign can be simplified and enhanced by the computer. Computer use in your campaign is only limited by your imagination and skill.

Below is a partial list of ways the computer can aid your campaign:

1. Contribution Reports    - FEC    - State/Local 2. Fundraising - recording keeping 3. Voter contact and I.D.     Downloading your district on your computer system. You can use this data for     telephone contact, fundraising parties, walking lists, direct mail, etc. 4. Targeting your vote     Analyzing each district as to its potential strength and vote potential 5. Opposition Research 6. Word- processing    - Thank you notes, meeting notices, etc.    - Letters can be standardized. 7. Press Releases       - Standardize the press release format       - Developing a Press List 8. In-House Polling 9. Phone bank support 10. General campaign organization      - Keeping a calendar of schedules and events 11. Budgeting and expense tracking 12. Staff organization and communication

ASSESSING THE SOFTWARE What questions do you ask?

Computer work most effectively and efficiently if the software purchased is appropriate to the needs of the campaign.

For a local campaign: 1. Don’t get too complicated or sophisticated. You will want to keep your volunteers and contributors in a well thought-out program. In a campaign I ran many years ago, we had a young who did the data entry for volunteers. The first time we sent out a mailing to these volunteers, it was discovered that he had only entered their first name. 2. Keep a schedule for the candidate, his/her family, campaign events. 3. Target and analyze your district. Keep it simple and straight forward. You want to be able to solidify your strong districts, then go after the marginal or swing districts. 4. Collecting information. You want simple demographic and socio-economic information. Is the district easy to walk? Are they homes close together? Are there senior citizen centers? Are there apartment houses where you will have difficulty getting in? Is there a large college population where you might go after absentee ballots?

There are many campaign software packages available on the market. The following are some questions you should be asking:

1. Can supporters be coded? 2. Will the software eliminate duplicates? 3. Does the software meet disclosure requirements? How easy will it be to file the campaign financial reports? 4. Can contributors be sorted by dollar amount, date of contribution, etc. 5. Can the software be modified if changes occur during the course of the campaign? 6. Can the software be networked? You may have several computers and you may want to link them together. 7. What kind of security does the system offer? 8. What kind of technical support is offered? 9. Compare costs. Does the software have bells and whistles you don’t need?

Once you are up and running, you may want to download voter lists onto your computer. There are a number of vendors that offer that service. Before you order any lists, you should ask some of the following questions:

1. How old is the data? 2. How is the database maintained? How purged? Do they NCOA (National Change of Address) the list? 3. Has the file been appended with voter histroy, age, race, gender, party? And census data, i.e. income and educational level. 4. What support is offered? 5. Reputation of vendor. Ask for the names of other candidates or committees that have used their services.

Finally - TIP: The expression, “garbage in, garbage out” rings true. The computer is only a tool. Your message and how you deliver it is the key to winning.

This article is a very brief overview. You should hire a professional to run your campaign. Check out http://PoliticalResources.com for some suggestions. Good luck with your campaign.

Carol Hess is President of Political Resources, Inc. She was a Campaign Manager and Consultant in the 1970’s and early 1980’s.

More Articles ...