In pursuit of rapidly evolving digital platforms, political campaign tactics have shifted dramatically with every election cycle of the past decade.
So while the 2020 coronavirus pandemic presented some unique challenges, the digital campaign industry is accustomed to a healthy dose of disruption.
Let’s talk about a few of 2020’s digital fundraising realities that may just be here to stay.
You’re invited… to stay home
Events have always been an important opportunity for candidates to raise money while allowing guests to rub elbows with a headline speaker of local importance.
But this year we swapped rubbing elbows for bumping them — and events once considered essential to Election Day success, were canceled en masse.
Or were they?
The era in which we’re living is a digital one, friends. If you think a pandemic is automatic cause for cancellation, we invite you to think again.
Digital events are a powerful, proven fundraising tactic on the political frontier — with little to no overhead cost!
Keep in mind that slapping an event on your Google calendar and adding a Zoom link for the invitees isn’t going to cut it. A conventional campaign event takes hours of meticulous planning — and, in this respect, successful virtual events are no different.
Tips on organizing a successful virtual event:
- Think ahead. This may be a no-brainer, but just like with any “normal” event, you should spend time well in advance outlining the order of events, guest list and miscellaneous logistics. This includes copious levels of “RSVP” and “reminder” messages. Simply “posting” or sharing online won’t cultivate a successful guest list.
- Rehearsals aren’t canceled either. It’s always a good idea to walk through a virtual event ahead of time — as if it were taking place in person.
- Find your balance. When engaging with your audience via Zoom, we recommend balancing the conversation with at least one co-host. Attention spans are short and they’re even shorter when you have to capture that attention through a screen.
- QR codes are back! Sprinkling a few QR codes throughout your fundraiser or webinar’s slide deck will help keep listeners engaged and funnel them straight to your website or donation portal.
- Technology is sometimes that glitchy friend. Always test every link in advance. You’ll also want to test your internet speed and any other technological factor on which your event depends. No one wants to watch a host struggle with poor internet connectivity.
- Appoint a digital organizer. Designate at least one person as the event’s “digital organizer.” This person’s sole responsibility is to work behind the scenes controlling what happens on screen and ensuring seamless transitions between various speakers.
- You can’t plan for everything. Pulling off a virtual event may sound simpler and less stressful than a live in-person affair. Just remember: Things go wrong on stage all the time. Occasionally that will happen on screen too. Smile and prepare to wing it!
Why call a meeting when you can say it in an email?
Email marketing and fundraising in politics is certainly nothing new; however, in a year of social distancing, is it any surprise that our industry leaned heavily into this well-tested fundraising tactic?
In 2020, our content strategy team raised thousands of dollars through targeted email fundraising for Nebraska legislative candidates alone.
In fact, we teamed up with one of our legislative candidates to raise more money than any other challenger from her party in the state.
Tips on orchestrating an effective email strategy:
- Keep it relevant, useful and informative. Building a rapport with readers is one key to conditioning successful open rates. Share information your readers want to know.
- Subject lines should never be an afterthought. Over one third of all email recipients decide whether or not to open an email based on the subject line — so make it snappy! An effective subject line could be the tragic difference between raising hundreds of dollars and missing a pivotal opportunity.
- There is no exact formula. Every candidate’s audience (also known as “the list”) is different — that’s just the way it is. Some contact lists are more likely to open your crack-of-dawn messages and others prefer lunch hour memos. Some recipients may respond better to an informal tone or the use of testimonials.
- That is why we test it all. Test the timing. Test your subject lines. Test different senders. Test various calls to action. (For example, do your readers prefer to “donate” or “contribute”? Perhaps they would simply rather “Click here and rush an express donation of $25.”) In conclusion, test every conceivable variable.
Paint the internet with your message
And if that’s your objective, friends, you came to the right place. We like to think of digital ads as virtual yard signs — only more effective and with a bit more precision in targeting and analytics.
Think about it.
Digital ads give us the capability to spread name recognition to a precise set of voters without knocking on a single door — which comes in handy during a pandemic.
Not to mention, digital ads are far more cost effective than mass mailers and other conventional tactics with a limited ability to test.
Tips for crafting a profitable paid media strategy:
- Identify your people — then go after their doppelgängers. After you’ve built a coalition of donors, use social media to target their “lookalike” audience — users with similar interests and backgrounds.
- Offer your audience a cause. Facebook ads are a great way to acquire email addresses, but most users aren’t going to bother handing over their personal info without something in return. Try creating a petition about a hot-button issue to capture your audience’s attention and earn their email addresses.
- You can’t beat a visual hook. Content is important, but visuals will register with your audience first. Entice users to click with compelling graphics and flashing buttons.
- Again, the importance of testing cannot be overstated. Test your ad copy, calls to action, graphics and videos.
- Proofread obsessively. This advice probably sounds elementary, but when your first interaction with a constituent is online, a concise, grammatically sound message is sacrosanct.
To sum it up…
While this blog outlines the fundamental principles that served us best in a year plagued with bizarre obstacles, our rapidly evolving industry will always have room for new and unconventional ideas.
What are the best digital practices that got you through the chaos of 2020?
Tell us about it on Twitter!