Digital Strategies for Liberal Leadership Campaigns

The supporter model brought in by the Liberal party of Canada offers a unique opportunity for campaigns. Reducing barriers to entry means leadership campaigns should to focus large amounts of time to their digital strategy. Online strategies offer new and powerful tools for minimal cost – campaigns have no reason not to have a robust online strategy. Here are a number of tactics campaigns could utilize:

Internal social network

Campaigns should develop an internal social network to allow volunteers to communicate directly with each other all across this country. Besides it’s obvious applications, it will encourage and motivate campaign members, especially those who may be geographically isolated. Obama used this to great effect in 2008.

Coordinated but fractured communications strategy

Social media, email, online advertising. There are many different ways to communicate. Each campaign should develop an internal and external engagement strategy to target volunteers and possible supporters. People will want to hear different messages – it’s crucial that campaigns collect as much data on their supporters as possible.

Email is king

People love social media, but email is still the most effective form of online communication. Each campaign should focus on collecting email addresses from anyone who attends events, sign-ups online and commits to volunteering. This will be key to convincing people to get involved in the campaign.

Campaigns also need to develop a highly targeted email strategy. A/B testing should be a normal technique. As campaign collect more and more information, they should begin to target based on interest, money donated, time spent volunteer, etc.

 Efficient and precise online advertising

If used properly, online advertising can be extremely effective. The leadership contest places importance on weak ridings with low numbers of members. That means each new sign-up in a weaker riding is worth more than a sign-up in a strong riding. Campaigns should identify key local issues that match up with their policy positions, and target users accordingly. A mix of Google and Facebook should be used.

Social media CRM (NO EXCEL)

Successful social media strategy is not just about engagement – it’s about building lists of likely supporters and influencers, targeting them with specific messages and using this information to inform their outreach efforts. Social media is field organizing, not one guy with a microphone.

Rumour has it that Mulcair ran his database off an excel spreadsheet.  Any Liberal leadership team that uses excel should be banned from campaigning!

VOIP call centres

Call centres can be prohibitively expensive. A simple solution is to set-up a call centre through a VOIP service. This will cut down on costs.

VAN applications

If Liberal candidates decide to use VAN as their database, they should consider purchasing add-ons. One in particular is the social media integration. Much like Obama’s website, people would be able to login with their social media accounts and engage in action such as phoning or contacting volunteers. campaigns gain valuable information about their supporters.

In my next post I’ll look at how leadership campaigns should employ social media.


A Liberal policy problem?

A section from Political Marketing in Canada:

“…The minor importance given to political issues in Canadian politics is thought to have less to do with voters’ lack of interest in issues than with the consequences of the choice by the major parties to engage in brokerage politics. This situation results from a fragmentation of the Canadian electorate, which encourages parties to elaborate a strategy based on leadership and managerial competence. ….The so-called presidentialization of Canadian politics reflects the increasing focus on parties’ leaders rather than their teams, policy ideas or local candidates.” – Yannick Dufrense and Alex Marland. The Canadian Political Market and the Rules of the Game, page 24.

What do I infer from this passage?

1) Policy matters less than party members and pundits believe. Can anyone outline a specific policy that propelled Jack Layton to victory? Obama’s success in 2008?

2) The Liberal party faces a PR and marketing crisis, not lack of policy. Focusing time and effort on creating “better policy” ignores the importance of image and message. Framing a position matters as much as the policies they promote.

Finally, I challenge you to find a swing voter who read and analyzed each party’s platform…

New Facebook advertising to help political parties

A new advertising feature launched by Facebook should interest political parties and local riding associations.

Facebook will now allow campaigns to target ads based on phone numbers and email addresses.

What Facebook’s Phone and Email Targeting Really Means

Here are a number of different tactics:

  • More precise and targeted appeals to party members
  • Advertise to members or voters based on pre-existing issues
  • Target members to take action (sign a petition, , etc…)
  • Target past members for membership renewals
  • Target voters and members for events or announcements in their area
  • Promote fundraising issues to certain members and voters

The major takeaway? Parties will have a new, more refined targeting method to target specific users and segments of the population.

Pan-Canadian Big Tent Parties Are Dead

I’m currently reading Political Marketing in Canada. It provides an in-depth analysis of modern political marketing techniques that every politico should read. Best $20 I’ve spent.

The sentence below articulates one of the biggest problems with the Federal Liberal Party.

“The use of market research to isolate target groups limits the broad appeal of a pan-Canadian big tent party because other parties can narrowcast messages that resonate with target groups.” Page 18

The Liberal Party is built on pan-Canadian ideals that appeal (or appealed) to a large segment of the population. This is reflected in how people talk about the party – “the big red tent” –  and in the party’s policies, such as the “National Housing Strategy” and “National Food Strategy”. The Party was successful because it offered a truly Canadian vision as a way to offset the rise of Quebec separatism.

Modern marketing practices focus on conducting extensive market research to discover what audiences care about, and which customers to target. Audiences are then delivered a narrow, focused message that appeals to their interest. Narrow messages are more likely to resonate than broad, unfocused messages.

The Liberal’s have a huge problem – they have not identified their target audience, or the messaging to use. Supporting everything means you support nothing. The Conservatives have steadily targeted Liberal supporters with narrow messages that speak about issues which they care about. One example is the erosion of Liberal credibility on the economy.

To be successful, the Liberal Party needs to develop a longterm plan to identify, target and move specific segments of voters away from the other parties. Liberals need to take a position, stick with it and deliver a concise, easily understood message. Until they start using modern marketing techniques, don’t expect a miraculous upswing in support.

How campaigns can adapt to declining landline usage

Campaigns have historically relied on landline phones for a large part of their voter-ID efforts. There are two reasons for this – campaigns can easily buy and match landline numbers with voter files; and phoning is more efficient than door-knocking. Focusing campaign resources on phoning made sense because almost every household had a landline. As political involvement and volunteering declined, campaigns made a logical decision to put more money and manpower into phone-banks. It is not uncommon to see campaigns devote half their budget to phoning, either in-house or outsourced to call-centres.

But technological trends point to a growing problem. Landline use is on the decline. It is estimated almost 1 in 7 Canadians do not own landlines, with this number rapidly increasing. Young and mobile Canadians are especially unlikely to own one. It begs the question – as political participation and volunteerism decline, and landlines become scarcer, how will campaigns reach an increasingly large segment of the population that is not on the grid? Why are campaigns focusing so much money and resources on phoning, when they are reaching a smaller and smaller universe of voters?

Advancements in technology offer the key to voter identification without relying on landlines.

Online advertising

Internet usage is on the rise. In 2010, over 80% of Canadians were online. A recent study showed that Canadian’s spent more time on the Internet than any other OECD country. That amounts to an average 43.5 hours per month spent online. Many of these users are younger voters who are usually ignored by campaigns.

Unlike normal advertising, online advertising has the ability to sophistically target users based on a wide range of factors. Search advertising platforms such as Google Adwords offer a cost-effective strategy to reach a large, targeted audience. Facebook advertising offers granular level targeting based on demographics, political orientation and many other segmentable issues. A well-planned digital ad spend can have a major impact on name recognition and issue-awareness.

Campaigns should develop a robust, online ad strategy that targets specific users who a) are unlikely to be reachable through normal voter-ID efforts and b) fall within the campaign’s target audience. Unlike TV, radio or print, online ads are inexpensive and reach a highly targeted audience. Employing online advertising even makes sense for smaller, local campaigns that may otherwise not spend money on ads.

Social media

Social media is not a gimmick. In Canada, over 50% of the population is on Facebook. The largest amount of time spent online is devoted to social media. These people are more likely to be connected, young and impossible to reach through standard campaign call centres. But social media is not just limited to voters. Women and voters aged 50+ are some of the fastest growing groups on Facebook.

Until recently, campaigns did not have the technological know-how to engage and identify their desired social media audience. Yet new tools are being developed to harness social media as another voter-ID tool. New technologies like NationBuilder can match Twitter followers and Facebook fans to voter-files, providing a new way to communicate directly online. Companies like VAN-NGP sync your Facebook friends with your voter list, giving you the ability to personally contact them. Campaigns are increasingly using personalized political communication from friends and acquaintances to maximize outreach efforts.

Cell phones

Mobile phone usage has risen dramatically over the past number of years. Over 34% of Canadians own a cellphone and as many as 1 in 7 no longer have landlines.

Campaigns need to develop a strategy to identify, collect and contact cellphone-carrying Canadians. Online tools such as petitions and sign-up forms provide a cheap and easy method to harvest cellphone numbers in large quantities. Petitions should be deployed frequently and coincide with high-profile events to maximize audience interest. Campaigns should microtarget petitions to a specific, engaged audience in order to increase completed actions.

A new generation of connected voters are being bypassed by campaigns relying on old, outdated technology with a dwindling user rate. Overcoming this hurdle will not be easy. A whole industry exists to identify, target and engage these users. To succeed, campaigns will need to develop a more diverse toolkit that engages voters in different and unique ways.

If an MP complains in Parliament, does anyone care?

This article in my humble opinion, is a big reason why the Liberal party is having such difficulty gaining traction with voters.

First, no one likes complainers.

Second, and most importantly, why complain in parliament? Are the MPs undecided voters in Etobicoke? The Conservatives are conducting targeted, detailed voter profiling and voter ID. They are getting a message to the public that was likely message-tested to respond well to their Conservative voters. Why? Because all they need are Conservative voters to win, not undecideds. Don’t talk to the media, talk to voter!

Here’s what the Liberals should do:

1) Use that $100,000 they are raising to blanket the Etobicoke airwaves with specific messages about the Conservatives.

2) Respond in kind by robocalling the riding or hiring a professional phonebank to get out a message. Conduct voter-ID at the same time.

3) Get targeted and phone-bank or robocall previously identified Liberals. Get them riled up and mad! The Liberal party needs to ensure that their supporters have a reason to get out and vote.

I have no clue whether the Party or local campaign is doing this. But complaining, especially to Parliament when no one is listening, will do absolutely nothing.

From the Campaign Trail – Congrats to Republican Nominee Romney

Video released by the Democrats on the day Romney officially recieved enough delegates