Steve Castleton made a great point in our “Getting Your Online Campaign off the Ground” session at the Art of Political Campaigning last week — think of visitors to your website as impulse buyers and design accordingly. Act like you’re selling Ginsu knives? Brilliant! But wait, there’s more…
Archives: Guest Contributor
Congressional Management Foundation president and CEO Bradford Fitch has his monthly column in today’s online edition of Roll Call. In it, he explains the top five characteristics of congressional websites that his organization honored with its bi-annual Gold Mouse Awards.
If you’ve forgot your website-building mantra, make it “include help, not hype.”
This year, we took our video cameras and questions to the European Union. The result is a first of its kind video documentary exploring the rise of digital engagement in the European Union – and the amazing opportunities the European Parliament’s online petition system and the European Commission’s European Citizens Initiative are creating for EU citizens to make their voices heard.
Successful advocacy needs a group committed to the success of each other and the organization. The American Farm Bureau Federation recently created a “grassroots ambassador” group of highly-trained members to be key advocates. We call this group the “Grassroots Outreach Team” or “GO Team.” The GO Team members have all been part of one of four leadership training programs offered by Farm Bureau. They are our champions in advocacy
One of our purposes in creating this group was to build a community or team rather than merely a bunch of Farm Bureau folks on the same email list. We want this group to comment on each others’ op-eds, blog posts, social media contacts and share their own advocacy successes and support each other.
But, the 111 members of the Go Team are spread through nearly every state and grow or raise nearly every commodity you eat, and unfortunately, few of them have ever met in-person.
Social media is a great platform for connecting the GO Team members, but that doesn’t mean guarantee they will become a community. So, how can the American Farm Bureau create a community of the organization’s elite advocates?
The Internet is a risky place to communicate: No matter what issue you’re talking about, online media bring out the ugly. Not just in politics, too, since anyone “lucky” enough to land in the news gets skewered for how he or she looks, walks, talks, thinks, emotes or flips a lock of hair. Want to think less of humanity? Just read the comments left on stories on any major news site … yuck. Worse, cable news amplifies the problem, since the channels have an endless hunger for “oh, what an idiot” stories, which they gleefully recycle until they’re squeezed of every shred of schadenfreude.
Not exactly an environment that encourages risk-taking! Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us, then, that a recent Business Insider article explained that a tweet from a corporate brand might take 45 days to arrive in public after it was first thought up:
But what most people don’t know is how much time and effort goes into curating these accounts, writing tweets, and filling your news feed with content people want to see. For instance, it can take a team of 13 social-media and advertising specialists up to 45 days to plan, create, approve, and publish a corporate social-media post.
The problem is, of course, that a 45-day publishing schedule doesn’t exactly leave time to react in the moment. Imagine trying to catch a breaking news cycle while riding a glacier! Plus, too many layers of editing tend to suck the energy out of ideas that started fresh and vibrant, as each reviewer tries to justify his or her existence with “just a few changes.” The result? Writing by committee … which leads to mush. And if the top leaders have to approve everything that goes out, God help you — I’ve seen so many good ideas die in the executive suite just because they didn’t “sound right” to someone who was decades away from the target audience.
What’s the answer?
How can organizations and managers use new strategies and technologies to get their message to the right people and take advantage of shifting online behaviors? In the digital campaign world, “big data” is the latest, industry-changing answer.
That’s not exactly news: there’s no shortage of articles out there describing big data’s impact on campaigning. But when we talk about big data, we really mean two subsets of sources that are worth exploring: first party and third party.
Even with the recent growth of messaging platforms that bombard audiences constantly, quality content and messaging remain the basis for any effective advocacy campaign. In a world that now contemplates concepts like “information overload,” developing relevant content for your audience is like a reassuring whisper in a noisy storm.
At the center of these two dynamics – the explosion of communications mediums and audiences’ desire to receive authentic content – an interesting evolution of roles is taking place. Associations, coalitions, corporations and other organizations with a need to influence public policy and opinion are becoming multifaceted newsrooms in their own right while traditional newsrooms have become cutting-edge advocacy/advertising consultancies.
In the scramble for attention in digital spaces, nonprofit organizations find themselves facing the daunting task of churning out content that engages audiences at super-
human speed — what in the marketing world would be called “owned media.” The tricky part is making content that the audience actually wants to consume and not just broadcasting the institution’s self-selected priorities. For most organizations, doing so requires a radical shift to staffing and process structures.
Roles within digital communications at nonprofits have matured a lot over the last 10 years. First, the role of institutional “web masters” split into website manager (in charge of content maintenance) and developer (often a consultant) when modern Content Management Systems (CMS) pushed the knowledge base beyond building static HTML pages. Five years ago, digital communications and marketing, often described as social media, were relegated to interns or junior staff for no other reason than the existing team didn’t really know much about Facebook or Twitter.
In 2014, putting the identity and reputation of your brand in the hands of an intern is tantamount to gross negligence. Thankfully, most institutions recognize this fact now. Gone are the days where “5 years experience” or even “10 years experience” in a job description for a digital team member seems absurd. So what does an organization’s digital team need to look like today, and how does one find the right type of people to staff the team?
While Congress is rarely a first-adopter of new technology, it does happen. At this point nearly all members are active on popular social networks like Twitter and Facebook. This is a huge shift from even five years ago.
Over the past decade, I’ve had the opportunity to focus on digital communication in Congress from a variety of perspectives on and off the Hill. I am keenly aware that communication flows in both directions and it is easy for this channel to breakdown. Members and staff can become overwhelmed by change or the breadth of opinion online. Advocates can do their cause disservice by not putting forth relevant voices. So in the end, is social media fostering a more meaningful relationship between people and their government?
It’s almost Mother’s Day and 180 days until Election 2014. Of course it’s a good time to send a card or some flowers — but for public affairs professionals, it’s an even better time to reflect on the power and impact moms have on our country. Ann Romney got it right when she said, “It’s the moms of this nation – single, married, widowed – who really hold this country together…You’re the ones who always have to do a little more.” For those of us advancing issues in the legislative session, in the community, or in an election, the power and potential of America’s moms can’t be overstated.