Campaigning 101 - Communications old and new

Saturday I joined the Contra Costa Democratic Party for its first "Candidate 101" training. The full-day event covered hiring a consultant, messaging, finance, endorsements, and field, before I joined the "Mastering Communications: Old and New" panel with Jonathan Bash of Brown-Miller Communication and Supervisor candidate Diane Burgis.

Candidates for special districts, school boards and city councils packed the Lafayette Library.


I emphasized that campaigns need traditional and digital strategies:

  • Newspapers are old media, blogs are new

  • TV’s old media, Twitter is new

  • Doors, phones and yard signs are traditional field, Facebook, email and texts are new

Many smaller campaigns run on shoestring budgets. I recommended mobile canvassing app Ecanvasser for adding smartphones to field operations, and offered strategies for creating a campaign narrative and visibility beyond one-line quotes in newspaper stories.

  • Have volunteers take photos and videos of events and post them up to social media channels like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat. They can use their own accounts to build awareness - then official campaign accounts can re-share the best posts

  • Identify and interact with local journalists on Twitter to get through the deluge of emails and press releases they routinely skim through

  • Hold regular messaging calls with volunteers and supporters who are sharing about your campaign. Give them inside access and keep them on track with your key themes

  • Connect with local bloggers and use their stories to lend credibility to your campaign. A quote from a local blog on your website or a mailer looks great.

While door-to-door canvassing remains a top tactic, Facebook and email canvassing are getting more effective with tools like VoterCircle (supporter-driven email canvassing against the voter file) and Custom Audiences for Facebook, where you can enhance a voter file with phone append vendor Accurate Append to reach voters with targeted advertising. ActionSprout, a Facebook-based tool for launching petitions and polls, can help turns those custom audiences into opt-in supporters. For mailing the voter file, Burgis recommended MailChimp; I work with Influential Data, which specifically services voter-targeted email with billions of messages per year.

For campaign fundraising, PayPal isn’t the best solution - I use ActBlue, and Anedot also offers slick landing pages that can suffice for small campaigns that don’t need a full-fledged website. Larger campaigns can use campaign platform NationBuilder or WordPress backed by The Action Network for tools like events and petitions.

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