Using New Media in Political Campaigns


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A detailed primer on using new media for political campaigns, provided to California Democratic Party leaders and organizers in July 2010.

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Using New Media in Political Campaigns

  1. 1. Using New Media in Political Campaigns California Democratic Party Computer & Internet Caucus July 16, 2010 Sarah Granger, PublicEdge [email_address]
  2. 2. Introduction <ul><li>This presentation was developed for progressive organizers, activists, candidates and other California Democrats working on local and state level races. Many of the concepts also translate to national campaigns, but the assumption is that resources will be scarce and grassroots volunteers will carry most of the load. Most concepts included apply to candidate and issue-based campaigns. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Speaker Background <ul><li>Sarah Granger first went online in the 80’s after getting her first computer at age 9. She worked in government cybersecurity before riding the dotcom wave. When the opportunity arose to work on a presidential exploratory campaign in 2002, she took it, launching the “first true weblog to be put up by a politician” as director of Internet strategy. Since then, she has worked with dozens of campaigns and political organizations, and she has written and spoken extensively on the topic of technology and new media in campaigns. </li></ul><ul><li>Sarah’s full bio can be found at </li></ul>
  4. 4. Why Go Online? <ul><li>Majority of voter population is online </li></ul><ul><li>Web is preliminary research destination for the majority of voters </li></ul><ul><li>Internet is fast and cheap </li></ul><ul><li>Reach voters & media quickly </li></ul><ul><li>Immediate outreach in short timeline </li></ul><ul><li>Easy to activate volunteers, supporters </li></ul>
  5. 5. Before the Web <ul><li>Speaker’s Corner </li></ul><ul><li>Pamphleteering/Printing Press </li></ul><ul><li>Radio </li></ul><ul><li>TV </li></ul><ul><li>Internet </li></ul>
  6. 6. In the Beginning
  7. 7. History of Online Campaigns <ul><li>1st Uses - E-mail ~’92 </li></ul><ul><li>Next Gen - Web sites ’96 & ‘00 </li></ul><ul><li>MeetUp - online-to-offline ‘04 </li></ul><ul><li>Hart - 1st blog ‘04 </li></ul><ul><li>Dean - online fundraising ‘04 </li></ul><ul><li>MoveOn - online activism ’04 & ‘06 </li></ul><ul><li>YouTube - online video sharing ‘08 </li></ul><ul><li>Obama - social networking ’08* </li></ul>
  8. 8. Learning from History <ul><li>Barack Obama broke new ground online engaging an untapped voter population and winning the Democratic nomination & the presidency in large part due to new media. </li></ul><ul><li>Translation: Every campaign must now have an online presence. </li></ul><ul><li>What that means for local & state level candidates differs depending on voter demographics in each area, but bare minimum, every candidate needs a website, an e-mail list, and a database. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Quick Start Tips <ul><li>Find a trusted techie volunteer/helper </li></ul><ul><li>Reserve a domain name </li></ul><ul><li>Build a placeholder web site </li></ul><ul><li>Create e-mail accounts </li></ul><ul><li>(info, candidate, volunteer, fundaising) </li></ul><ul><li>Aggregate initial contact data </li></ul><ul><li>Build initial e-mail list </li></ul><ul><li>Invite inner circle onto social network(s) </li></ul>
  10. 10. Initial Research/Targeting <ul><li>Figure out which online/technology tools will be most appropriate per campaign (study precinct demographics, i.e. Facebook is best for ages 25-45) </li></ul><ul><li>Candidate & opposition research tools like,,, </li></ul><ul><li>Pew Internet – online census-like data </li></ul><ul><li>Other studies (Forrester, etc. – Groundswell) </li></ul>
  11. 11. Which Comes First? <ul><li>Reserve names (domain, Twitter, Facebook, e-mail lists) </li></ul><ul><li>Create initial e-mail list (using software like Constant Contact, Mail Chimp) & hook it to a “database” – even if it’s initially just a spreadsheet </li></ul><ul><li>Setup simple website and/or blog (see </li></ul><ul><li>Setup Facebook fan page </li></ul><ul><li>Start following local political organizations and media on Twitter </li></ul><ul><li>Make sure existing social media accounts in order for candidate (especially LinkedIn) </li></ul>
  12. 12. Online Campaigning Components & Process <ul><li>Overarching New Media Strategy & Team Leadership (Sr Staff) </li></ul><ul><li>Online Communications (integrated with overall Comm/Press) </li></ul><ul><li>Website </li></ul><ul><li>Database </li></ul><ul><li>E-mail </li></ul><ul><li>Blogging & Bloggers </li></ul><ul><li>Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube) </li></ul><ul><li>Stats & Reports </li></ul>
  13. 13. Building a Campaign Tech/New Media Team <ul><li>Coordinator - strategist, organizer, new media team lead </li></ul><ul><li>Content - writer/editor for e-mail, web, blog </li></ul><ul><li>E-mail - administration & responder(s) </li></ul><ul><li>Database - data entry support </li></ul><ul><li>Web - graphic designer, developers </li></ul><ul><li>Netroots - blogger, social networkers </li></ul><ul><li>Back End - ISP/server admins </li></ul>
  14. 14. Team Costs/Budgeting <ul><li>Team Lead/Consultant* - hourly or by project </li></ul><ul><li>Content - volunteers </li></ul><ul><li>Data entry - volunteers </li></ul><ul><li>Database & $$ engine - low cost systems </li></ul><ul><li>Designer – consultant by project (or volunteer) </li></ul><ul><li>Web developer or dev software - by project </li></ul><ul><li>Blog/Social Network accounts - free </li></ul><ul><li>ISP/server - monthly rates </li></ul>
  15. 15. Tips for Tight Budgets <ul><li>Don’t get fancy with the website (pre-packaged is OK, like Wordpress) </li></ul><ul><li>Use the same designer for website as logo </li></ul><ul><li>Build social networks on existing sites </li></ul><ul><li>Excel is fine for a local race database </li></ul><ul><li>Repurpose, reuse, reinvent copy </li></ul><ul><li>Focus on e-mail, pushing content out </li></ul>
  16. 16. The Value of Volunteers
  17. 17. Volunteer Usage Tips <ul><li>Email responding & data entry can be done by people not local - great for friends & family in other states who want to help out somehow </li></ul><ul><li>Content writer can be same person who writes flyers, other campaign literature </li></ul><ul><li>Bloggers & social networkers ideally would be local so they can be tapped into all events and activities </li></ul><ul><li>Always treat volunteers well – they are your most important resource </li></ul>
  18. 18. A Word of Warning! <ul><li>Be careful about using friends of friends or the first people you meet for websites and new media - especially people with only corporate web site development experience. It’s not the same as campaign and nonprofit site development. </li></ul>
  19. 19. Online Communications & Content <ul><li>Content is content, regardless of platform; translate from offline </li></ul><ul><li>Segment the content for ease of use, mix it up (don’t put the same thing in every medium) </li></ul><ul><li>Reusable content allows for speedy dissemination of information ( changing a few words here and there to personalize content will help with search recognition and make bloggers more interested) </li></ul><ul><li>Make it “Sticky” - keep people on site </li></ul><ul><li>Personalize - blog updates, friendly “curated version of yourself” </li></ul><ul><li>Use Images - photos, video </li></ul>
  20. 20. Website <ul><li>Design consistent with overall themes </li></ul><ul><li>Emphasize a simple user interface </li></ul><ul><li>Basic site is better than no site at all </li></ul><ul><li>Take advantage of color </li></ul><ul><li>Utilize Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tactics </li></ul><ul><li>Find ways to stand out from the opposition </li></ul><ul><li>Integrate social media onto the site </li></ul>
  21. 21. Important Site Features <ul><li>Candidate Information - Bio, background </li></ul><ul><li>Contribution Mechanism </li></ul><ul><li>Campaign News (blog) </li></ul><ul><li>Endorsements </li></ul><ul><li>Position Statement </li></ul><ul><li>Press Page </li></ul><ul><li>Events/Calendar </li></ul><ul><li>Voter Registration </li></ul><ul><li>Campaign Store (via Café Press, etc.) </li></ul><ul><li>Volunteer Area </li></ul><ul><li>Social Media Links </li></ul><ul><li>Contact Info </li></ul>
  22. 22. Online Volunteer Center <ul><li>Area on website (or could use Ning, wikis, Google Docs, Facebook group for campaign organizers, or part of Yahoo Group for internal & volunteers) </li></ul><ul><li>Content: Flyers, Talking Points, Sign-up sheets, Event management kits, Widgets & Buttons </li></ul><ul><li>Place to motivate, inspire and keep people engaged – internal community </li></ul>
  23. 23. Database, aka Gold Mine <ul><li>Options - Spreadsheets, databases, or more sophisticated online services </li></ul><ul><li>Tracking/management </li></ul><ul><li>Cleaning up data </li></ul><ul><li>Data types - visitors, supporters/users, donors, volunteers, data managers </li></ul><ul><li>Security & data safety </li></ul><ul><li>List building as an art, ongoing process </li></ul><ul><li>Purchasing/importing existing voter lists </li></ul>
  24. 24. Where’s the List? <ul><li>The usual suspects: home or work addresses, phone numbers, old business cards, conference attendee lists </li></ul><ul><li>Additional mobile numbers, Skype addresses, Instant Messaging accounts </li></ul><ul><li>E-mail addresses </li></ul><ul><li>Social media accounts: Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Twitter </li></ul>
  25. 25. E-mail Use <ul><li>Primary campaign communication vehicle – still gets the best results </li></ul><ul><li>Use viral themes </li></ul><ul><li>Stick to one focus (or ask) per message </li></ul><ul><li>Integrate with database </li></ul><ul><li>Responding with care (friends, supporters, volunteers, media, undecided, negative, defamatory) </li></ul>
  26. 26. E-mail Content <ul><li>Engage with urgency & action </li></ul><ul><li>Utilize endorsers, big name supporters </li></ul><ul><li>Thank people often! </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t ask for money every time </li></ul><ul><li>Use short sentences, repeat key points </li></ul><ul><li>(Study what other campaigns are doing) </li></ul>
  27. 27. E-mail Groups <ul><li>Creating e-mail and document sharing groups for the campaign and subsets of the campaign is imperative for internal processes </li></ul><ul><li>Yahoo Groups or Google Groups commonly used, free </li></ul><ul><li>Set defaults to private & reply-to-sender (vs. reply-all) </li></ul><ul><li>Develop group use rules from the start </li></ul><ul><li>Groups are great for organic volunteer use too! </li></ul>
  28. 28. Remember the Audience
  29. 29. Building an Online Community <ul><li>Utilize social networks - Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Eons, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Include visuals – Flickr, Picasa, YouTube </li></ul><ul><li>Participate in related blogs (comment, be a guest blogger) </li></ul><ul><li>Take advantage of online event services like Evite, MeetUp & YahooGroups </li></ul><ul><li>Use wikis for online collaborative document development </li></ul><ul><li>Have a presence on Twitter (reaches media) </li></ul>
  30. 30. Blogs & Blogging <ul><li>Blogs can be considered online magazines or online newspapers </li></ul><ul><li>Bloggers can be active community members down the street or major national influencers </li></ul><ul><li>Blogs can cover topics as small as city-wide recycling programs or as large as global news </li></ul><ul><li>People flock to blogs because they tend toward a more conversational atmosphere </li></ul><ul><li>Bloggers can shape the news cycle & public agenda </li></ul>
  31. 31. Why Blog? <ul><li>Blogging is a great way to reach people in the community, learn what their concerns are, respond directly, and have a substantive conversation </li></ul><ul><li>Blogging helps candidates and staffers become comfortable with op-ed style and online community engagement </li></ul><ul><li>A blog provides a sense of dynamic activity in the campaign vs. just a static presence </li></ul>
  32. 32. Campaign Blog <ul><li>Regular account of campaign activities </li></ul><ul><li>Syndicated content for subscribers </li></ul><ul><li>(supporters, media, opposition) </li></ul><ul><li>Can double as a news area </li></ul><ul><li>Can be hosted off site for free (linked) </li></ul><ul><li>Two-way conversation mechanism </li></ul>
  33. 33. Blogging Tips <ul><li>Check out free services - TypePad, Blogger, WordPress </li></ul><ul><li>Post as often as possible </li></ul><ul><li>Employ someone (volunteer) to monitor the comments & keep out the spammers, trolls </li></ul><ul><li>Keep the content fresh - don’t always use the same as in e-mail </li></ul><ul><li>Network with other bloggers, maintain good blogroll </li></ul><ul><li>Have fun with it; don’t be afraid to experiment </li></ul>
  34. 34. Finding Bloggers <ul><li>Google Blog Search ex. ‘Santa Clara County’ or city name or other local areas or by topic </li></ul><ul><li>Find your favorite blogs and check their blogrolls (side panels of links) for more good ones, i.e. Calitics </li></ul><ul><li>Check local newspapers for their blogs </li></ul><ul><li>Search Technorati listings for city, county, state and key words </li></ul><ul><li>Find local bloggers at events through organizers, see who’s tweeting on the hashtag, or look at who has cameras </li></ul>
  35. 35. Blogger Outreach <ul><li>Not all bloggers are e-mail people; some prefer phone, IM, twitter so find out what each prefers and use that mode to connect </li></ul><ul><li>When communicating with local bloggers, have talking points ready for e-mail or phone calls </li></ul><ul><li>Bloggers are like other media – they like special angles and scoops, so pitch accordingly </li></ul><ul><li>Many bloggers are political and want to make friends </li></ul>
  36. 36. Widgets & Buttons <ul><li>Buttons can be downloaded and used to promote campaigns on other sites – put a button on your blog that’s a static image linking to your favorite candidate’s website </li></ul><ul><li>Widgets are embedded code used on sites to show an activity or produce dynamic content, like a scrolling Twitter widget from the candidate’s Twitter feed or a GOTV tool </li></ul>
  37. 37. Facebook <ul><li>Arguably the easiest, fastest and cheapest way to promote campaigns these days </li></ul><ul><li>Many voters are already on Facebook and already activated toward related candidates and causes there </li></ul><ul><li>Can be used similarly to a blog – posting event information, photos, videos, links to articles, endorsement announcements & other news </li></ul><ul><li>Also for volunteer & community engagement </li></ul>
  38. 38. Facebook Privacy <ul><li>Under Settings/Privacy Settings, configure your candidate’s personal account to preferred settings </li></ul><ul><li>Select by topic who can see each part of his/her personal profiles: just friends, network or all </li></ul><ul><li>Configure FB fan page settings to public </li></ul><ul><li>Determine exactly what gets posted to other peoples’ news feeds from personal & official pages </li></ul><ul><li>Limit what 3 rd party applications can see </li></ul>
  39. 39. Look Who’s Tweeting!
  40. 40. Twitter <ul><li>Micro-blogging, mini-news feed; great way to connect with media & political organizations </li></ul><ul><li>Who’s on Twitter? Arnold Schwarzennegger, Gavin Newsom, Oprah, media, bloggers, advocacy organizations and other online influencers </li></ul><ul><li>Twitter is only useful when used to follow members of the community, media, government and political stafferss, and when they start following you and your cause </li></ul>
  41. 41. Using Twitter <ul><li>Create an identity/personality for the candidate </li></ul><ul><li>Create an identity for the campaign </li></ul><ul><li>Engage with the community & media </li></ul><ul><li>Become an online influencer </li></ul><ul><li>Retweet what is relevant to the community and the voters </li></ul><ul><li>Be careful to not overdo it </li></ul><ul><li>Automate and integrate with blog, Facebook </li></ul>
  42. 42. Twitter Lingo <ul><li>@name = this is how everyone refers to each user on Twitter and can be seen in @replies </li></ul><ul><li>RT = Retweet, which is essentially someone repeating what someone else tweeted </li></ul><ul><li>DM = Direct Message, i.e. private correspondence via Twitter </li></ul><ul><li>#hashtags = these are used for topic or event differentiation, like #politics, #CA, #CDP ; great for searching for followers, constituents, groups in certain areas </li></ul>
  43. 43. Twitter Tools <ul><li>Search - searches for topics </li></ul><ul><li>Twitter Lists – differentiates by defined groupings </li></ul><ul><li>Viewing by thread - provides live stream </li></ul><ul><li>Mobile Twitter - Tweetdeck – for desktop, Blackberry, or iPad use; Twitter (formerly Tweetie) for iPhone </li></ul><ul><li>Auto-tweets – Twitterfeed automatically tweets blog posts; Hootsuite, Cotweet, Lazyfeed allow automating </li></ul><ul><li>Stats – Twitter Analyzer, Tweetstats, Twitalizer </li></ul>
  44. 44. When You Have Money <ul><li>Web search (Google) ads </li></ul><ul><li>Facebook ads </li></ul><ul><li>High end web designers </li></ul><ul><li>Integrated action center and catered social media tools (like </li></ul><ul><li>Mobile outreach </li></ul><ul><li>Mobile apps </li></ul>
  45. 45. Overall Social Media Strategy <ul><li>Social media is powerful – just like other lists and methods of influence in politics, social media shifts perception </li></ul><ul><li>Integrating social media into the entire campaign is key </li></ul><ul><li>Put your Facebook & Twitter IDs on cards & fliers along with the site URL </li></ul><ul><li>Auto-post updates from blog to Facebook & Twitter </li></ul><ul><li>Reuse content & post at regular intervals – “drip irrigation” (Sally Lieber) </li></ul><ul><li>Remember to keep it personal, keep it “social”, be authentic </li></ul>
  46. 46. Social Media Etiquette <ul><li>Always take an integrated approach – put your information in different forms and make sure the outreach process runs smoothly </li></ul><ul><li>If someone puts up a blog post, resends your facebook message, retweets your alert, sends e-mail to their network, etc. make sure to thank them </li></ul><ul><li>Put anyone who helps you out on a list and make sure to keep them informed at each phase of the campaign </li></ul>
  47. 47. Don’t Let This Happen to You…
  48. 48. Online Reputation Risks <ul><li>The candidate or cause controls the message if reputation online is managed properly </li></ul><ul><li>The greater risk is if the candidate is NOT online – then the opposition has the control </li></ul><ul><li>Blogging is not bad; better to control your message than have others control it for you </li></ul>
  49. 49. Tips for Reputation Control <ul><li>Curate content always keeping image, reputation and message in mind. </li></ul><ul><li>Buy as many domains relating back to the candidate’s name as possible. </li></ul><ul><li>Pay attention to Search Engine Optimization (see for the website; get endorsers, partners, friends to link to the official site. </li></ul>
  50. 50. Site Metrics/Tracking <ul><li>Free sites like Sitemeter, Google Analytics track a wide range of metrics (and Facebook has their own): </li></ul><ul><li>Overall Traffic </li></ul><ul><li>Referring pages </li></ul><ul><li>Location of visitors/users </li></ul><ul><li>Time on site </li></ul><ul><li>Pages most visited </li></ul>
  51. 51. Free Tech Tools <ul><li>Free conference call services - </li></ul><ul><li>Large or bulk file transfers – </li></ul><ul><li>Long distance calls - Skype </li></ul><ul><li>Instant Messaging – via Skype, AIM, YIM, Jabber, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Online polling tools – SurveyMonkey, Zoomerang </li></ul><ul><li>Event management tools – Evite, Doodle, Facebook Events </li></ul><ul><li>Voter registration tools – see DNC’s </li></ul>
  52. 52. Paid (but worth it) Tools <ul><li>Full featured cell phone/PDA - most major candidates & campaign workers have Blackberries &/or iPhones – mobile is the fastest growing area online </li></ul><ul><li>Laptops & cellular modems for continuous service anywhere </li></ul><ul><li>Sophisticated web & database tools (Civio, Convio, NGP, Blue State Digital…) </li></ul>
  53. 53. Security & Confidentiality <ul><li>Internal leak prevention - need-to-know </li></ul><ul><li>Use the phone for important transfers </li></ul><ul><li>Secure servers for preserving financial transactions (secure donations) </li></ul><ul><li>Secure backups of web site, email, database - on site & off site </li></ul><ul><li>Develop emergency recovery provisions </li></ul><ul><li>Secure passwords </li></ul>
  54. 54. Common Mistakes & Pitfalls <ul><li>Building a fancy web site (overspending) </li></ul><ul><li>Never updating web sites (bad PR) </li></ul><ul><li>Building a blog and not driving traffic to it (waste of resources) </li></ul><ul><li>Setting up a social networking presence and not maintaining it </li></ul><ul><li>Giving out passwords to too many people </li></ul><ul><li>Delaying contact data updating (missing out on key contributors) </li></ul>
  55. 55. Great 2010 Examples <ul><li>Website – Jackie Speier ( ) </li></ul><ul><li>Twitter Use – Debra Bowen (@dbowen), Gavin Newsom (@gavinnewsom) </li></ul><ul><li>Facebook Page – Betty Yee </li></ul><ul><li>YouTube – Kamala Harris (kamalaharrisdotorg) </li></ul><ul><li>Flickr – Barbara Boxer ( ) </li></ul>
  56. 56. Summary <ul><li>Using the Internet in campaigns is no longer an option; it’s a necessity – embrace it or suffer defeat </li></ul><ul><li>Technology and new media tools are ample and free </li></ul><ul><li>Key is to put the right amount of effort into online campaigning (vs. too little or too much) and to choose tools wisely </li></ul><ul><li>Recruiting the right people to manage the technology and train others makes all the difference </li></ul><ul><li>We are still in the infancy of the Internet as the dominant media form; there is still much to learn </li></ul>
  57. 57. Victory
  58. 58. Disclaimer <ul><li>Everything in this presentation must be considered as a supplement to existing campaign efforts, not a replacement mechanism. There is no substitute to meeting voters, community organizers, legislators, staffers or media in person. The tools included in this presentation are best used to enhance what we already do and to engage new constituents in new ways. </li></ul>
  59. 59. Resources <ul><li>Progressive Exchange ( ) - website, list, FB group full of resources for progressives working online </li></ul><ul><li>Blogs United CA - invitation only list for California progressive bloggers </li></ul><ul><li> – latest news on major national and state campaigns using the Internet </li></ul><ul><li> – online politics tips & tools </li></ul><ul><li>New Organizing Institute ( ) - resources for progressive organizers including online </li></ul>
  60. 60. Questions? <ul><li>Contact: Sarah Granger </li></ul><ul><li>E-mail: [email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>Website: </li></ul><ul><li>LinkedIn: </li></ul><ul><li>Twitter: </li></ul><ul><li>& </li></ul>