Since I started spreading the word a few weeks back that I was launching a digital strategy business, plenty of people have come to me with a single question: just what IS digital strategy?
A simple question, for sure, but one with an answer that’s straightforward at one level and complex at others. I’d argue that digital strategy is — at heart — the fine art of figuring out the best way (or ways) to get there from here. I.e., it’s the process of sifting through the huge array of available tools, tactics, techniques and channels to find the ones that are the most likely to help an organization, company or campaign reach its goals, both short- and long-term. But strategy is just the start: the success is in the execution…and in adapting to a constantly changing landscape.
Let’s look at a few of the many factors that play into a digital strategy:
Just what is your organization, company or campaign trying to DO? Pass a bill? Stop a pipeline? Sell a product? Elect a candidate? The strategies that make sense for you will likely differ in each case and may change over time as well. Know your goals before you start your strategy — it’s a simple rule, but one too-often ignored.
April 1st, 2013
Hi folks, we’re conducting some potentially lethal technology experiments down here in the e.politics bunker, and if all goes well, the site will be the beneficiary. Last night I upgraded the Epolitics.com WordPress installation, along with several WordPress plugins — one of which (the “related posts” module) promptly ate some of the post formatting. Never fear; a replacement plugin returned us to good health. Also back in the pink: the ability to comment on posts, which I’d had to turn off until the WordPress core was updated. Look for a few more changes in the weeks to come, and leave any suggestions in the comments below.
April 1st, 2013
Well, a Victory Award is, anyway — Epolitics.com won at the Poli Conference in the category, “Blog Político del Año, Otra Lengua Aparte del Español.” I.e., political blog of the year, in a language other than Spanish. Very cool! Winners were announced Thursday night at the conference awards dinner in NYC, but I was on the move down to Texas for a family event and couldn’t make it. But thanks everyone — if you read the site, contribute to it, promote the articles out to the wider world or otherwise help spread the word, you earned a piece of this award, too. Thanks, everyone.
March 30th, 2013
Guest article! Let’s take a trip to the Big House with our friends from PowerThru Consulting, who’ve been kind enough to contribute several previous articles on email advocacy and list-building in the past. If you’re in email jail, start digging your escape tunnels.
Email Marketers: Are You in Spam Jail with Gmail & Hotmail? (And How to Bust Out)
By PowerThru Consulting
Over the last few weeks, we’ve been seeing more and more PowerThru clients reporting some version of trouble getting mail delivered to Gmail, Hotmail, or both.
The problems range from the relatively benign – 1-3% of the list not getting email that they should — to the extreme, where up to 90% of all Gmail messages are not delivered. We’ve also talked to several spam and deliverability experts, and I’m personally indebted to Brett Schenker at Salsalabs for patiently talking me through some tense moments and bringing me up to speed on all this. If you haven’t read his posts about deliverability over at Salsa Commons in the last year, it’s worth a look.
We’re putting up this post because, based on research we’ve done with our biggest clients (lists over 100,000 records) suggest both some simple technical fixes, and also a mindset shift around how we think about our online lists, and the strategies for growing our audience.
The underlying principle is to treat your email program like a library that needs a curator, instead of a newspaper that needs to get published daily.
March 27th, 2013
Howdy folks, as you can imagine I’ve been scrambling around the past week, wrapping up my time at NWLC and building the foundation for the new digital strategy consulting business. One piece of neglected news in the meantime: Epolitics.com (and I) are up for a “Victory Award” at the Poli Conference this weekend! Very cool — the Poli Conference is a premier event in the Spanish-language political professional world, and the site is a nominee in the “non-Spanish-language blog” category.
Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make it to the actual awards ceremony in NYC Friday evening, since I’ll be down in Texas for a family event (we’re having a big party for my parents’ 50th anniversary, with kinfolk coming in from all over). Still, wish the site luck! Receiving honorary awards, among others: the Obama campaign’s David Axelrod and Jim Messina. A win in my category would be an honor…and a most auspicious start to the new consulting business.
March 27th, 2013
Talk about timing: just Monday a group of Republican notables working with the RNC put a plan to revive the party, and here at Epolitics.com, we already had a response ready to roll. The RNC’s Growth and Opportunity Project report hasn’t been well received in all quarters (too say the least), with plenty of conservatives dismissing it as just another plan by the elites to marginalize the party’s grassroots in favor of dreaded Centrists. The interesting angle from our point of view was the part — reported early by Yahoo News — that urges the party to create a data infrastructure to power the kind of voter targeting at which the Obama campaign (among others) has excelled.
So, can big data save the Republican Party? If not, what about social media, which has also been touted as a potential source of salvation? Just a few weeks ago I handed the Campaigns and Elections folks the latest TechBytes column, and we rushed it online ahead of the print edition this week to take advantage of its discussion of both social media and data in terms of a Republican revival. Let’s start with the social angle:
…for a genuinely popular movement to arise, you need ideas and candidates that generate enthusiasm, along with a large enough group of people who are open to joining in….Social media will be a part of any Republican resurgence in the near future — the tools are simply too politically useful to ignore. And with the right message and the right messenger, Republicans could set social media alight if they find the proper moment. Absent any of those three factors, though, Republicans will simply be rolling a rock up a hill, again and again.
Next, big data:
Republicans are certainly no strangers to political data. Their 2004 microtargeting turnout operation is still lauded by political professionals as both innovative and successful. But as with social media, using data to find persuadable voters depends on the existence of a sizable pool of persuadable voters. Data can help campaigns identify the people who may be open to supporting them, but data won’t create that pool of potential supporters. The people actually need to be there in the first place for data mining techniques to pinpoint them, making data no more of a panacea than social media.
Head over to the C&E site for the whole article, and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed — even though you may disagree.
March 21st, 2013
Hi folks, I have big news to announce: I’m launching a new digital strategy consultancy. Time to ride the waves of capitalism!
My goal is to focus on digital strategy for nonprofits, campaigns and companies, with an emphasis on helping clients pick the right tools and tactics for their particular goals, circumstances and resources. Of course, I’ll also provide training and ongoing help and analysis as clients put the strategy to work, and you can read more details here.
One reason I’m taking this step is because of Epolitics.com, which needs more of my time than a full-time day job allows if it’s going to reach its potential. So in addition to consulting, I’ll be editing the site and continuing to contribute to other publications like the column for Campaigns & Elections magazine. Also, you’ll be hearing soon about a new e-book!
I’ll be finishing up at my current gig at the National Women’s Law Center through April 5th, but I’m transitioning away steadily and am already starting to fill up the consulting hopper. Please pass along any leads! Thanks, and wish me luck — this is an exciting time in the online communications world, and I’m really excited to see what we can stir up.
March 20th, 2013
Guest article! Today’s announcement of the selection of a new pope inspired contributor Kayle Hatt to examine the Vatican’s rapid response communications, with an eye toward what advocacates and political communicators can learn. See also his earlier article on Pope Benedict’s arrival on Twitter.
Holy Smoke and PR Priests: The Papal Announcement as a Case Study in Communications Integration
By Kayle Hatt
This afternoon, the Cardinals of the Catholic Church elected a new leader. As a non-Catholic, that sentence was awkward for me to write, and unless you’re Catholic, it might be easy to brush past this event altogether. However, there is one thing politicos can learn from the papal announcement: communications integration.
Integrated Marking Communications is a very technical Comms term, but basically the idea of communications integration is that you have many different communications channels sending a message that is seamless in style and core content. It’s important in politics (think about the integration among campaign ads, speeches, mailouts and phone scripts) and advocacy (think about how communications in the media, to supporters and to donors is related), but sometimes it’s hard to integrate in practice.
Here’s how the new pope was announced:
Okay, this one doesn’t have much applicability to politics, however it is often important to think about how you are communicating in person or at live events. The white smoke from the conclave chimney is a tradition, making it an expected form of communication for these type of events. Many of our political or advocacy organizations have similar important traditions, but that doesn’t mean they can’t evolve and become more inclusive of modern technology — for this conclave, the Vatican News service created a web livestream and mobile phone app for people who wanted to see the Chimney.
March 13th, 2013
Because too much digital politics is never enough.
- Update: Disgruntled Republicans Livetweet Obama’s Closed-Door Speech.
- Obama to Huddle With Organizing for Action Group today. Meanwhile, New Obama Nonprofit Worries Some Democratic Leaders, since it could suck all the air out of the fundraising room. More on OFA funding: Obama nonprofit advocacy group reverses course on corporate donations, as Obama Backers Seek Big Donors for new OFA. Finally, OFA Targets Congress on Guns and Some Members Fire Back.
- RNC to launch major digital overhaul following election inquiry.But, GOP Digital Divide May Take Years to Bridge. Note: Lots of love for the VAN.
- House Democrats Cash In With Online Fundraising Program.
- Are hashtags a political #wasteoftime? C.f. Are You Sure You Want to Use That #Hashtag? and GOP Slogan Machine Cranks Out the #Obamaquester.
- Social Media Has Little Impact on Congress.
- DCCC launches online video ads against Tea Party House members.
- Man Who Planted “47%” Hidden Camera Speaks. Was a bartender at Romney event.
- Obama staffers help with “Operation Ohio” in Italian election. Meanwhile, an Italian comedian leverages his blog and social media in a surprise showing. Key quote, which applies to Americans Elect: “The dream of a prefab centrist party has no real constituency.”
- Obama’s former campaign manager opens consulting firm.
- Revolution Messaging adds new partners, opens campaigns division.
- GOP firms partner to offer data services.
- Reporters Without Borders Releases List of “Enemies of the Internet”.
- Massachusetts Republican Senate Candidate’s Copy and Paste Campaign Website.
- The White House Is Opening Up Its Petition Web Site To Outside Developers.
- Amid Deadlock, Obama Pins Hopes on Helping Democrats Win Back the House in 2014.
- House Democrats Resort to Press Releases.
- Chinese hackers outed themselves by logging into their personal Facebook accounts.
- Mob Justice: Why did a bunch of people on the Internet donate $700,000 to a bullied bus monitor?
- Great list of state-level political blogs from The Fix, via Rachel Perrone.
- Is the use of Twitter exchanges to document political hypocrisy a new frontier in reporting?
- John Boehner’s 2011 PowerPoint Touting the Sequester.
- ‘Friends of Hamas’: My role in the birth of a rumor.
- Russia Tries To Remove Images of New Drone From the Internet.
- On Today’s Battlefield, Is Information More Important Than Firepower?.
- 5 ways to boost traffic to your blog with Twitter, via Jonathan Rick.
- The Government Wants You to Innovate With Its New Social APIs.
- Schweitzer Touts Poll Showing Him Crushing Baucus, posting it on Facebook.
- Obama, the Puppet Master. “The mastery mostly flows from a White House that has taken old tricks for shaping coverage (staged leaks, friendly interviews) and put them on steroids using new ones (social media, content creation, precision targeting).”
- Content Marketing: An Advocacy Strategy You Can’t Ignore. C.f. How to Rock Your Website Content Planning.
- Six Steps to Plan a Multichannel Fundraising Campaign.
- Creating shareable images in under 5 minutes (without money or design skills).
- Flowchart: Where Should You Post Your Social Media Status?.
- 5 Tips to Increase Clicks on Twitter.
- Measuring Your Social Media Efforts, via Tony D. Clark.
- New Tool for counting social shares.
- A Valentine’s Day A/B Test Case Study in Action. C.f. 3 Tips for Your Next Email Campaign.
- Twitter now has an ads API, via Sarah Burris.
- Google’s Biz Chief: 50 Percent of Ads Will Go Online in the Next Five Years.
- This one weird trick will keep your Facebook ad from being rejected.
- Gawker and ‘The Politico’. You kids play nice or I’ll take your ball away.
- CQ Roll Call Biz Side Implodes. Ouch.
- And finally, Lawmaker ‘Likes’ Racy, Violent Facebook Pages. I ask you, who among us could question a man’s love for “Big Bootie Freaks”.
See also past Quick Hits editions.
March 13th, 2013
Guest article! Beth Becker returns to our pages with a very cool idea — applying the paradigm of social shopping to political advocacy. Check it out:
The Digital/Social Evolution Continues: Social Shopping
By Beth Becker
1: involving allies or confederates (c.f. the Social War between the Roman Republic and its allies)
2a: marked by or passed in pleasant companionship with friends or associates (an active social life)
a medium of cultivation, conveyance, or expression; especially: medium
the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically : the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business
partaking of, using, experiencing, occuping, or enjoying with others
1: examining goods or services with intent to buy
2: hunting through a market in search of the best buy
When I first started working in the digital social space, we called it Social Media. That made sense: these were a new set of tools that were being used to create connections between people, develop communities and in general allows us to be social online.
Soon, I saw a noticeable shift in thinking — and thus digital strategy — to conceiving of the space as Social Networking. This placed the proper emphasis on the idea that you’re not just trying to connect with your immediate audience but with THEIR audience…and their audience’s audience and so on down the line. This gave birth to a digital obsession with data and analyzing the targeted audience in order to create, [cringe], virality [or as I prefer to call it, message movement].
Last summer, I noticed another shift in our approach to the digital social space and started talking and writing about this space in terms of Social Sharing. The emphasis was on not just being social and looking at the social networks, but actually creating content that is explicitly sharable. This shift was most noticable in the plethora of social curation tools like Upworthy and my latest toy, CrowdTangle (author note: post on this within days I promise!). These tools sorted through as much content produced for the social space as possible and then aggregated it into some meaningful format for our consumption.
But here’s a bigger question: what exactly is it that we WANT to consume? Pondering this question led me to my latest shift in thinking about the digital social space: Social Search, or Social Shopping.
March 11th, 2013
Well, a data-driven democracy itself may not be in the offing in just two months (though a robot-driven FOREIGN policy is apparently now ours to enjoy), but coming up in May, we get to talk about about data in politics at the Annenberg School at Penn:
Data-Crunched Democracy Conference: Where Do We Go From Here? – May 31, 2013
The 2012 U.S. presidential election was a watershed step towards more sophisticated data-driven analyses of voters and electoral strategy more generally.
Journalists, analysts, and campaigners dissected the potential electoral impact of projects with exotic names such as ‘Dreamcatcher,’ ‘Narwhal,’ ‘Optimizer,’ and ‘Orca,’ all while arguing about the importance of ‘A/B testing’, web site ‘optimization’, and field experiments. While these technologies may be new, they are all premised on something that has occupied the attention of campaigners for well over a hundred years: data. Some of this data would have been recognizable to party operatives at the turn of the 19th century, such as voter files that contain information about the party registration and issue interests of citizens. Other data is qualitatively new, such as data on citizen responses to campaign web pages, social networks, and broadcast media consumption patterns.
This conference will bring the best practitioners, journalists, policymakers, and academics together for the first time to cut through the hype and pull back and consider what is going on with the use of data in campaigning – and what we should do about it. We seek to understand how campaigns use demographic, psychographic, attitudinal, and behavioral data to dissect the electorate, evaluate individual interests, and target the most attractive potential voters with customized political messaging. We will collectively consider what the rules around voter data should be given persistent and increasingly visible concerns over voter privacy, data security, targeted communications, and transparency.
It should be a fascinating conversation, and I’m proud to be a panelist. Check out the conference site for more info.
March 10th, 2013
Karen Tumulty captured an interesting internet-fueled dynamic around Rand Paul’s Senate filibuster last week:
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) created a sensation Wednesday by railing for nearly 13 hours straight in the Senate chamber against the Obama administration’s use of unmanned drones.
The freshman senator lost on the question at hand, as pretty much everyone expected he would. The Senate approved the nomination of John O. Brennan to lead the CIA on Thursday on a vote of 63 to 34.
But Paul’s speech won praise from the civil libertarians on the left and the right. Twitter tracked 1.1 million tweets relating to the filibuster, 450,000 with the hashtag #standwithrand.
Once again, we see the power of online media to amplify an in-person event! And, we see the reinvention of a very old technique for a digital age, in this case the filibuster, which as Tumulty’s article points out, was first used in the U.S. Senate when the Constitution was in diapers. Regardless of what you think of the modern “silent” filibuster, which gums up the works of Congress to no end, a real “talking” filibuster can be a way for a Senator to bring attention to an issue (and to himself) IF people outside the Capitol can see it.
We’ve seen this dynamic in Congress with earlier media, too — C-Span created a distant audience for Congressional debates back in the 1980s, in the process bringing us the spectacle of House members addressing an empty chamber for hours on end. But as with Rand Paul on Wednesday, the REAL audience was out in the country, where for the first time we could watch remotely.
Social media adds a new dimension, of course: participation. Via Twitter, blogs, Facebook et al, we can all join in the discussion and try to sway opinions our way. It’s all part of the chaotic media jumble the internet has created around our politics…cool!
March 9th, 2013