Reed Awards 2016: What Digital Lessons Can We Learn?

Reed awards

We’ll have Super Tuesday follow-up soon, but first, regular contributor and digital strategist Laura Packard (of PowerThru Consulting) guides us through important digital lessons we can learn from this year’s Reed Award winners..

Named after Campaigns & Elections magazine founder Stanley Foster Reed, the Reed Awards recognize “excellence in political campaigning, campaign management, political consulting and political design.” The winners for 2015 campaigns were announced a couple weeks ago in Charleston, and you can see the complete list here. Full disclosure, my firm PowerThru Consulting won “Best County/Local/Judicial Candidate Website”.

What can we learn from these awards about emerging digital best practices for campaigns?


In terms of email, you need to push the envelope to stand out from the crowd.

Check out this Best Fundraising Email winner, from Revolution for the Bernie campaign. It’s cute, visually oriented, and out of the ordinary – not the same old, same old, few paragraphs/beg for money/apocalyptic subject line/big donate button. In general, and rightfully so, Revolution cleaned up in the awards for the Bernie campaign – a grassroots-oriented effort that is willing to try new things.

Campaign Websites

In terms of websites, one-page scrolling sites (often with parallax) are the new big thing. (What is parallax? The parallax effect is where the background of the website moves at a different speed than the foreground as you scroll up and down on the page. It can be a very cool visual effect.)

Check out Best Statewide Candidate from Go BIG Media and the Florida GOP site from Beag as well as Best Website of 2015, also from Beag. The Republicans are building some beautiful websites! The video in the background on the Carlos for Florida site is especially eye-catching – we’ll see if that is a major trend in 2016 or if it goes the way of video pop-ups on websites.

In terms of tech, NationBuilder won big, with 4 of 6 website award-winners built on their platform . This makes sense because these are bipartisan awards, and NationBuilder is the best/only? toolset available on the GOP side. We’ll see if they make more inroads on the Democratic side in 2016 or if the WordPress-Drupal/NGP combo stays in the lead.

Political Video

In terms of video, funny is still the gold standard. (Realistically, nobody wants to see your campaign commercial – so the least you can do is entertain them or make them laugh).

The Big Picture

So there you have it. No amazing new tech has been rolled out recently – text message donating to campaigns is still not in widespread use except for the largest of campaigns, but voter-file targeted ad spending is available for campaigns at all levels on the Democratic side thanks to self-service tools We’ll see how 2016 shapes up, and if more cutting-edge tech works it’s way down to lower-ballot races.

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Laura Packard
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