A campaign launch should create a memorable connection between candidate and audience while leveraging that attention to build long-term capacity. That’s why a strong digital strategy is essential for any campaign kickoff.
In fact, digital is a powerful way to boost brand recall. That’s part of the reason why digital played such a dominant role in Hillary Clinton’s campaign rollout in June—a launch which holds some clear lessons for down-ballot efforts. The benefits of a digital campaign rollout, such as driving email signups, donations and social media engagement, aren’t confined to top-of-the-ticket candidates.
In a smaller contest, you can produce smart rollouts using an integrated digital strategy if you plan accordingly. Here are some things to think about in the planning process.
Digital video helps campaigns circumvent the editorial and time constraints that come with regular TV. But it’s one thing to stream a launch speech – many candidates have done that this cycle. The strongest digital launches use that video as the tentpole of a bigger online push that aims to improve email performance, social media engagement and, potentially, advertisement impact.
In Clinton’s case, she got the benefit of an online video released in April and then her live announcement event on Roosevelt Island, N.Y., in June. Getting that extra digital benefit from a launch video is like using every piece of the pig except the oink.
The Clinton camp increased her social media engagement by posting links to the livestream of her June announcement to Facebook and Twitter as it was happening. The campaign also tried to build buzz using tweets beforehand and afterward posted edited, shareable clips to Facebook.
Some of the other tactics would work for most any campaign, such as asking supporters to tag their friends in comments on the Facebook post to broaden the audience for the main livestream. Others, such as using Twitter to promote feeds on Periscope and Snapchat might not be worth pursuing at a smaller scale.
The Clinton campaign sent an email promoting the New York announcement livestream to a segmented list of supporters. It was a good email – but the difference between a good email and a good email program is how the campaign integrated the whole event into their email calendar.
Before the speech, they used the upcoming event as a looming deadline, sending emails letting supporters know this would be their last chance to participate in a “Launch Donor” program. Deadlines are very effective motivators for donors, and with the end of the quarter reporting deadline still a ways off, this was a great way to leverage the moment. Smaller campaigns that might have a launch video but not a livestream – or even no video at all – should still try leveraging announcements like this into deadline events.
A few hours after the announcement speech, the campaign sent a very short message asking again for donations. That brevity was smart in this case. The large audience who had seen the speech online had already been sold and would just need a little nudge to convert, and the campaign knew it.
Facebook boasts research that shows campaigns can raise more money over email by targeting users with simultaneous ads on their pages. These fundraising amplification ads are helping form the next frontier in integrated digital, and campaigns could gain a lot from taking advantage of them. Moreover, with video from an announcement event, a campaign has nearly limitless possibilities for cutting that up into smaller nuggets to use in future amplification ads, or even in integrated acquisition ad sequences to warm up potential supporters.
We’ve covered the main building blocks of a digital rollout, but there are many other helpful components we can include. On the large scale, the Clinton campaign encouraged Twitter users to annotate their favorite parts of her announcement speech via a service called Genius, and they used a savvy SMS signup process.
Some of Clinton’s digital launch tactics won’t scale well to other races, but here’s what you should still do if you’re launching a campaign with a lower profile: Get a good video you can cut for web, email, social and advertising, and then make sure you use your event to build your audience on social and email to drive fundraising.
The success of a digital launch must be measured by what it does for your campaign and your candidate’s brand today as much as tomorrow.
Will Bunnett is a partner and cofounder of Clarify, a Democratic digital strategy and brand management agency. He was a senior writer and producer for the Obama 2008 email team.