It’s increasingly difficult to run a winning campaign without the help of good digital staff.
A proper campaign will need to start with a website designed to respond to different screen sizes depending on the platform it’s being viewed on and scale gracefully with traffic. You'll need to manage multiple social media accounts, all with different audiences expecting different content. Your campaign will need to build and manage a successful email marketing program. And your campaign will need to raise money from these efforts online.
Sure, you could try to get by on a few tweets and a static website, but times are changing quickly. To keep up, you'll need a well-executed digital strategy that increases your digital footprint and raises significant amounts of money online. This will require full-time, knowledgeable staff—someone whose main qualification isn't that they've been on Instagram since 2012.
At times, it’s just easier to hire a digital firm to manage this portion of your campaign. But increasingly campaigns are seeing the benefit of bringing digital talent in-house. If that's you, you may also be wondering how to find and manage these people when you don’t have a digital or tech background.
If that’s you, here are some tips to help you find the right digital talent for your team and avoid waking up to find that all your emails are going to the spam folder, your website only accepts donations via Bitcoin, and you’ve accidentally just tweeted a compromising picture of yourself.
Campaign managers (or their senior staff) don’t need to be well-versed in every technology that a campaign uses. They just need to know why a certain platform or technology is important to their overarching strategy and how they'll measure the results.
Maybe you’ve already googled questions and can’t come up with anything challenging to ask a prospective digital staffer? Maybe you’re worried that you won’t understand their answers to the challenging questions you compiled during your search? Either way, you'll need to find someone who can ask the right questions and help vet potential candidates. Remember, it’s always worse to hire someone who can’t perform than it is to admit your weaknesses.
Ask for specific examples of digital competency
Don’t fall into the trap of expecting every 20-something college grad to be a digital savant. Even if a person has never worked on a political campaign, ask for examples of how they’ve used technology or digital communications to achieve a specific goal. It’s not enough to simply know about the latest, greatest social media network or mobile app. Smart campaigns will hire staff that understand how these new (and old) digital tools strategically fit into the overall goal of raising money and winning on Election Day.
Be wary of change for its own sake
Testing is great. We have to constantly question the way things are being done in order to improve, but not to the extent that it gets in the way of conducting a campaign efficiently. Campaigns are inherently short-term operations, so it’s important that you make some wise choices early and stick with them. This includes things like email providers, online fundraising platforms, data analytics firms and website vendors. All of these are crucial elements in a campaign and can cause great disruption when abandoned for the new, cooler toy.
Frequently, the benefit of switching doesn’t outweigh the harmful disruption it causes. With time being the biggest challenge a campaign faces, make sure your digital team remembers to avoid making perfect the enemy of good enough.
Know why you need a digital team before you hire a digital team
Perhaps this is the most important piece of advice. Too many times I’ve seen digital teams attached as hood ornaments for the campaign. If you don’t know why a digital team will help you win, they won’t. If you don’t understand their value, they won’t have any.
You don’t have to know or understand how it’ll all get done, but you do have to know why it should be done. Having a qualified team of digital operatives will increasingly be a necessity so it’s time to understand the rules of the game, before it is too late.
Jack Simms is the vice president of product at CMDI, a Republican finance services platform.