Have any former digital directors or digital strategists applied to manage or advise your campaign? If not, you should get some experienced digital-first operatives in your resume pool. I guarantee you that they’re out there and looking for new challenges.
I’ve talked recently with a number of digital veterans from the Biden campaign and other big 2020 digital operations who are looking to manage 2021 and 2022 races. Some are already managing state or municipal off-year campaigns. Find them and talk to them when they’re done with their current races.
Digital-first executives and strategists are running some of the largest political organizations in the Democratic coalition. Danielle Butterfield is the new executive director at Priorities USA. Tara McGowan continues to innovate at ACRONYM and Courier Newsroom. My old boss, Andrew Bleeker, runs communications firm Bully Pulpit Interactive (BPI), which does far more than digital strategy for their clients.
We’ve seen increasing numbers of national organizations or presidential campaigns tapping experienced digital hands, but we haven’t seen this trend moving as quickly in down-ballot campaigns — yet.
Now, back to your campaign manager search. Maybe you’ve received this advice already: “Make sure you campaign manager can keep the trains running on time.” It’s a cliche at this point, but not terrible advice. To build on that, consider the following:
Digital strategists know how to make “the trains run on time.”
In fact, they manage more money, vendors, content calendars, digital platforms and analytics suites than you realize. Perhaps senior digital strategists should change their job titles to “digital train conductors.”
Digital directors know how to raise money.
In fact, in larger races, your digital team may be able to raise you far more money than your call time. (However, this is not, I repeat not, an excuse to skip call time.)
Digital organizers and volunteers know how to rewrite our expectations.
In a moment when history may not be as predictive as it once was, digital operatives know how to take advantage of an ever-changing political landscape, mobilize new audiences and shock the world in races like the ones in Georgia in November 2020 and January 2021.
Digital advertisers know what metrics to optimize for persuasion, engagement and fundraising programs.
Optimizing a campaign for metrics that matter is a lot like optimizing a digital program.
Digital-first political operatives know how to run campaigns.
In fact, they do it all the time on digital channels — and they’re already coordinating daily with your communications, field, fundraising and advance teams.
Most candidates want to run modern, effective digital campaigns. Making that a reality doesn’t mean simply hiring superb digital staff or consultants. It also means building a campaign team and processes that value, listen to and invest in your digital program.
Recently, I found myself in a digital strategy pitch meeting with Kevin Baumlin, a Democrat running for Senate in Pennsylvania.
The conversation didn’t go in the direction I expected. We talked about the opportunities and challenges that a first-time candidate would face in a large Democratic primary. Fast forward a few weeks and I am a senior advisor on his campaign with a variety of non-digital responsibilities.
Bringing more digital-first strategists into management and senior advisor roles will help the Democratic Party confront the constantly changing political environment and the evolving resource allocation challenges we face.
For example, a recent Priorities USA analysis showed that in 2020 Democrats invested 77 percent of spending in traditional media, despite Americans spending almost 40 percent more time with digital channels.
Similarly, in an analysis of general election media consumption in Wisconsin, 40 percent of viewers consumed only digital OTT content, and no linear television. But on those same TV screens, 62 percent of political ad impressions were bought on linear TV. This analysis was based on MiQ data on 20M television homes nationally.
My recommendation: the next manager applicant you interview, ask them what they think about media consumption trends, paid media mix and how they would approach these challenges.
I suspect you’ll get a variety of responses based on your district boundaries, your audiences, and media markets — but also based on the background and experiences of the applicant. And that context will help you assess how ready your campaign is to tackle the challenges of 2022.
Andrew Eldredge-Martin is the founder and president of Measured Campaigns, a digital-first political consultancy based in rural Pennsylvania. Andrew has led more than $100 million in political, non-profit and brand campaigns including work for President Barack Obama, Senators Bernie Sanders, Mark Kelly, and Jeanne Shaheen.