We are all missing the boat on building a personal brand for our candidates.
Too often, our candidates are not the stars of the content we produce. We focus on issues, events and calls-to-action. That misses the bigger picture — branding the candidate personally.
If you need an example, check out VaynerMedia’s Gary Vaynerchuk’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Snap handles.
You’ll find countless hours of behind the scenes videos (“DailyVee”), Q&A Podcasts (“The #AskGaryVee Show”) and quick-hitting quote photos from Gary’s speaking gigs. The power of that personal brand has allowed VaynerMedia to grow to 800 employees.
The foundation of the “Gary Vee” brand is the concept of pillar content. Pillar content is usually a show, speech, or meeting that Gary has recorded and broken down into dozens of pieces of content. For example, a 40-minute conference speaking engagement gives rise to a 40-minute podcast and YouTube video, five quote photos, and four quick-hitting, 15-second videos sampled from the event.
One event produces a week or month’s worth of content.
At the beginning of 2016, Gary expanded the concept of pillar content and has documented nearly 450 days of his work life. A camera follows him everywhere he goes and from that a daily wrap-up video called “DailyVee” is produced and uploaded to YouTube.
While most candidates don’t have the budget for a 24/7 video team, although I think the case can be made that any statewide candidate or big city mayor should be doing this. There's no reason why most candidates should not be recording, or live broadcasting at least one public speech per week. A 20-minute speech with Q & A at the end can easily become a dozen or more pieces of highly engaging content, including fundraising email fodder.
In our focus to build a narrative and manage a message, we often forget that the best story we tell is what our candidates are doing on the campaign trail.
For digital campaign staff, the pillar content model is liberating because it frees us from having to constantly invent new content, where we struggle to capture a candidate’s true voice. In other words, we let the candidate’s personal brand shine through.
Instead of acting like Hollywood writers trying to script a character, we need to act more like cable news producers for our candidates.
Almost all republicans will recall how they felt in 2013 when Netflix released the Mitt documentary, which followed Romney and his family during the 2012 campaign. The feeling was something like, "Why the hell did they hold their best TV spot until after the election?"
The documentary showed the titular character, often portrayed as an out-of-touch millionaire, as a caring, human figure who cleaned up fast food wrappers after his family. The real Mitt was a far better candidate than the poll-tested Mitt that was presented during the campaign.
In the last several weeks, we’ve been eating our own dog food. We’ve experimented using the pillar content strategy with a couple of candidates and found it works.
Here is what we’ve found:
1. The pillar-derived content performs just as well as our scripted pieces of content and results in much less creative pressure.
2. Our digital content is always right on message with the candidate. Edit requests on pillar content are at least half that of scripted content, with much of it being approved with no edits. We are, after all, taking words straight from our candidate’s mouth.
3. As our catalogue of content grows, we're able to manage rapid response from pillar content. Over time, candidates mention or take questions on almost every topic, so when new topics arise, we are able to find good material in the archive.
The pillar content model may not work for every race. But if you're working with a strong candidate who makes an impression when people meet her or him in person, the pillar model is a tactic worth exploring.
Joe Clements and Matt Farrar are co-founders of Strategic Digital Services.