PHILADELPHIA— Many of the same journalists who were in Cleveland for the Republican National Convention descended on Philadelphia this week to cover the Democratic National Convention. It’s a group campaigns should work harder to bypass, at least according to some top digital strategists and ad makers who lamented the decline of news media Wednesday while encouraging campaign tactics to work around the press to deliver their message directly to their audiences.
“Start making your own media,” said Lauren Brown Jarvis, a digital media consultant. “I’m a big fan of anchor. You can hold your press conference with your iPhone anywhere.”
She also praised Snapchat for its immediacy. “I honestly think that Snapchat is the premiere storytelling tool. But campaigns, which tend to be slow and reluctant to use new technology, they haven’t gotten on there yet.”
Another plus for Snapchat is that its stories and snaps can feel organic — and not filtered through layers of approvals — to their audience.
“At a basic level, people are looking for authenticity,” Jarvis said Wednesday at a discussion hosted by the Internet Innovation Alliance, a business advocacy group. “When you can give people something that feels organic; that goes much further than a speech you can prepare or a rally you can do.”
She encouraged campaigns and advocacy groups to enlist their own supporters in spreading their message, a common tactic she said works best with training. “You have your top people come in and you do a messaging training with them,” she said. “You teach them how to tweet, how to post to Facebook.
“There’s somebody in your organization, whether it’s an advocate or donor, who has a legit social media following — it might be on Twitter, it might be on Facebook or it might be on LinkedIn. Find out who your thought leaders are in your own ranks and leverage their audiences to further expand the message.”
Even for those with Snapchat accounts, authenticity remains a challenge for campaigns. But they can take a 2016 lesson from an unlikely source, according to Greg Pinelo, chief content officer at GMMB, the Democratic media firm working for Hillary Clinton’s campaign. He pointed to Donald Trump’s Twitter handle as an example of a candidate who has found his voice online.
“Don’t do the things he does, but there’s something important there,” he said. “It’s figuring out how to have their authentic voice present in their social channels.”
He agreed with Jarvis that campaigns need to produce their own content, but added a warning. “You’ve got to be able to execute day to day,” he said.
Of course we’re not at a point where campaigns can actually forsake existing media to produce their own content. But Mo Elleithee, a former Democratic strategist who now directs the Georgetown Institute of Politics, noted the importance of having a much wider array of options in today’s environment to get their message to their core audience.
He pointed to the rollout of healthcare.gov when reporters fixated on the failings of the government website. To get around that, the Obama administration put the president on “Between Two Ferns,” the satirical interview show that Zach Galifianakis hosts on Funny or Die. “The president went directly to where young people were hanging out, and used their tools and their language,” he said.
Regardless of what route they take, campaigns risk over saturating their audiences with too much messaging. According to a recent Pew study cited by the panelists, 6 in 10 Americans say they’re worn out by the amount of coverage they’re receiving about the presidential campaign.