by Amanda Phraner
From a digital perspective, the 2008 election changed many things, but as a whole political campaigns are far behind on employing strategic online advocacy, advertising and engagement. At a panel discussion last week hosted by Resonate Networks and the Daily Caller, panelists discussed some of the accepted practices still dominating political campaigns today. To the detriment of many campaigns, they still operate under the rule that if it worked before, it will work now.
Maybe it is the short-lived nature of political campaigns that lends to the accepted practice of simply running the last campaign. Regardless of how times have changed or advances in digital engagement, most campaigns run the last campaign, assuming that if it worked before, it will work now. However, as discussed during the Resonate Network’s panel, this assumption is catching up with many campaigns. Political campaigns that subscribe to the if it worked before it will work now mindset are often getting caught flatfooted as growing number of campaigns are pushing the envelope.
Case in point: the Scott Brown campaign looked beyond the standard, politically-accepted advertising channels and strategically targeted their key audience online. By understanding their target audience, the Brown campaign was able to find voters on sites that would normally not be sought after by political campaigns.
When we look back on the campaign, Scott Brown may be credited with pushing the envelope in ways similar to Howard Dean in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008. While Howard Dean’s campaign wasn’t ultimately successful, Dean showed how campaigns could employ online strategies to engage voters. In 2008, Barack Obama took online engagement and activism in political campaigns to the next level, encouraging dialogue and “ownership” of the campaign.
There are still enormous inroads to be made in changing the standard practices of most political campaigns. More campaigns are beginning to integrate online components into their strategy, but it is often a secondary component. During the panel, Chris Konfinis, Democratic strategist, pointed out that many online presences for political campaigns are becoming cookie cutter campaigns – still applying the if it worked before, it will work now adage. Campaigns are simply incorporating the new tools because it worked before and not because they help to maximize the engagement strategy.
Political campaigns must begin to realize that if it worked before, it won’t necessarily work now. Many are looking to the 2010 and 2012 elections to determine the political environment, but a few of us are looking to these elections to see which campaigns push the envelope and where it will take us.