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  • Dos and Don'ts of Online Campaign Marketing

       August 16, 2004

    I'm a shadowy member of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy by night, but, by day I shed my secret identity and work as an e-commerce specialist for a major national retailer. As such, I'd like to offer some advice to political candidates trying to effectively campaign online.

    1. Don't spam. Ever. This is the cardinal rule. If you spam, be prepared for a huge backlash that will dwarf any positive gains from your unwanted emails. Yes, it's legal for political campaigns to spam, but that doesn't make it right and it doesn't make it good marketing. When you go online, you play by the online rules. And, in this case, the rules say that a spammer is no better than a "racist eugenics supporter".

    2. Do, however, consider emailing bloggers individually. A caveat here, by "individually" I really mean individually, not by putting a different name in the "to" field. Target bloggers who share your geography or specific ideology. For example, I wouldn't be offended if someone from the staff of the Republican candidate in my congressional district emailed me individually. I'd be flattered.

    3. Don't email bloggers asking for money, even if they're in your district and even if they share your opinion on everything. Ask for their involvement both on their site and on yours as guest writers. Save your online fundraising for those who have already given you their permission to email them.

    4. Do realize that content is king. Talk about your goals and policy positions. Save the sound bites for TV. The internet is the place for your candidate to expand, in detail, on their positions. Your web presence should reflect that. Post policy papers. Share statistics. Highlight your candidate's accomplishments in.

    5. Don't think that you can put up misleading information on your website and then simply erase it if you get caught. A record of your mischief will still exist and your opponents will have as much proof as if you placed a traditonal ad.

    6. Do understand that people who read about politics online are interested in politics, not just issues. If your campaign has a blog, don't just post old press releases, write about some of the inside details of the campaign. If you do, people will come back time and time again and you'll gain an audience for the rest of your candidate's pitch.

    7. Don't think putting your website's URL on brochures is effective online marketing. Read and comment on other blogs. Reference interesting articles that other people are writing on your blog. Bloggers always read their referral logs and if you link to them, they will come back to you. And, they'll spread the word to their audience as well.

    8. Do constantly update your website. At the very least, keep an up-to-the-minute schedule of campaign stops online. Neither the Kerry or Bush campaigns do a good job of this. If they did, I'd visit their sites all the time to get local coverage from their latest destination.

    9. Don't make your online communications a one-way street. Encourage supporters to participate through moderated email lists, forums and the like. Of course, everything the public says won't be positive, but it may be instructive. Think of it this way: if you give the public a voice, campaign staff can be partly released from the nasty job of telling a candidate things they don't want to hear - staff can simply point the candidate to the nearest computer.

    10. Do speak online in a slightly different voice. For whatever reason, a little more irreverance is allowed online. Ironically enough, your candidate may be able to best showcase their personality and humanity through a computer.


    Posted by at August 16, 2004 07:11 PM

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