Death to the Digital ‘Department’

By Jane Hughes

It may feel as though we just closed the books on the 2018 midterms (we did) and with the myriad of Democrats expected to make a run for the presidency, 2020 Senate races seem like a lifetime away. However, the reality is that these races are fast approaching.

As you think about staffing up, we’re here to *hopefully* talk you out of the “graphic designer who is talented with video and also has email fundraising experience and can build my website and run our social accounts while overseeing an advertising program” job description and convince you to hire strong digital folks across your campaign verticals.

In fact, we believe that campaigns should move away from digital departments altogether.

Campaigns have been raising money, devising communications strategies, organizing, and runnings ads from day one. Digital departments arrived on the scene more recently, and they largely do the same things as these more traditional verticals — just online. So why do we insist on forcing our digital directors to be jacks and jills of all trades?

We shouldn’t. Hear us out…

Money Makes the Campaign Go ‘Round

It’s no secret that a strong fundraising program begets more staff, more voter contact (ads, mail pieces and doors knocked), and a better-resourced campaign. Many campaigns are seeing more than 40% of their money come in online, and some are already well above 50%. Now, imagine what this would look like if we invested as much zeal in our online fundraising programs as we do with our more traditional finance leadership.

TL;DR? Invest in your email programs — both acquisition and email itself — early!

This means bringing on an experienced digital fundraiser (and later, support staff!) before your campaign launches. By keeping this in-house, you’ll better capture the candidate’s voice, be able to move faster and capitalize on lucrative moments, and drive a stronger ROI.

Content, Content, Content!

Communications departments are increasingly reliant on social media as a way to communicate with voters — and they should be! Adding a specialist to your communications team who has a deep understanding of which content is most persuasive — and which messages resonate best on various channels — will only improve the effectiveness of your comms shop.

If you’re including your comms director in a meeting, then you should include this person, too. This means that they should be at every ad shoot and should be involved in every media decision. They can make sure that scripts are digital-first and that you’re leveraging every opportunity to effectively talk to voters online.

Get Organized

Digital organizing is one of the few enduring digital mainstays from the Obama ’08 campaign. Relying on folks with a digital background can help you organize armies of texters, build events, recruit volunteers, and mobilize supporters into action where and when you need them most.

Putting a digital lens over your field program is the surest way to communicate last minute information and make sure that every piece of your turf is adequately covered, but you can’t do that without hiring someone who knows what they’re doing.

Who Does What

Any campaigner knows that the mental battle of “do it in-house” and “hire a consultant” is a tough one. Consultants and staff should work closely together. The relationship — and the campaign — won’t work if that doesn’t happen.

It’s no surprise that campaign staff will know a candidate better than a consultant will. This means that you need exceptionally smart and capable staff to run and oversee email programs, social content, fundraising, rapid response moments, and various pieces of voter contact. It also means leaning on your consultants’ experience to inform overall strategy is imperative — they can advise and deliver on campaign integration, top-level strategy, calendars, projections, measurement, creative, persuasion and motivation programs, and any of the inevitable bumps in the road.

If we as a party move toward a model that eliminates digital departments, we’d be remiss to not put people with digital backgrounds in leadership positions. Thanks to their experiences as jacks and jills of all trades, they know better than anyone how each pillar of a campaign works, and what it needs to be successful.

In A Nutshell

It’s pretty simple. Campaigns — and the world we live in — are trending toward digital so much so that it’s now part of everything we do. We don’t compartmentalize our lives into online and offline, so neither should campaigns.

Hire the best people you can to lead the digital components of each of your departments, and work with consultants to ensure that you’re executing the smartest and most effective campaign.

Looking for some good consultants? We’re passionate about winning elections — it’s why we have so many former campaigners on our staff. We’re here to help you win, just drop us a line.

Marketing & Communications Agency

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