Grassroots democracy in the age of coronavirus
Even before the coronavirus made social distancing hip, political door-to-door field efforts were already less effective than previous election cycles. People no longer interact with their neighbors as previous generations had, now being more comfortable with online banking, shopping, text messaging and social media platforms.
Reaching people at home previously cost millions of dollars, it can now be done online through free video players, animated gifs, shareable memes, and messaging apps. Information can be disseminated to every corner of the globe faster and less expensive than at any point in history.
In this post-pandemic world, we will attend fewer public gatherings. This means political leaders need to run smarter and more aggressive digital campaigns as the world is more tuned-in online.
Remember, a good digital campaign focuses on both the message as well as getting the end-user to take action, whether that is to watch an event, share an important announcement, make a donation, or even vote. Here are a few tips for an effective post-coronavirus digital program in 2020.
- Be factual. People want honest information in real-time. Politicians need to be seen as credible when disseminating facts and figures, providing sources even on social media posts. Science and basic reasoning will be more productive than gut feelings and fear-mongering.
- Creativity matters. With even more people producing free online content during this crisis, politicians are competing against the best artists, musicians, comedians, and film-makers in the world. Make your online offering unique by including a guest speaker, taking questions in an online town hall, or working with local artists in a creative and culturally relevant way. Make your content interesting!
- Hyperlocal information is critical. Not only are online ads becoming more and more targeted worldwide, so are organizations. Neighborhood-focused apps and local online organizations are becoming a significant resource for neighbors to help each other, especially for those who are less able to help themselves. Politicians need to stay engaged in these efforts and work to amplify them in newsletters and social media.
- Paid digital media will cost more. Free social media posts don’t have the same reach as they once did. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram are throttling the number of ads that show up in daily news feeds. Understanding list segmentation, social media reach, and the cost for impressions is essential in online success.
- Make direct mail interesting again. Everyone is getting packages delivered and excited to get mail again. Instead of sending boring political mailers, send interesting items that relate to an online aspect of your campaign. Include a #hashtag, a QR code, or a unique URL with an incentive to go online to take further action.
- Get creative with fundraising events. With everyone donating money to humanitarian efforts and the many parts of the world’s economy slowing down, traditional campaign fundraising could come across as tone-deaf. Be mindful of context when soliciting political donations in the current climate. Try doing two- and three-way calling or a virtual fundraiser to engage donors.
- Use digital media to solve problems. This crisis is an opportunity for politicians worldwide to rebrand as leaders who serve their communities. This means fighting for international aid is just as important as making sure local frontline workers are both secure and supported in their work and their daily lives. Communities across the globe need masks, critical machinery, and basic communications infrastructure. Accompany bold actions with bold social media statements. Use your listservs and Twitter accounts to help crowd-source solutions during the crisis.
- Make content more engaging. There are a ton of memes, infographics, press releases, and live streams, all being sent out in one-way communication. These are fine for one-time performances, or even guest lecturers, but they are not building community. Think about ways to make online communications more open so citizens can give their feedback and join in the conversation.
- Now is a time for experimentation. Don’t fear trying something new to gauge its effectiveness. The online world moves fast, with people moving on to the next big thing just as quickly. Test out a new platform, or just try new creative without being afraid to move on if it doesn’t work.
- Move quickly. Political leaders and organizations need to develop a robust digital plan which incorporates a rapid response communication process that can be deployed at any moment. Have a clear approval process to disseminate critical information, including having graphic designers, videographers, and writers on standby and ready to be deployed.